Bachmann, Ingeborg

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BACHMANN, Ingeborg

Pseudonym: Ruth Keller. Nationality: Austrian. Born: Klagenfurt, 25 June 1926. Education: Studied jurisprudence and philosophy in Innsbruck, Graz, and Vienna, 1945-50, University of Vienna, Ph.D. 1950. Family: Relationship with Max Frisch, q.v., 1958-early 1960s. Career: Correspondent, U.S. Control Commission, Vienna, 1950; writer for the broadcasting group Red/White/Red Radioplays, 1951-53. Lived in Italy, 1953-57. Visiting scholar, Harvard University, 1955; visiting chair of poetics, University of Frankfurt, 1959-60. Traveled to Egypt and the Sudan, mid-1960s; lived between Munich, Berlin, Zürich, and Rome, 1963-73. Awards: Gruppe 47 prize, 1953, for Die gestundete Zeit; literary prize of the German industry (Stuttgart), 1954; city of Bremen literature prize, 1957; radio play prize of the War Blind, 1959, for Der gute Gott von Manhattan; Association of German Critics literary prize, for Das dreissigste Jahr; Georg Büchner prize, 1964; Austrian national medal, 1968; Wildgans prize, 1971; Heinrich Böll award, 1983. Member: German Academy for Language and Literature, 1957; West Berlin Academy of Arts, literature division, 1964. Died: 16 October 1973.



Werke, edited by Christine Koschel, Inge von Weidenbaum, and Clemens Münster. 1978.

Bd. 1. Gedichte, Hörspiele, Libretti, Übersetzungen.

Bd. 2. Erzählungen.

Bd. 3. Todesarten: Malina und unvollendete Romane.

Bd. 4. Essays, Reden, vermischte Schriften, Anhang.

In the Storm of Roses: Selected Poems, edited by Mark Anderson. 1986.

Ausgewählte Werke, edited by Konrad Paul and Sigrid Töpelmann. 1987.

Bd. 1. Gedichte, Hörspiele, Schriften.

Bd. 2. Erzählungen.

Bd. 3. Romane.

Songs in Flight: The Complete Poetry of Ingeborg Bachmann (English and German). 1994.

"Todesarten"-Projekt, edited by Robert Pichl, Monika Albrecht, and Dirk Göttsche. 1995.

Bd. 1. Todesarten, Ein Ort für Zufalle, Wüstenbuch, Requiem für Fanny Goldmann, Goldmann/Rottwitz-Roman und andere Texte.

Bd. 2. Das Buch Franza.

Bd. 3. Malina (2 vols.).

Bd. 4. Der "Simultan"-Band und andere spät Erzählungen.

Selected Prose and Drama, with Christa Wolf, edited by Patricia A. Herminghouse. 1998.


Todesarten [Ways of Death] (trilogy):

Malina. 1971; translated as Malina: A Novel, 1990.

Der Tag des Friedens (fragment of unfinished second novel, Der Fall Franza ). 1976.

Requiem für Fanny Goldmann (fragment of unfinished third novel). Published with Der Fall Franza, 1979; translated as The Book of Franza and Requiem for Fanny Goldmann, 1999.

Short Stories

Das dreissigste Jahr. 1961; as The Thirtieth Year, 1964.

Simultan. 1972; as Three Paths to the Lake, 1989.

Undine geht: Erzählungen [Undine Departs: Stories]. 1973.

Sämtliche Erzählungen. 1978.

Die Fähre. 1982.


Der Idiot, adaptation of the novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky (ballet), music by Hans Werner Henze (produced 1952). 1955.

Der gute Gott von Manhattan (radio play). 1958.

Der Prinz von Homburg, adaptation of a play by Heinrich von Kleist (opera libretto), music by Hans Werner Henze (produced 1960). 1960.

Der junge Lord, adaptation of a fable by Wilhelm Hauff (opera libretto), music by Hans Werner Henze (produced 1965). 1965; translated and published as The Young Milord, 1966.

Ein Ort für Zufälle. 1965.

Die Hörspiele (includes Ein Geshäft mit Traumen; Die Zikaden; Der gute Gott von Manhattan ). 1976; as Three Radio Plays: A Deal in Dreams; The Cicadas; The Good God of Manhattan. 1998.

Radio Plays:

Ein Geschäft mit Träumen, 1952; Herrenhaus, 1954; Die Zikaden, 1955; Der gute Gott von Manhattan, 1958.


Die gestundete Zeit [Borrowed Time]. 1953.

Anrufung des Grossen Bären [Invocation of the Great Bear]. 1956.

Sämtliche Gedichte. 1983.

Liebe: Dunkler Erdteil. Gedichte aus den Jahren 1942-1967. 1984.

Dass noch tausend und ein Morgen wird. 1986.

Letzte, unveröffentlichte Gedichte Entwürfe und Fassungen, edited by Hans Höller. 1998.

Ich weiss keine bessere Welt: Unveröffentlichte Gedichte, edited by Isolde Moser, Heinz Bachmann, and Christian Moser. 2000.


Die kritische Aufnahme der Existentialphilosophie Martin Heideggers (dissertation). 1950.

