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Robert Prosser: Verschwinden in Lawinen

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Swallowed by Avalanches
Salzburg: Jung und Jung, 2023.
192 pages.; hardcover; Eur 22,00.
ISBN 978-3-99027-273-2.

Robert Prosser


At the very start of Robert Prosser's novel, we learn that two skiers have been buried in an avalanche on a remote flank of the Greit. Because of his intimate knowledge of the Alpine landscape, Xaver, who works at the ski lift, knows that there is no time to lose. He is also very familiar with the craving for the ultimate adrenaline kick that tempted his niece Tina and her friend Noah to choose an extremely difficult slope for their daredevil descent. Rescuers have found the girl and taken her to the intensive care unit at the hospital, but the boy is still missing.

Initially, Xaver tries to distance himself from these events, but is finally forced to give up his role as clear-eyed observer. The demons from his past catch up with him. He remembers how long ago, his beloved grandfather Konrad, failed to return from a hike. At the time, Xaver and his mother Anna climbed up to find Mathoi, who lived an isolated life in the mountains. And, in fact, as a miracle healer—the 'resurrector' as the locals call him—was able, using just his pendulum, to determine the place where Konrad met his death.

The avalanche accident and the events connected to it alone would be enough for a tension-filled story. But for Prosser, this is not enough. He prefers to look behind the gleaming backdrop of a fictional Austrian winter resort and shine a light into the abysmal inner lives of the local residents. In numerous flashbacks that interrupt his depiction of the dramatic process connected to the avalanche disaster, the protagonist's past is unfurled.

Prosser's novel portrays how difficult it is to stay true to yourself when you benefit from mass tourism and are enslaved to the idea of quick profits. But it also tells of the struggle for love and recognition and the life-long confrontation with loneliness, loss, and death.
Against this existential backdrop, the author unfolds the plot of his wintery anti-heimat novel in an impressive example of contemporary Austrian literature. It is a true find—as is the writer from Alpbach in Tirol, whose name is worth remembering.

From a review by Walter Wagner, Literaturhaus Wien, 23 February 2023
Translation by Tess Lewis

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