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Voices of Europe. Are faint. Do you recognize that when I should say so. It's bang back and give the young wine women and song by house and let their fans that waltz of Johann Strauss and the Blue Danube and the tales of the Vienna words these are a vision that I at least as an American the vision of Vienna that I was brought up on. Was that a vision or Liam there. Does it still exist. Me Well yes I think to a certain extent I and quite a few other people in Vienna afraid that. It's too much too much sort all of it. As the city of wine women and song as it is so out of the town of the
movie The Man. I think Vienna something different as well. The first place something different you know. We are too much sort of I should say like clowns. That's how we feel in it. If you think of wine women and song all are like gangsters in the film The Third Man. Now of course you don't exists also the gangs and in particular nowadays I think the spy rings but I don't think it's the essential of Vienna. From a fan. Perhaps I should identify you and your husband. Power fan out of Vienna where I am interviewing him and his wife as a playwright and his wife being a Borat fent is a writer of fairy tales for our fans. Does Vienna ATA vien old Vienna only a fairy
tale. No if you ask me like that it still does exist. Not every day of cause. But when we have the hall you can still you know when I have been used to you don't know what I think I should explain that it's this holy means of this year it's the wine of this year which we mean and it's a wine which grows in the Vienna Woods on the slopes of Vienna Woods around Vienna smore inns where people gather in the evenings and. Have the wine and great sing the song well you must not think now if you go there every night. But if it is a warm summer night and one feels like it one does go there and even if you will if you have to if you can't have your little meet on Sunday if you spend too much money on Saturday night to go to the hard liquor but you do go and you feel as if you know you will feel
that evening at least you feel that the old the old beauty is still alive and you would feed it to the atmosphere. Now it's a habit in the first place I should say something easy going. Something simple and. Cozy we call it give it the coziness I think of it I think that would be the way to translate it but here failed. Apart from. This Viennese charm I mean we we think of Rome as the city of empire and Paradise as a city of art and always of Vienna as the city of charm and you are saying at the beginning of our discussion that there is there is something else about Vienna besides this charm on the one hand and this gangster murderer international espionage kind of thing of the movie The third man on the other hand.
What is this going to be much harder and I think you have to visualize Vienna not as a symptom of a big empire as it was it was only for 200 years in his whole history which is maybe quite a lot for American standards. But in Europe it isn't a great deal it has existed in some way or other for some 2000 years. And out of these two thousand years most of the time it was an outpost It was a fortress. It was surrounded by enemies by danger as it is today. You see we are now we can see from the Vienna Woods just above the city we can see the Iron Curtain. We can look right across it something like 35 miles from Vienna where the world ends. If you were in our western world if you like you I wanted to see him do if you look at the Iron Curtain you'll realize at least you can imagine the fugitive's come past there and you can imagine
how they come over and it gives you a rather dreadful feeling that ensued you from Hungary you know and still living where and they Iles and how you lived in this troubled time. Do the Viennese take it as Viennese should according to the legend or did they take it girl Rym Lee and as a change the whole character of their lives here failed. Well it has certainly affected the way they think and the way they act. They are less carefree than they used to be. But on the other hand they have developed a sort of frontline spirit you know if you are in the trench you don't think of of the bullets and the deaths which surrounds you and you just develop a sort of I should call it normal way of life and they have. But somewhere at the back of their minds is the danger that the permanent presence of danger lurks and it will damp their high spirits. I mean that's presumably what
