Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Literary luminary – Four reading tips on the 50th anniversary of Ingeborg Bachmann’s death

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The Austrian poet was one of the most glamorous writers of her time. She led an eventful life in many places. Honoring a wonderful person.

In October 1973, Ingeborg Bachmann died of burn injuries in Rome under scandalous circumstances. Four reading recommendations on the 50th anniversary of the death of the exceptional literary talent.

Your most beautiful poem

Ingeborg Bachmann’s poems are without exception beautiful. Like “Prague January 1964”. It tells of the end of a crisis. Bachmann alludes to the devastating separation from Max Frisch.

In addition to the personal, there is also the political: the Prague Spring was in the air. And more generally, the poem invokes transformation.


Ingeborg Bachmann (1926 – 1973) is considered one of the most important German-speaking poets and prose writers of the 20th century.

Dr. Heinz Bachmannn / Piper Verlag

On an early January morning in Prague, the self who is finally feeling a little better (“still hunched over, blinking”) looks out the window.

It sees snow shovelers sweeping up shards of ice. Suddenly river water appears: “Under the bursting blocks | mine, also my river | the released water came out. | You can hear it all the way to the Urals.”

Book reference

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“All Poems”: Ingeborg Bachmann. Piper paperback.

Your fantastic novel

Ingeborg Bachmann was only able to publish one novel during her lifetime: “Malina” (1971). It tells of a woman between two men and the devastation caused by gender relations.

Despite being panned by well-known critics and authors, “Malina” became a bestseller. For a long time the book was read as an indictment against Max Frisch. The last sentence: “It was murder.”

Film still, on the left a woman with brown hair in a dressing gown sits at a typewriter, on the right a man looks at her


The script for the film adaptation of the novel “Malina” (directed by Werner Schroeter) from 1991 was written by Elfriede Jelinek.

IMAGO Images / United Archives

But not to forget that Bachmann was an incredibly relaxed and funny narrator. The phone calls between the lovers, for example, are pure slapstick. Different expectations collide mercilessly.

That’s what makes the novel still worth reading. Not to mention that the question of women’s place in society can still be asked today.

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“Malina”: Ingeborg Bachmann. Suhrkamp paperback.

Her most famous radio play

A young woman and a young man fall in love. You climb to seventh heaven or to the 57th floor of a New York skyscraper. There they forget the world. Until the young man wakes up from the rush of love and descends into reality. “As if nothing had happened?” the young woman calls after him.

“The Good God of Manhattan” (1957) is a psychological-sociological study, half science fiction. A self-proclaimed god wants to make love punishable by death. Because it sabotages society, politics and the economy.

He sends his nasty squirrels to destroy the two lovers. It doesn’t quite work. At least the couple is attempting “a revolt against the end of love at every moment and until the end.”

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“The Good God of Manhattan”: Ingeborg Bachmann. Piper paperback.

The latest book about her

Heinz Bachmann has been dealing with his sister’s work and legacy for decades. Nevertheless, in his first book about Ingeborg Bachmann he doesn’t say anything that we don’t already know.

He loves his sister far too much to join in the chorus of gossip. At most, he only allows himself one or two criticisms of Max Frisch: “For me, he was always Mr. Frisch, never Max. In general, there was a lack of warmth.”

Black and white photo of an old man in a suit


Heinz Bachmann, Ingeborg Bachmann’s brother. He wrote a book about his sister, who was thirteen years older than him. At most he allows himself one or two tips against Max Frisch.

© Walter Pobaschnig / Piper Verlag

But the brother’s touching book celebrates warmth and solidarity. It tells of contemporary history, the family environment, the writer’s career and, right at the beginning, her death.

Heinz Bachmann was not allowed to see the burned victim. He was only able to speak to her via a telephone in the Roman hospital: “No matter how hard I tried, there was no answer.”

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«Ingeborg Bachmann, my sister. Memories and pictures»: Heinz Bachmann. Piper Publishing.

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