Frederic Morton Receives Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and the Arts

Austrian Press Agency (06/25/03)

Vienna - The author, Frederic Morton, was presented with the Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and the Arts 1st Class by Federal President Thomas Klestil."Accept this as thanks from the old home country not only for your accomplishments, but also for your loyalty and trust in our beautiful Austria," said Klestil, who emphasized that the refugee from Vienna "never broke the ties with his native home." His book, "The Forever Street " ("Ewigkeitsgasse") which appeared in 1984 "elevated him to some extent to the nobility status of literature. There is no more nobility in Austria, so I am pleased to decorate you wholeheartedly republican," concluded Klestil.

"The Forever Street" was translated into twenty-three languages. The previous year, 100,000 complimentary copies were distributed in Vienna. President Klestil honored the "novel of a family, with tinges of the autobiographic," which "brings alive the life of Vienna at the turn of the century, the years between the two world wars, and the period giving rise to National Socialism." The President added: "Morever, never has the Jewish contribution to the cultural life of Austria been so expressively represented" as in this book.

Morton, born as Fritz Mandelbaum in Vienna in 1924 and immigrated to the USA via England, gave thanks also to his second home, America. Today, I feel as a human being and philosopher and increasingly again as refugee - this time, however, in the opposite direction. "Because I am searching for asylum in exactly those dimensions of Austrian life which today are proscribed as outdated, namely the provincial, slackness, and the attitude of muddling through." To the contrary, the word "provincial' can be understood not only as "small-minded' but also as a particular awareness of one’s origins which is a remedy against the progressive alienation brought on by globalization. A touch of slackness could also preserve one from unsparing efficiency which turns the soul into a computer. The ice cold digital scheduling of every minute of the day could be tempered by turning one’s talents to muddling through, that creative spontaneity know as improvization.

Morton’s writings are also an "attempt to confront the 21st century neurosis of self-obsession and fear of the future," which points out the dark aspects increasingly affecting America and the rest of the world. This has nothing to do with militarism, but with the "unrestrained individualism" which recognizes no limits and is being globally exported." The "pressure to succeed" dominates the collective "we,' which gets lost.