The Heir to the Throne
Archduke Franz Ferdinand was a doting husband and a loving father. He was, however, extremely unpopular, both at the Viennese court and with the public at large, and the mass slaughter of animals in pursuit of his passion for hunting didn’t help the would-be reformer’s reputation. Ludwig Winder‘s historical novel Der Thronfolger takes a fresh look at the emperor a hundred years after the infamous Sarajevo assassination.
Sarajevo; Sunday June 28th 1914. On the corner where Franz-Joseph-Straße meets Appelkai, two pistol shots rang out and changed the course of history. Nineteen year old student Gavrilo Princip shot dead the prospective successor to the Habsburg throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, thereby triggering the First World War.
Franz Ferdinand d’Este, nephew of Emperor Franz Joseph, was as intelligent as he was overbearing and irascible. He was pathologically anti-social, a misanthropist who yearned in vain for the death of the seemingly immortal monarch while contriving contradictory plans for the reformation of the state. At the same time, he was a passionate hunter with an insatiable blood-lust that led him to kill around 300,000 animals.
In this superb novel — which was first published in 1937 and immediately banned — Ludwig Winder, a member of the »Prague Circle« around Franz Kafka, portrays his protagonist as a victim: of himself, his heritage and Austria’s ossified, reform-resistant society. Winder’s book is at once a fascinating psychological study and a vivid portrayal of the swansong of an era.
»Today, more than ever, Der Thronfolger deserves pride of place in the pantheon of European literature, ranking alongside Joseph Roth’s Radetzkymarsch.« Ulrich Weinzierl
»Overlooked author Ludwig Winder has written one of the greatest historical novels in German literature«. Die Zeit
»This great novel is one of the masterpieces of Prague literature.« Paul Reimann