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Literaricum Lech © Buero Magma / Vorarlberg Tourismus

The joy of reading and listening

On internationally successful Vorarlberg authors, literary events and special reading places.

Vorarlberg Journal
The joy of reading and listening

Vorarlberg’s literary scene

The joy of reading and listening

An astonishing number of people from Vorarlberg are amongst Austria's best-known literary figures. From 2024, the new Literaturhaus Hohenems will place an extra focus on the “exquisite.”


Men and women of letters from Vorarlberg
They are well-known  to those who like to read: Michael Köhlmeier, Monika Helfer, Arno Geiger, Doris Knecht, Eva Schmid, Wolfgang Hermann and Alex Beer… just to name just a few of the well-known literary figures from Vorarlberg. Some of them are still in Vorarlberg, others were originally from Vorarlberg but moved abroad. At readings in Vorarlberg, these voices can be heard again and again – and their works are of course available at regional bookshops.

A house for literature
Since 2015, the literatur:vorarlberg network has served as the analogue and digital platform for Vorarlberg’s literary scene. The network’s chairwoman and literary figure Daniela Egger as well as the managing director and cultural manager Frauke Kühne are responsible for a variety of initiatives and lively exchange. As of 2024, literature will now also have a home: the Literaturhaus Hohenems will be established at the carefully renovated Iwan and Franziska Rosenthal Villa in the centre of Hohenems. As a venue for literary events, workshops and various projects, the Literaturhaus will make literature even more accessible throughout the state. The podcast “Radetzkystraße 1” also provides interesting insights. In these episodes, guests connected with the literary landscape and the emergence of the Literaturhaus have their say.

Ernest Hemingway (c) Wikipedia commons
Jamesy Joyce (c) Wikipedia commons

Inspired by Vorarlberg
A look back into history reveals something astonishing: some world-famous literary figures spent time in Vorarlberg in their younger years and also found inspiration for their works and later creations here.

Landesbibliothek Kuppelsaal Bregenz © Petra Rainer

Vorarlberg State Library

Literature from Vorarlberg
Some authors from Vorarlberg can be found amongst the best-selling authors of different genres. In the 19th century, a writer from the Bregenzerwald achieved international fame.

Stories from history
The most famous author of yesteryear is Franz Michael Felder. He lived in Schoppernau in Bregenzerwald, where there is a small museum dedicated to his memory. Felder (1839-1869) was not only a gifted writer, but also a social reformer. His most important work, translated into several languages, is the touching biography “A Life in the Making.”

Alpschreiberin © Alex Kaiser / Vorarlberg Tourismus

The Vorarlberg creative scene

The young literary scene
Several workshops invite children and young people to deal with language in a playful and creative way.

  • literatur:vorarlberg offers various workshops for those interested in writing from the age of 12, also for schools. Every third Friday of the month, for example, a creative workshop for writers aged 12 and over takes place at W*ORT in Lustenau. =W*ORT is a meeting place for children and adults that focuses on language.
  • Ländle Slam“ is a network for young poets. The association organises various event formats and also offers workshops.
  • Young creators of theatre can gain their first experiences in the “Kosmodrom” in Bregenz and turn their ideas into reality there as a team.
  • Around 90 public libraries throughout Vorarlberg offer books to borrow. Their offer of books for children and young people is particularly extensive.
Lecher Literaturtage (c) Bernadette Otter

Authors throughout time – a selection

Alex Beer is one of the most successful crime novelists in Austria. The setting for her August Emmerich series is Vienna, where she lived for several years. She currently lives in Vorarlberg once again. Her most recent work, “Felix Bloom – Der Häftling aus Moabit” is set in Berlin.

In “Der Atem des Himmels,” Reinhold Bilgeri blends together a love story and the avalanche tragedy that struck the Großes Walsertal in 1954. The novel was made into a film. Bilgeri is also well known as a pop musician and songwriter.

Christian Futscher, who lives in Vienna, specialises in satirical and grotesque texts. His stories include: “Wer einsam ist in der großen Stadt,” “Frau Grete und der Hang zum Schönen” as well as “Der Mann, der den Anblick essender Frauen nicht ertragen konnte.” These titles have not been translated into English.

Arno Geiger has become internationally famous since publishing “The Old King in Exile,” a story about his father who suffers from dementia. The author, who lives in Vienna, has also penned “Unter der Drachenwand,” “We are doing fine,” “Alles über Sally” and “Das glückliche Geheimnis” (to be published in early 2023). Not all of his titles are in English.

In recent years, Monika Helfer has been working on her family history, which has attracted a lot of attention. The titles of the trilogy (German only) are “Die Bagage,” “Vati” and “Löwenherz.” Monika Helfer is also a successful author of children’s books.

