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A Sailor of Austria: In Which, Without…
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A Sailor of Austria: In Which, Without Really Intending to, Otto Prohaska Becomes Official War Hero No. 27 of the Habsburg Empire (1991)

por John Biggins

Séries: Otto Prohaska (1)

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1537181,856 (4.28)17
In this ironic, hilarious, and poignant story, Otto Prohaska is a submarine captain serving the almost-landlocked Austro-Hungarian Empire. He faces a host of unlikely circumstances, from petrol poisoning to exploding lavatories to trigger-happy Turks. All signs point to the total collapse of the bloated empire he serves, but Otto refuses to abandon the Habsburgs in their hour of need.… (mais)
Membro:SteveAnderson
Título:A Sailor of Austria: In Which, Without Really Intending to, Otto Prohaska Becomes Official War Hero No. 27 of the Habsburg Empire
Autores:John Biggins
Informação:Publisher Unknown, Kindle Edition
Coleções:A sua biblioteca
Avaliação:****
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A Sailor of Austria por John Biggins (1991)

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    Goshawk Squadron por Derek Robinson (themulhern)
    themulhern: Two cynical but humane takes on military officers in WWI, one in the air, one in the water.
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Rceived as a surprise gift from a friend who works for a small publisher. The novel is a pleasant enough techno-actioner but the real value is the inspiration to find out more about the period and technology involved; I had some vague idea that there was an Austrian navy on the Adriatic in WWI but had no grasp of the details (I always wondered why Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music was a naval officer in a country with no seacoast.) I have no idea if the book's information on submarine performance, torpedo details, battles in the Adriatic, etc. are correct; they seem to have the right "look-and-feel" but the author could be making everything up and I'd have no clue; it's a novel, after all. You will probably enjoy this if you like Tom Clancy or Patrick O'Brian. There are two more books in the series that probably fill in the gaps in the life of Ottokar Prohaska, but they seem to be out of print.


This might go well with A soldier of the Great War, which covers the WWI Austrian front from the Italian side and is a more "literary" novel. I find myself reading a lot of WWI books recently. Is there anybody left? If you joined up in in 1918 you would be 104 or 105 now. There must be a few dozen WWI veterans left in the world; maybe a few more if some lied about their age. Has the last man who was at Verdun or the Somme or the Brusilov Offensive or Jutland already left us? ( )
1 vote setnahkt | Dec 4, 2017 |
The full title of this is worthy of note, as it says much of the dry humor:
A Sailor of Austria: In Which, Without Really Intending to, Otto Prohaska Becomes Official War Hero No. 27 of the Habsburg Empire
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In my research on the medical field in World War I, I kept seeing mentions of this book as one of the best World War I novels out there. It didn't pertain to my research, but my curiosity was piqued, so I had to get it. Biggins created a charming, realistic, and dryly-humored character in Otto Prohaska, an Austrian submarine officer. My husband was in the United States Navy, so I know all too well how ridiculous the modern navy can be; this book shows that some things never change.

Otto's adventures are hilarious bordering on the absurd... yet absolutely believable at the same time. In particular, there were incidents involving food poisoning and a camel that had me laughing out loud. There's also the uniqueness of the perspective. It's a book from the perspective of a "bad guy" in a sense: a Czech-Pole, who works as an ally of the Germans. It's also mostly set along the Adriatic Sea and Mediterranean, going into deep, fascinating (never boring!) detail on the operation of submarines. Biggins is very honest in his portrayal of how people suffered during the war; his descriptions of Austria at the war's conclusion are very wrenching.

I loved the book up to the end. It's clear from the start that Otto survives the war, since he's narrating these events when he is over a hundred years old, so that takes away a lot of tension. I was able to predict the one twist of the ending quite far out, and I was disappointed that it played out the way I expected. I really hoped I could be surprised instead.

Now I am not sure if I will read on in the series, which apparently goes into other incidents before and during the war, but overall I found this a delightful read. ( )
1 vote ladycato | Apr 10, 2015 |
I love military historical fiction, and this book is one of my faves. Sadly, the book-buying public didn't agree with my opinion, and John Biggens was dropped by his publisher after four novels that didn't make money. The sad truth is most of the people who read this kind of fiction want a more standard-issue kind of hero, like Jack Aubrey or Dan Lenson; someone who is heroically going on to bigger and better things, which will be written about in due course. Lieutenant Ottokar Prohaska is in the service of Austria-Hungary, a decaying empire with a small navy; an empire that broke apart after World War One and lost all it’s oceanfront property in the process. This greatly limits opportunities for promotion to higher rank, among other things. Sadly, while Ottokar Prohaska is a certifiable hero: loyal, brave and extremely competent (a winner of the Military Order of Maria Theresa, no less!), his opportunities for heroic action are limited by circumstances beyond his control: rinky-dink u-boats with limited range and offensive capabilities; exploding submarine toilets; defective torpedoes; flatulence-inducing rations of tinned stew with sauerkraut. Yet he bravely sailors on with his multilingual crew with no little success, and only a bit of friendly fire. You have to love this guy; he’s loyal to the end and fun at parties.
The good news is this book is back in print again and can be easily found, along with the other three books in the series. This was not always the case. Even better, John Biggens has written a fifth novel, not about Austrian sailors, titled "The Surgeon’s Apprentice", which is available only as a kindle book. It’s on my to-read list. ( )
2 vote Mike.Goldberg | Dec 28, 2012 |
An excellent story well told about a little known topic; the WW1 Austrian navy and submarine warfare in the Mediterranean. ( )
1 vote jamespurcell | Feb 26, 2012 |
A true unacknowledged classic in the historical fiction tradition, this is a book you simply must read.Like Flashman but without the racism or Aubrey but without the pompousity, the tales of Otto Prohaska, Submarine Captain of the Austrian Empire are exciting, educational (the research is outstanding) and surprisingly funny, although with moments of heart-stopping tragedy.
Told as reminiscences of a dying centenarian in a west Wales home for Polish veterans, to a younger Welsh submariner, this book carries the reader back to 1915 and then through the last years of the disintegrating Habsburg Monarchy to its inevitable fall, with a wit and panache that makes it amazing that this book is not better known.
High point: the chapter long description of Prohaska's childhood and why his hometown has no official name, which contains that rarest of things, black slapstick.
Low point: There are no low points.
By the way, this is one of my five desert island novels. By Jove, I think I'll have to read it again. ( )
2 vote spaceowl | Jul 17, 2011 |
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Österreich, du edles Haus,

Steck deine Fähne aus,

Las sie im Winde weben.

Österreich soll ewig steben!


Austria, thou noble house,

Raise thy banner high,

Let it wave in the wind.

Austria shall stand forever!

Patriotic verse

Anon

Vienna, 1915
Ganzes Dasein ist ein Schmarren,

Freunderl sei gescheit!

Heunte über fünfzig Jahren

Leben and're Leut'.


Everything is just a mess,

Friend, be clever!

Fifty years from now

Other people will be alive.

"Die Csardasfürstein"

Emmerich Kálmán

Vienna, 1915
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This book is dedicated to all those whose stories were never told
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I imagine that many of my listeners will take the view that, if a man has to wait until his hundred and first year before committing himself to posterity, then what he has to say cannot really have been very important in the first place.
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In this ironic, hilarious, and poignant story, Otto Prohaska is a submarine captain serving the almost-landlocked Austro-Hungarian Empire. He faces a host of unlikely circumstances, from petrol poisoning to exploding lavatories to trigger-happy Turks. All signs point to the total collapse of the bloated empire he serves, but Otto refuses to abandon the Habsburgs in their hour of need.

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