Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thank you, NJT!

In my comments section, New Jovian Thunderbolt remarked that I would probably enjoy A Sailor of Austria: In Which, Without Really Intending to, Otto Prohaska Becomes Official War Hero No. 27 of the Habsburg Empire. I seemed to recollect that someone else I knew had recommended it to me, most likely staghounds, and so I decided to give it a whirl.

I'm a little tired this morning because I was late getting to sleep last night, as this is simply a delightful book!

It's really hard to categorize: The setting is the last days of the patchwork dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, before and during the '14-'18 war, told as the reminiscences of centenarian Kaiserliche und Königliche Kriegsmarine submarine officer Otto Prohaska.

And those early subs were something else. Even claustrophobic WWII Jerry U-boats, like the U-505 you can tour in Chicago's Museum of Science & Industry, are roomy by comparison, and a 1940s US Navy fleet boat, like a Gato- or Balao-class is absolutely palatial.

To put it in perspective, the USS Gato, launched in 1941, was over 300 feet long and displaced more than 1,500 tons on the surface, while the 1915-vintage Austro-Hungarian U-10 was under a hundred feet long and 126 tons, with all seventeen crew aboard. I've lived on a houseboat only twenty some feet shorter and it was crowded if me and my roommate had a friend sleep over...

At turns funny or absurd or poignant or bleak, there's action, and enough techno detail of early sub warfare to please a jaded Clancy fan (except you actually get, you know, plot and characters, too.) Two thumbs up!

24 comments:

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

I've read all 4. Decent little pits of work. The "reminisces of the old guy" format appealled to me because of parallels with my local WWII vets.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

'bits' of work.*

And, glad you liked it.

Bob said...

I have it on my own bookshelf, it's a wonderful read.

Wayne said...

Gee, thanks Tam, I'm still reading the Great Big Book of Horrible Things. Now I'll be more behinder.

Bubblehead Les. said...

WW1 Submarines. Cool. I also like that, being of Hungarian Descent, I get to put on my Smug Jacket and say, "Of course the Austro-Hungarian Empire had a Navy! If it wasn't for those damn French and Italians and the Treaty of Trianon...." Then I get to tell them that, yes Virginia, things DID happen on this Planet before Paris Hilton made a Vid..."

Pakkinpoppa said...

I went through the U-505 years ago. It was cool, but I'll never go back to Chicago. Think I was... 14? Was a youngun but still, there's principles. I'll ponder going back if I can at least bring my own gun, but it'd mostly be if I can tote it, so I don't see a return trip. Too bad.

john said...

Ms. Tam, Have you read U-505 by Daniel V. Gallery? He commanded the sub-hunting group that boarded and captured the U-boat. Good fiction is wonderful, but a well-written memoir is even better.

DirtCrashr said...

Prohaska is the last name of a famous Viennese Football (s0ccer) player (for Rapid-Hütteldorf) and also a minorly-famous Vienniese Fin de siècle artist/painter raconteur - it's a Hungarian base-name.

Anonymous said...

"Presumed Lost" The Incredible Ordeal of America's Submarine POWs during the Pacific War by Stephen Moore may be of interest as well.

Ken said...

Liked A Sailor of Austria a lot. I haven't read the others yet, though I will eventually.

On a quasi-related note, I recently finished Massie's Castles of Steel (having read Dreadnought in 2010), and after rereading Ryan Wadle's Texas A&M history master's thesis on Fleet Problems IX through XIV, I'm gonna grab Buell's biography of Ernest J. King from the university liberry after the holidays.

Robert Langham said...

Good lord. Makes me want to go shoot something with a really old firearm in an obscure caliber.

Drang said...

I've got the first two of the titles in the series sitting on the "Hold" shelf at the branch library as I type this. Trying to wait until Friday to pick 'em up, I have too many library books to pick up and read in too short a time...

Drang said...

For certain definitions of "too many", that is...
(About to start VDH's "The End Of Sparta" next.)

Gnarly Sheen said...

Hey! John Clancy books have characters! There's Jack Ryan and...and...wait a minute...

Bob said...

Any of Adm. Daniel V. Gallery's books is highly recommended.

Anonymous said...

I also receommend "The Last Salute"; it's Georg von Trapp's story about commanding a sub in the A-H navy in WWI. I'll be looking for the Prohaska book,thanks for the tip.
rodent

Firehand said...

Dammit, now there's ANOTHER book waiting on the Kindle for me to get to it!


WV= prett. "Prett soon, I'm gonna run out of lists to put them on!"

Lanius said...


It's a Hungarian base-name.

(facepalm)

No, it's not. It's not even from the same language family.. as Hungarian is a Uralic language, and Slavic and German languages are of the Indoeuropean..

Prochazka is Czech for "a stroll". Common surname in Bohemia, Moravia, and due to the unjustly maligned Austro-Hungarian Empire also common in Austria..

DirtCrashr said...

Well excuse me! Must be all the Czechs who ran The Empire from their desks in Vienna. Herb Prohaska had the usual "Wiener Perm" done to his famous afro-hair. That was common among the "youth" of my age when I lived there...

Atom Smasher said...

I thought it was odd that you were thanking teh New Jersey Turnpike.

Justthisguy said...

I like my real Austrian submariner, Von Trapp, better. "Sound of Music" aside, his wife Maria taught me to play the recorder with her excellent method, "Enjoy Your Recorder."

Due to the state of my teeth, I can no longer play the clarinet, so I do indeed enjoy my recorder. Telemann is really cool, played on the recorder.

Justthisguy said...

P.s. Von Trapp was a real Ashley Wilkes type. Braver than Dick Tracy he was when in combat, and loved by his men.

However, when he had to make a living on the civilian economy after the War he totally failed, aristocrat that he was.

staghounds said...

It was me, but I never knew there were sequels!!

Sean D Sorrentino said...

I finally got around to reading this book. It went on my Amazon wish list after you recommended it and I got it for Christmas.

http://www.ncgunblog.com/2013/01/11/run-out-an-buy-this-book/

Awesome book. Thanks to both you and NJT for recommending it.