Austria Behind the Mask
Politics of a Nation since 1945
From aristocratic and Nazi legacies to parliamentary parties and new populisms, a renowned journalist explores the forces that have shaped Austria’s politics since 1945.
Austria has long been considered a European success story: a land-locked country on the losing side of World War Two, which emerged from ten years of post-war occupation as one of the EU’s richest member-states, a symbol of social consensus and political independence at the heart of Europe. But in the 2020s, the forward march of the far-right populist FPÖ threatens the return of old demons: extreme xenophobic racism, and economic and political instability.
The governing partnership between Austria’s youngest-ever Chancellor and the extreme-right party lasted less than two years, but has left a wreckage of corruption scandals, including an ongoing investigation of fraud at the top. A cosy relationship with Russia, particularly President Putin, has cast a shadow over Austria’s neutrality and reputation as a reliable EU partner. Belated confrontation of the Nazi past and the lingering legacy of the imperial nobility further muddy the waters, while the long decline of social democracy—the bedrock of post-war nation-building—has been equalled by the weak performance of the ruling conservative–green coalition, damaging trust in democracy.
Mixing personal memories with high political drama, Paul Lendvai reveals the knotted web of forces which have driven Austria to its current perilous state.
‘A skilfully blended mixture of memoir, political analysis… Lendvai carefully traces the evolution of Austria’s party politics and reserves his most trenchant criticism for the present day.’ — Financial Times
‘In this book, Paul Lendvai does for post–1945 Austria what Stefan Zweig has done for fin de siècle Vienna. Read it.’ — Ivan Krastev, Chairman of the Board, Center for Liberal Strategies
‘Lendvai … is today the doyen of Austrian journalism … personally acquainted with the great and powerful, both a prescient observer and a man on the scene … This book has it all, unfolding a moral picture of today’s Austria via the lessons of the past–above all, a relentless study of the country’s political class … If this dedicated and knowledgeable observer is right, Austria’s struggle with itself will remain on the international agenda for some time to come.’ — Neue Zürcher Zeitung
‘Paul Lendvai is a phenomenon … the most important journalist in Austria. An ice-cold analyst whose takes on Eastern and Central Europe are second-to-none. A world-class journalist.’ — Karel Schwarzenberg, former foreign minister of the Czech Republic
‘With Lendvai, it’s easy to use words like grand seigneur … a profound connoisseur of Eastern and Southern Europe … who has mastered the art of political analysis … Based on interviews with more than 50 politicians and other public figures … the book … is to be understood as a “wake-up call” … Lendvai sees things where others prefer to look the other way.’ — Salzburger Nachrichten
‘One of Austria’s most profound journalists … Lendvai takes no prisoners … Absolutely worth reading, and not only for those interested in history.’ — Vorarlberger Nachrichten
‘Erudite and incisive, this unsparing but fair analysis of Austrian post–War politics by an insider-outsider is vintage Paul Lendvai.’ — Shalini Randeria, President and Rector, Central European University Vienna
‘When Paul Lendvai writes about Austria, his gratitude is mixed with a touch of melancholy, and an enduring astonishment that both he and the country have made it this far … [Lendvai] has known everyone with something to say in this country since the 1960s … The upheavals of recent years have confirmed that Austrian politics is not a place of safety—but Lendvai would very much like it to be.’ — Süddeutsche Zeitung
‘Fascinating and informative … as close and true and deep an account as you are likely to read… If you want a sound grounding in modern Austrian politics, this book is the best place to start.’ — Jildy Sauce
Paul Lendvai, a Hungarian-born Austrian journalist and author, was the Vienna correspondent for the Financial Times for over twenty years. His most recent books, both published by Hurst, are The Hungarians (second edition); and Orbán: Europe’s New Strongman, which won the Prix du Livre Européen.