The Empress and the Cake

by Linda Stift


An elderly lady offers a young woman a piece of cake. She accepts. The lady resembles the Austrian Empress Elisabeth and lives with her servant in an apartment full of bizarre souvenirs. More invitations follow. A seemingly harmless visit to the museum turns into a meticulously planned raid to steal a royal cocaine syringe. Without noticing it, the young woman has become the lady’s accomplice. Does she realise she is losing control?

On the surface this is a clever thriller-cum-horror story of three women and their descent into addiction, crime and madness. And at times it’s very funny. But don’t be fooled. The book also offers an exploration of the way the mind creates its own realities and – quite often – deludes us into believing that we control what is actually controlling us.

Translated from the Austrian German by Jamie Bulloch.

172pp, paperback with flaps, £12
ISBN 978-1-908670-30-4
Publication date: 24 February 2017

Press & Reviews

'Like the sumptuous cakes that appear throughout, this book is a thrilling treat to be devoured within a short space of time. A claustrophobic and gripping page-turner.' - The Contemporary Small Press

'It is once again a great credit to the enterprising Peirene Press, which has carved out quite a niche for itself in bringing us Weird Contemporary European Novels.' - Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian 

'I finished the story in a day but the pleasure lingers. You will feel no regrets indulging in this tale.'  - Jackie Law, Neverimitate

'Such a wicked psychothriller can only come from Vienna.' KulturSPIEGEL

'From the opening scene to the very last page the writer makes the uncanny uncannily present, as if the bourgeois of Vienna, contrary to everywhere else in Europe, have always been just a little bit strange.' Neil Griffiths, Republic of Consciousness

About The Book


Linda Stift in an Austrian writer. She was born in 1969 and studied Philosophy and German Literature. She lives in Vienna. Her first novel, Kingpeng, was published in 2005. She has won numerous awards and was nominated for the prestigious Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in 2009.



Jamie Bulloch is a historian and has worked as a professional translator from German since 2001. After studying Modern Languages, he obtained an MA in Central European History and followed up with a PhD in interwar Austrian history. His translations include books by Paulus Hochgatterer, Alissa Walser and Timur Vermes. He is the translator of five Peirene titles: Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius, Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe, The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke, winner of the 2015 Schlegel-Tieck Prize for German Translation, The Empress and the Cake by Linda Stift and The Last Summer by Ricarda Huch. He is also the author of A Short History of Tuscany and Karl Renner: Austria.