do you mean. That's what I wanted to see. Yes but it this is something the Viennese have lived with most of their history isn't it. Yes isn't that what I was going to say they have they have the sound that the Magyar they had of Oz and so on and they were living behind war lords it is even our churches our little fortresses all around Vienna and it's not a hundred years that we removed walls and our ramparts of Vienna so that has shaped the towns and the style of our buildings of our churches and also the spirit of people and they are that there's a hard core in that there's something tough a certain toughness which people usually overlook. Indeed I for one don't see it that is the picture that not only the legend but. My personal experience on the streets here in Vienna is that the spirit of the people is considerably lighter and friendlier certainly than it is
in Germany. Well that's probably what you call the charm the charm the charm of the Austrians. Where does it come from is it real first how real is it and where does it come from and all spent and so anti-Israel. It comes from the disposition of mind I should say. Yes but when asked where does the disposition of mind come from perhaps we have mixture of many nations. We Austin's not we us they something of the Mediterranean spirit. There's the music the musicality and that it's a sort of blending which has come next from Baghdad being the center of an empire with Doesn't different nations just to blend you know you can expand your blend you blend coffee and so we've been blending that. That's probably the reason. And of course one of the things that strikes me most sharply in Vienna is that there is something Eastern about it. I won't say Already at all or even
Slavic. The names that one finds the advertisement for music halls which have the word. What is that chart outside of a child are you. Well that means I think that's a game would you not it's a it's a I think it's a small in if I'm not mistaken tada. And the the the names of the people the names in the shop the names of the dishes in the restaurants seem to be considerably mixed with a good deal of the east certainly of the slab economic as well as the architecture. Well the Empire consisted then was included Czechoslovakia Hungary part of Italy. So that's the reason Croatia with creation is through and Transylvania is and of course that used to have been here. And for example. I don't know are you. Some dishes have two names. And as a keeper you know the little white bread. Well that is a Turkish word too originally and the
coffee was brought by the Turks. Oh yes of course they left it here you see after the siege of Vienna when they fled. We found lots of women that we had our ancestors found bags of coffee in the Turkish tents and a man who had gained a certain reputation as an intelligence agent at that time you would call him today. He got a first license to run a coffee house and they're spread out and became in a way bases of our civilization. The coffee and then the older generation. There are many who would still speak Italian beautifully who were born in a tree. For instance when it still belonged to Austria and then other speak other languages Jake and you know if you can you heard that probably. Speaking of people what our family feud if you take it we have blood and blood Spanish blood blood Austrian if you like. So that's all makes my mother spoke after the fifth. Only hang again. P As a
parent of my father came from Bohemia and Moravia my father was born in Vienna. And your family comes partly from Spain yes and partly from the air from the Rhine land and so on so all that lets the mixture you see we're talking about and this then in your view accounts for the this disposition of the Austrian Mine is it is it you spoke of toughness hair fand is the is the Australian character tough. No not in the way the determinist tough it's not not the unbending way you know we are in a way wives I should say because to be unbending is probably not wise I would like to use a simile. We are not perfectionists we don't believe in things being 100 per cent we had one famous the fiction is in Austria when he fled the country and became a failure and the man was caught. I don't feel well there you have it but haven't we proved that we were tough.
Just a few years ago when the communists night two years ago two years ago they put shorts and we proved it then. Did you prove it when the Nazis tried their approach. No wind no. Fortunately not. Why not here failed. Well I think it's good that we have to go back in history because we had experience in our Civil War and 34 there. We had to tough now that we had guns in the streets of Vietnam. Artillery firing. You remember of the incidents on the dollar for the regime and that probably broke the resistance so where there was nothing left you can't start it all over again every for a few years. But anyway that you do. Don't forget that Austria was the only country where there was a real bloody fight a civil war in Central Europe I'm not speaking of Spain I think Spain was the other one about democracy and what followed afterwards.
