Ingeborg Bachmann - book author
“What actually is possible, however, is transformation. And the transformative effect that emanates from new works leads us to new perception, to a new feeling, new consciousness.” This sentence from Ingeborg Bachmann’s Frankfurt Lectures on Poetics (1959-60) can also be applied to her own self-consciousness as an author, and to the history of her reception. Whether in the form of lyric poetry, short prose, radio plays, libretti, lectures and essays or longer fiction, Bachmann’s œuvre had as its goal and effect “to draw people into the experiences of the writers,” into “new experiences of suffering.” (GuI 139-140). But it was especially her penetrating and artistically original representation of female subjectivity within male-dominated society that unleashed a new wave in the reception of her works.
Although Bachmann’s spectacular early fame derived from her lyric poetry (she received the prestigious Prize of the Gruppe 47 in 1954), she turned more and more towards prose during the 1950’s, having experienced severe doubts about the validity of poetic language. The stories in the collection Das dreißigste Jahr (The Thirtieth Year; 1961) typically present a sudden insight into the inadequacy of the world and its “orders” (e.g. of language, law, politics, or gender roles) and reveal a utopian longing for and effort to imagine a new and truer order. The two stories told from an explicitly female perspective, “Ein Schritt nach Gomorrha” (“A Step towards Gomorrah”) and “Undine geht” (“Undine Goes/Leaves”), are among the earliest feminist texts in postwar German-language literature. Undine accuses male humanity of having ruined not only her life as a woman but the world in general: “You monsters named Hans!” In her later prose (Malina 1971; Simultan 1972; and the posthumously published Der Fall Franza und Requiem für Fanny Goldmann) Bachmann was again ahead of her time, often employing experimental forms to portray women as they are damaged or even destroyed by patriarchal society, in this case modern Vienna. Here one sees how intertwined Bachmann’s preoccupation with female identity and patriarchy is with her diagnosis of the sickness of our age: “I’ve reflected about this question already: where does fascism begin? It doesn’t begin with the first bombs that were dropped…. It begins in relationships between people. Fascism lies at the root of the relationship between a man and a woman….”(GuI 144)
As the daughter of a teacher and a mother who hadn’t been allowed to go to university, Bachmann enjoyed the support and encouragement of both parents; after the war she studied philosophy, German literature and psychology in Innsbruck, Graz and Vienna. She wrote her doctoral dissertation (1950) on the critical reception of Heidegger, whose ideas she condemned as “a seduction … to German irrationality of thought” (GuI 137). From 1957 to 1963, the time of her troubled relationship with Swiss author Max Frisch, Bachmann alternated between Zurich and Rome. She rejected marriage as “an impossible institution. Impossible for a woman who works and thinks and wants something herself” (GuI 144).
From the end of 1965 on Bachmann resided in Rome. Despite her precarious health—she was addicted to pills for years following a faulty medical procedure—she traveled to Poland in 1973. She was just planning a move to Vienna when she died of complications following an accidental fire.
Ingeborg Bachmann is the author of books: Malina, Darkness Spoken: The Collected Poems of Ingeborg Bachmann, The Thirtieth Year: Stories, Herzzeit: Ingeborg Bachmann - Paul Celan. Der Briefwechsel, Simultan: Erzählungen, The Book of Franza and Requiem for Fanny Goldmann, Sämtliche Erzählungen, In the Storm of Roses: Selected Poems, Die gestundete Zeit, Últimos Poemas
Bachmann was born in 1926 in Klagenfurt, Austria. She studied philosophy at the universities of Innsbruck, Graz, and Vienna. In 1953 she received the poetry prize from Gruppe 47 for her first volume, Borrowed Time (Die gestundete Zeit). Her second collection, Invocation of the Great Bear (Anrufung des großen Bären), appeared in 1956. Her various awards include the Georg Büchner Prize, the Berlin Critics Prize, the Bremen Award, and the Austrian State Prize for Literature. Writing and publishing essays, opera libretti, short stories, and novels as well, she divided her time between Munich, Zurich, Berlin, and Rome, where she died from a fire in her apartment in 1973.
Peter Filkins has published two volumes of poetry, What She Knew (1998) and After Homer (2002), and has translated Bachmann’s The Book of Franza and Requiem for Fanny Goldmann. He is the recipient of an Outstanding Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association and the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin. He teaches at Simon’s Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
Der Briefwechsel zwischen 1948 und 1961 (ein letzter Brief Celans datiert aus dem Juni 1967) ist ein bewegendes Zeugnis: zunächst als das Gespräch einer Liebe nach Auschwitz mit allen symptomatischen Störungen und Krisen aufgrund der so konträren Herkunft der beiden und ihrer schwer zu vereinbarenden Lebensentwürfe als Frau und als Mann und als Schreibende. Aber es ist auch ein Ringen um Freundschaft oder um wenigstens irgendeine Beziehung. Ergänzend zu den beinahe zweihundert Zeugnissen ihrer Korrespondenz wurden die Briefwechsel zwischen Ingeborg Bachmann und Gisèle Celan-Lestrange sowie zwischen Paul Celan und Max Frisch in den Band aufgenommen.
Bachmann's youth , as well as i ntricately rhymed poems (such as the ten-part cycle "Von einem Land, einem Fluss und den Seen") had to be omitted . This is unfortunate , for much of Bachmann's strength as a poet derives from her fusion of a contemporary idiom with a rigorously crafted , classical form . But the criterion for any verse translation must be that the poem work in its own language . This principle has guided the selection of the poems presented here . Several short prose works relating to Bachmann's poetry , as well as a biographical note and chronology , have been added as an appendix. They should facilitate access to her verse and may also whet the reader's taste for her prose works, few of which have been translated into English.