Posted by: tnowotny | December 21, 2016

Christmas Letter 2016

Dear friends near and abroad,

Those we know and feel close to provide us not just with a sense of togetherness and warmth but also with a sense of continuity– and so do recurring rituals of sharing, like finding the highest possible Christmas tree or writing these Christmas letters.

The last year has made these anchors of our existence even more precious. The world we have lived in – the “Post World War II World”- is crumbling, with the mightiest tremor originating from the US presidential elections. The integration of Europe has gone into reverse, with the suicidal UK BREXIT vote being the most visible symptom of a widely shared return to a narrow nationalism that we thought had become extinct in light of the sufferings caused by the European civil wars of the 20th Century. Not just European unification is at stake, but even democracy as democratization too, has gone into reverse; openly so not just in Russia or faraway places, but even in Central Europe – in Hungary and Poland.

For the time being Austria has managed to avoid joining in this backlash, with the presidential elections of December 4th delivering a solid defeat to the nationalist/ populist candidate and the election of a pro–European and liberal new Head of State.
The news of this outcome reached us when we were just gathered for our traditional Christmas caroling at our apartment behind the “Karlskirche” (pictured on the card enveloping this letter). Looking out at the church, and the idyllic Christmas market in its front, and amidst our friends and relatives we were and are very much aware of our privileged position; having lived in an era of peace; of rapidly rising wealth; of solid, rational politics; of abating social tensions and of expanding tolerance. We were and are also very much aware that life had dealt us very good cards: uniquely rewarding professional careers, many friends, and a close family.
As for the latter: daughter Katinka works at a prominent position at the Austrian television. Her husband, Eric, is managing editor of the liberal Austrian newspaper “Der Standard”. Grandparents are notorious for eulogizing their grandchildren. But in truth – we have solid reason for doing so. Isabel, the elder one, has just finished her bachelor studies in Amsterdam with a “summa cum laude”. Gideon who had successfully had passed the “Matura” with excellence in June of this year, is now doing his military service ( still obligatory in Austria ).
With the addition of new spare parts, i.e. hips, both of us are in good health. Both, and in particular Eva, are also very active still. The most time consuming, intense and challenging of her jobs is the position as President of the Board (“Universitätsrat”) of the 93.000 student Vienna University. As President of the Austrian UNESCO Commission, she also has to venture into tricky terrain on occasions, for example when addressing the politically charged question of defending the “World Cultural Heritage” character of this or that Austrian site. Added to these two are quite numerous other positions in associations engaged in either humanitarian affairs (such as CARE Austria) or foreign policy (such as the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue, or the Austrian Foreign Policy and United Nations Association).
Thomas has stopped lecturing at the Vienna University, though he still is active in tutoring various master thesis and doctoral dissertations. The book he has been working on the last two years and that has been very important to him (Das Projekt Sozialdemokratie…) has finally appeared this very December. The official presentation will be at the Kreisky Forum on January 12th.
We had a beautiful long summer at the house of our family in Altaussee; visited Naples, Pompeii, the Gulf of Naples, the coast of Amalfi and the Greek temples at Paestum in April. We had been deeply moved by some musical events such as the chamber music festival in Lockenhaus, or the full cycle of all Beethoven piano concertos in Grafenegg. Invitations for lecturing extended to both of us provided the chance of returning to London in November.
The coming year will be challenging. We wish all of you strength and resolve in face of these threats to our commonweal; but also good health and happiness in the circle of family and friends.

Eva and Thomas Nowotny


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