Right you are speaking out of 1934 1934 right. Then came the Nazis and was Nazi isn't that Nazi ism changer Vienna. Basically for our food I should say so at least. Well I can only speak as a woman I should say the man I was became worse in the US through the Nazis then the Nazis were not interested in real art.. Real courage we have it. So it changed it completely and besides the Nazis killed so good so many of their of the good always to talk all they had to leave is fugitives. There isn't much left now you see. And yet I'll tell you what I think Americans one of the things Americans need to hear. There are many things we need to hear. One of the things that
Americans need to hear fent is that Vienna physically seems to stand almost exactly as it was I must say that that the cities of Germany seem to me really to be destroyed quite literally beyond being built again as they ever were. Now Vienna with all the fighting that occurred in the city or on the outskirts seems really scarcely to have been touched what was destroyed has been rebuilt. The old Vienna remains physically. Well that's true we were pretty lucky him because the war moved into Vienna and it may lead to the first air raid I think they were in 43. So and we had only in Vienna actually bombing in fighting for about two years when Actually whenever the heavy raids which was doing cities suffered and what was destroyed as you say was partly a non-essential
behavior I should say so from point of view of the city is. Passe. It's a facet which has remained which is partly an asset and partly a liability to China. Well I think just there are three main buildings the standstill the opera and the book will not destroy it. That is the cathedral Yes they are opera and the great city theater yes. And these are Bella who they call the Mindstorms know you can see the Landmark and I don't know whether I have a quote of something more than that I mean they're not only the landmarks of the outside fascinated as you say it is more as the saying well know one of the things that impressed me most before I was in Vienna a very long on this visit from fent is that there seems to be again or perhaps there always was both a philharmonic and a symphony orchestra. There is the opera. At least
one opera and if I'm not mistaken that to you. Yes that's right. And there are plays of the day I got here I arrived with the entire American cast of Porgy and Bess which was opening its European tour in Vienna. And this is the kind of thing that makes one believe that the myth of Strauss's Vienna still was real all ways and still exists where it is. The musical culture I think it did I should say fell asleep during the last years with the Nazis we had. But for instance when it was in 45 and the trams did not drive and the day after the Russians came in all of the members of the orchestra came the whole way on food through the destroyed the very streets and so they went to have their homelessness and I
think the following day already did they gave the first performance it was a big job. They all remember that and thought probably then by golly maybe the myth was real after all and it still is real. I don't know. Vienna seems it looks the city looks quiet to me. May I say Herr fent that when I first came to Vienna 20 Dear me more than 20 years ago as an American tourist Vienna seemed to me as I now remember it to be the brightest place in the world. It seems quieter now. It is because. Of party economic conditions which make it difficult for so many people as formerly to take part in the jollification in the life you haven't the money to go out often. You have got to do the money for the taxes and so on so people stayed home. It is a smaller strata of people who can
afford to have. To lead a gay life. But on the other hand. There is that word in your books just said in a way something hibernated musical The spirit the love of the Spirit and all that you are not to be had and it's still something that it's probably a combination of the Austrian charm as you call it and the toughness which I call it which combined to keep something alive which is to begin to be uneasy if you like. But you know there's one thing which I have seen with foreigners coming to Austria. Even Italian are Spaniards anybody from the south or even French come to Vienna they say it's sad and evil men from Scandinavia or Northern Germany can say what a gay city it's all relative. Frau thant you write her a fairy tales in the in the or the old days of out of pain.
The days of the monarchy where the poor happy two did they waltz they did there were these for instance this famous bishop may don't bother you know what they're doing out there. Why this dancing off their laundry maid on three maids and then women of the middle class could all afford servants and they keep the servants will. So I think these are not poor people. Oh I know I speak of this. So I think people and these are perhaps a PIA and they are now going to the picture. I think it would be well that the general standard of living was probably high it's more livable but I should say that it's a moot point of whether they happy. And you know there's a lovely story of a
man set at one of these high I get place of these wine places and he was slightly drunk it was mumbling to himself and then suddenly he said well aware of. My grandfather he was a hawt Baker had his own house and his own pair of horses and carriage and so was my father my father he was an imperial court Baker and he owned a house and a pair of horses and cattle. And what am I. Well I'm just a bloody Nazi. But that was I think it was just shortly before the war about 30 and 30 percent. Do you and you for our fans. Really suppose that if the pressures under which Vienna has suffered
since 1918. If these pressures are all lifted would Vienna be again what it was or is the economy such that that you really can't look forward to the old Vienna anymore. I'm sure I would become the old man again it would give us such a push. It would make us with more on pleasure and happiness and to be quit try to appeal to the old you can again and I'm sure he would succeed. But people like you in the old days. Your family's middle class families. They wouldn't be wealthy again in the comparative sense of wealth to have the time for talk and for music and the coffee houses with the economic life what it is now but it would change if the nation was left. You mean Austria of course you're not an
economist but. I did not in the narrative. There. Were Austria ever again have a substantial and fairly well spread good living that it had once. Well you see we could be richer than Switzerland if we were masters in our own house. We have oil we have minerals and we have all sorts of things now which we didn't have formerly hydroelectric power and all that and we could be prosperous if we were occupied and robbed of our resources by phone. But and then I'm coming back to what I said I said that what's left of it is been a part of ability to us. Past is a liability there is a danger of people looking back too much. I don't think that the o day would come back that never would come back but we could and I hope we will. Some day we'll build something new. It's
always difficult with a great part of the great tradition to break away and make something new which is equally strong which is equally person which is equally important. It is a great challenge to us. Yes but this new that would be built whether it was a. People's Republic or a workers democracy of a Western democracy or Western DeMarte whatever it might be. Let us say that it had to do with the organization of politics and economics with this PVA. That's different. I think it would be something different because we are now a small country. The river of wealth human the human reason why so much more. The monarchy has some 56 million inhabitants and we have seven million so we're eight which is very much smaller as a wind it's a homogeneous.