Vorarlberg plays a recurring role in the work of Wolfgang Hermann, who lives in Vienna. Especially in the books that concern “Herr Faustini,” i.e. “Herr Faustini Takes a Trip.” He addresses a personal life, specifically the death of his son, in the stories “Abschied ohne Ende” and “Insel im Sommer.” In February 2023, the story “Bildnis meiner Mutter” was published.

Doris Knecht is known for her columns, which appear in several newspapers, and for her novels. The author lives in Vienna and in the Waldviertel region. Her first novel, “Gruber is leaving,” was even made into a film. Her most recent novel is called “Die Nachricht.”

Michael Köhlmeier has a very extensive body of work to his credit. He writes novels, short stories, radio plays, plays and also likes to tell sagas and stories on the radio or in audio books. His most recent novel, “Matou,” was published in 2021.

Inspector Ibele travels throughout the Rheintal valley and the Bregenzerwald. This epicurean inspector was brought to life by Peter Natter. The author’s main profession is actually philosopher.

Verena Rossbacher lives in Berlin. In 2022 she received the Austrian Book Prize for her novel “Mon Cherie und unsere demolierten Seelen.”

The town where she lives, Bregenz, plays a major role in Eva Schmid’s books. After a long break from writing, she returned a few years ago with the well-received novels “Ein langes Jahr” and “Die talentierte Lügnerin.”

Robert Schneider’s debut novel “Brother of Sleep” was an international success, which was also made into a film. Today, the author, who lives in Vorarlberg, primarily writes columns. In 2022, his “Buch ohne Bedeutung” was published.

Stadtbücherei Dornbirn © Heidi Stelzhammer / Vorarlberg Tourismus
Stadtbibliothek Dornbirn, (c) Aldo Amoretti
Alte Bibliothek der Propstei © Dietmar Denger / Vorarlberg Tourismus

The Public Library of Dornbirn

The Public Library of Dornbirn

Old Library at Propstei St. Gerold

Special places to read and listen

There are around 100 public libraries in Vorarlberg. From an architectural perspective, two stand out in particular: the Vorarlberg State Library in Bregenz and the Public Library of Dornbirn. The book “Paula” brings the city of Feldkirch to life from a literary perspective.

Even if you don’t want to read or borrow a book, the Vorarlberg State Library in Bregenz is well worth a visit. It is housed in the former “Gallusstift” building, which was once a convent, later a girls’ high school. The library room in the former church of the monastery is particularly impressive.

The baroque library at the Mehrerau Abbey in Bregenz is accessible as part of guided tours that can be arranged individually. The ornately furnished hall at this Cistercian Abbey, which was decorated by a Bregenzerwald Baroque master builder, houses historical manuscripts and prints.

A few years ago, Dornbirn received a new municipal library. Its exterior is a reference to its interior. The building is formed from four parabolas. The exterior façade, designed as a sunshade, is made of ceramic tiles that resemble bookshelves.

Paula” is the name of the literary companion that guides visitors through Feldkirch. In this book, authors from the city render different places and locations accessible and tangible.

Kuppelsaal der Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek
Landesbibliothek Aussenansicht (c) Gustav Willeit - Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek

Literature & snippets

What does the medieval heroic epic the Nibelungenlied (The Song of the Nibelungs) have to do with Vorarlberg? Manuscripts A and C of this culturally and historically important work were discovered in Hohenems in the 18th century. The Counts of Hohenems had kept them in their palace library. Today, these valuable manuscripts have been designated UNESCO World Cultural Heritage items. Manuscript A is now in the Bavarian State Library in Munich, manuscript C in the Baden State Library in Karlsruhe.

“Hilfe kommt aus Bregenz (Help is coming from Bregenz)” the famous writer Franz Kafka once wrote in his diary in 1916. No one knows what moved Kafka to write this sentence. After all, he gave Bregenz a place in world literature.

What’s behind the phrase “Ritt über den Bodensee (The ride across Lake Constance).” The expression means to have mastered something very dangerous, daring. It refers to the ballad “The Rider and Lake Constance” by Gustav Schwab (1792-1850). Therein, the German poet writes of a horseman who wants to get to the other shore of Lake Constance in poor weather and in his haste fails to notice that he had ridden across the frozen lake.

Attentive train passengers will notice the following quote on the cemetery wall at Feldkirch railway station: “As the train slowly pulled into Feldkirch and the glaring cone of headlights was seen, I had little hope.” This sentence was penned by the German poet Carl Zuckmayer (1896-1977), who was forced to flee in 1938. He managed to get to Switzerland, where he lived until his death.

More literature in Vorarlberg