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Art, History & Politics, Literature

Neoavantgarde and Cybernetics

The Translation of Oswald Wiener's "improvement of central europe"

April 18, 2023
6:30 pm

In collaboration with
NYU Department of Italian Studies
Colloquium in the Humanities

Neoavantgarde and Cybernetics
Oswald Wiener’s improvement of central europe

Book presentation of the translation and commentary by
Nicola Cipani, NYU

The translator and commentary author in conversation with
Thomas Eder, University of Vienna
Nicola Lucchi, CIMA – Center for Italian Modern Art


Despite its undisputed place in the canon of the avant-garde, Oswald Wiener’s improvement of central europe (die verbesserung von mitteleuropa, roman) has long remained a riddle in need of interpretation. At the time of its publication in the ‘60s — among puzzled, even shocked, reactions — Wiener’s novel gained immediate recognition as epoch-defining work. Presented as a “novel”, the book is in fact a conglomerate of writings — from philosophical fragments to montage, from scientific metafiction to theatrical farce, from pseudo-diary to automatic invention — aimed at a radical critique of society. The author of this furious exercise was a young writer who called himself a “student of a new anarchy”, a former enfant terrible of the experimental poetry circle known as the “Vienna group”, employed as a cybernetics expert at the Austrian branch of the Olivetti company, soon to be arrested and tried as an “enemy of the State”. The deliberate obscurity of his “novel”, which ends with a stunning prefiguration of today’s virtual reality, explains the paucity of comprehensive exegesis. Deemed untranslatable, Wiener’s masterpiece remains almost unknown outside of the German-speaking world.

Casa Italiana presents Nicola Cipani’s translation and commentary of the novel into Italian (il miglioramento della mitteleuropa, romanzo, edizioni del verri) as well as a version of his commentary
published in German (Zur Theorie eines », roman«. Oswald Wieners»verbesserung von mitteleuropa«: Ein Kommentar, Ergon Verlag).