So I don't know what it would be like and then to hear fent when you say you could be Austria could be better off than Switzerland you would have to change the Austrian character I believe a bit there's nothing easy going about the Swiss Certainly not. And if you think of Austria rising again as Germany seems to be certainly the economic situation of of Germany at least of western Germany even with its unemployment is much higher than it is here. You would have to import some of this German efficiency which I do not detect in Austria may I say yes then. One of the most charming vestiges of the old Viennese charm that I have encountered is that every clock on the street shows a different time. That's how I like it it seems to suggest a disregard of time.
Yes well that's of course. Let's put it like that we could be richer than Switzerland. We probably wouldn't. But if we are sufficiently well-off to have a little time to indulge in the weaknesses we might develop something similar in character and in China have the old Austrian to be used to be and for instance we should always be musically gifted and it will be a great tape or did for our friend. If I remember correctly the what my grandparents great grandparents called the coffee klatch. I was born in Vienna. That is the women sitting around the table drinking their coffee and talking. I don't see that of course it may go on in private homes I don't see it in the coffee houses anymore. It hardly goes on neither and the private toll is it's not the coffeehouses we have no more time. And we don't have the money for it. Has the Viennese
woman been liberated. Liberated How do you mean by that from a man. Has she had both the opportunity and the necessity to take a job. Yes she is that that is a radical changes are we not both. The man and his wife have to work if they will keep this certain standard of living. Otherwise it's impossible to make ends meet and meet it's impossible. Both have to work. One of the things I suppose that fascinates me not only here in Vienna but in all of Austria and in Bavaria in southern Germany too this being the Catholic section of central Europe is to hear people say groups got instead of guten tag instead of saying hello or good day they say God be with you. Perhaps this gives one a feeling of living in a happier world. And we like these sort of greeting each other. We love it. Even if
these do. Even the atheists. And of course until he you need to see. And that's another reason why we like it now more than before you take a risk. Did you all say Heil Hitler. I never said it and I never did like that never made this list. I don't know the hired a hit man just hit my head to Dallas. I find I think that people did in this part of the world and in the Catholic part of Europe. I don't mean that the people weren't Nazis or didn't do as they were told. They do seem to have gone around saying groups got instead of Heil Hitler is perhaps a little easier to switch from good talk from good morning or good day to saying Heil Hitler. Maybe but anyway it's great as I see even the atheists say it's something probably to
do with it was General Spitzer. It's Or should I say it's warm hearted and a greeting. To wish God God blessing down on you instead of just saying I wish you good day. Yeah. That's Viennese too is it. I suspect so. Maybe you'll probably get a better judge than we are here to India. Thank you very much Aaron for our fans. Milton mair American author and broadcaster lecturer and professor in the Institute of Social Research from Frankfurt University has been interviewing her and Frau fent in a program made possible under a grant from the fun for adult education an independent organization the stablished by the Ford Foundation. These programs are prepared and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This program was introduced by Norman McKee and this is the end AB tape network.
Voices of Europe
Paul and Ingeborg Fent
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
An interview with Paul Fent, a Viennese playwright, and Ingeborg Fent, a fairy tale writer. The Fents talk about Austria, its history and culture.
Series Description
Interviews with noted Europeans on a variety of subjects, conducted by Milton Mayer, American author and broadcaster, lecturer and professor in the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt University.
Broadcast Date
Global Affairs
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Interviewee: Fent, Paul
Interviewee: Fent, Ingeborg
Interviewer: Mayer, Milton, 1908-1986
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-37-38 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:18
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Chicago: “Voices of Europe; Paul and Ingeborg Fent,” 1953-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
MLA: “Voices of Europe; Paul and Ingeborg Fent.” 1953-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2024. <>.
APA: Voices of Europe; Paul and Ingeborg Fent. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from