BBC Radio 3, 16 December 2012
A narrator (Stephen Greif) is travelling through Belgium, and meets the
eponymous Austerlitz (James Fleet) in a station cafe. The two men get talking, and the narrator gradually learns something
about Austerlitz's past. It seems that the narrator's presence is a reassuring one: Austerlitz warms to his task, and
by the end of the drama, we have found out where he came from, and where he ended up as he did.
However Austerlitz's mental journey proves profoundly unsettling, both
for himself and listeners alike. We discover that he had been given a new identity, and quite literally told to forget
the past: as a member of a Jewish family in Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s, he had run the risk of being impounded by the
Nazis, and had been transported to Britain as a result. Once there he had been given a new identity, and told precisely
what his new background and social circumstances were. Such strategies might have been undertaken with the best of intentions,
but in the long run they proved destructive rather than constructive, condemning Austerlitz to live a perpetual lie.
Constructed as a macabre narrative, in which figures from Austerlitz's
past and present intermingled with one another, John Taylor's production proved beyond doubt how individuals have to face
their pasts, and try and understand how they shape both the present and the future.