Saturday, 27 August 2011

Fin de siècle

Fantasy Bob's last cricket match of the season today, weather permitting, brings to him that familiar feeling.  Another season barely started and it is over.  Gone the glorious expectancy of May, the high thrills of June, the langours of July and the soggy stirrings of a since-records-began August which the weathermen will be reporting for years to come.  All gone and only the scratched scorebooks, limp-rain-soaked pages to record those triumphs and disasters and everything in between. 

The Kiss by Klimt
For some reason best known to himself FB has always associated the end of the season with the fin de siècle.  A French term literally meaning the end of the century, but used more generally to mean the end of an era or period.  Sometimes synonymous with inertia, ennui, degeneration -  all the things FB displays on the cricket field at this time of year - or any time to be truthful.

But in many parts of European fin de siècle is also associated with particularly dynamic periods in culture.  Vienna particularly.  (Or AhVienna as Midge Ure might have it.)  Fin de siècle Vienna - the period of the last hurrah of the Habsburgs and after had a flowering of culture which really prepared the way for the 20th Century.  Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gustave Klimt, Oscar Kokoschka and many others all at some point made their mark in these years.  These are Test Match Quality players.  Vienna was described as the research laboratory for world destruction.  Art, music, philosophy, architecture all took distinctive modern turns.  If it moved there was a Viennese school.  It it didn't move there was a Viennese school.  All except in cricket where there was a major failing of nerve.   This is beyond comprehension.

For there is evidence that cricket was known in fin de siècle Vienna.  It was played by British workers who happened to be there - gardeners and such like it would seem for the most part.   The second oldest football club in Austria is actually the Vienna Cricket and Football Club - it was founded in 1894 and was the first winner of the Habsburg Challenge Cup in 1897, the precursor of the Austrian National Cup competition.  It was locally known as the Cricketers and enjoyed some success before it merged with AC Victoria Wien in 1911.
This was a slow start for cricket in Austria and it wasn't until after the second world war that it emerged again when it was played  by members of the allied forces - this was of course the time of the aptly named Third Man.  The fin de siècle had been and gone.
The Austrian Cricket Association was established in 1981 following the re-introduction of cricket to Austria in 1975, with the founding of Vienna Cricket Club. Since 1992 it has been an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council, and it is one of the founding members of the European Cricket Council.  The Austrian national team now plays in Division 4 of the European Championship and there is a thriving club scene heavily concentrated on Vienna. And strudel and sachertorte will be served at tea - that would be worth anyone getting a fixture.  Good luck all Austrian cricketers.

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