Jugend in einer Oesterreichischen Stadt (memoir). 1961.

Frankfurter Vorlesungen: Probleme zeitgenoessischer Dichtung. 1980.

Die Wahrheit ist dem Menschen zumutbar: Essays, Reden, kleinere Schriften. 1981.

Das Honditschkreuz. 1983.

Anrufung der grossen Dichterin (essays). 1984.

Translator, Gedichte: Italienisch und deutsch, by Giuseppe Ungaretti. 1961.


Film Adaptations:

Der Fall Franza , 1986; Malina, 1991.

Critical Studies:

"Ingeborg Bachmann's Wortspiele" by Gerhard F. Probst, in Modern Austrian Literature, 12(3-4), 1979 pp. 325-45; "The Collected Works of Ingeborg Bachmann" by T. J. Casey, in German Life and Letters (England), 34(3), April 1981, pp. 315-36; Women Writers: The Divided Self: Analysis of Novels by Christa Wolf, Ingeborg Bachmann, Doris Lessing and Others by Inta Ezergailis, 1982; Ingeborg Bachmann issue of Modern Austrian Literature, 18(3-4), 1985; "Ingeborg Bachmann" by Juliet Wigmore, in The Modern German Novel, edited by Keith Bullivant, 1987; The Voice of History: An Exegesis of Selected Short Stories from Ingeborg Bachmann's Das dreissigste Jahr and Simultan from the Perspective of Austrian History by Lisa de Serbine Bahrawy, 1989; The Image of the Woman in the Works of Ingeborg Bachmann by Eckenbert von Redwitz, 1993; "Writing on the Border: From Lyric to Language Game in the Fiction of Ingeborg Bachmann" by Marjorie Perloff, in Sulfur: Literary Bi-Annual of the Whole Art, 32, Spring 1993, pp. 162-84; Understanding Ingeborg Bachmann by Karen R. Achberger, 1994; Waking the Dead: Correspondence between Walter Benjamin's "Concept of Remembrance" and Ingeborg Bachmann's "Ways of Dying," by Karen Remmler, 1996; "Reading Ingeborg Bachmann" by Elizabeth Boa, in Women's Writing in German: Feminist Critical Approaches, edited by Chris Weedon, 1997; "Murder and Self-Resuscitation in Ingeborg Bachmann's Malina " by Margaret McCarthy, in Out from the Shadows: Essays on Contemporary Austrian Women Writers and Filmmakers, edited by Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger, 1997; Thunder Rumbling at My Heels: Tracing Ingeborg Bachmann, edited by Gudrun Brokoph-Mauch, 1998; Ingeborg Bachmann's Telling Stories: Fairy Tale Beginnings and Holocaust Endings by Kirsten A. Krick-Aigner, 2001.

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The work of Ingeborg Bachmann is informed in great part by the Holocaust. Her writings bear the unmistakable imprint of her childhood and youth in Carinthia during the seven years Austrians lived under National Socialism, from the annexation (Anschluss) in 1938 until the end of World War II in 1945. These were impressionable years for the young Austrian girl, daughter of a Carinthian teacher who had already joined the Nationalist Socialist Party in 1932, at a time when it was still illegal in Austria. Bachmann was 11 years old when the National Socialists annexed Austria in the spring of 1938 and 18 years old when they were defeated by the Allied forces in the spring of 1945. Her writings and interviews bear witness to the great impact of these two historical moments on her life: "There was a definite moment that shattered my childhood: the march of Hitler's troops into Klagenfurt. It was something so horrible that this day marks the beginning of my memory: started by a pain inflicted too early, with an intensity that I perhaps never experienced again later in life. Of course, I didn't understand all that the way an adult would. But this enormous brutality that you could sense, this screaming, singing and marching—the surfacing of my first mortal fear. An entire army came at that moment into our quiet, peaceful Carinthia …"

The end of the years under the Nazis seems to have been as exhilarating as the beginning was frightening. Bachmann's character Franziska Jordan in the novel fragment The Book of Franza remembers "the most beautiful spring of her life" when the British occupation forces came to her hometown of Klagenfurt and she went out to meet them. As an adult, Franza marries a Viennese psychiatrist and helps him to write a book on Holocaust survivors, for which he fails to acknowledge her contributions, however.

Between those two extreme moments of 1938 and 1945 lies the everyday reality of life under Austrian National Socialism. In her chilling story "Youth in an Austrian Town" (1959) Bachmann describes the political taboo permeating both public and private life as World War II begins like a force of nature crashing from without into their peaceful family life: "The children sit quietly at the table … while thunder rings from the radio and the voice of the news reporter shoots around the kitchen like a bolt of lightning." A childhood of fearful obedience is recalled with quiet dispassion. Cruelty is woven into the fabric of upbringing in this Austrian town. The children "are only allowed to whisper and for the rest of their lives they will never lose the habit of whispering." In school the children are permitted to leave their notebooks and go to the bunker when the alarm sounds, to save candy for the wounded, and to knit socks for the soldiers. In "Among Murderers and Madmen," in the same volume, a regular gathering of men in a Viennese pub shows how little has changed since the war and how unwilling these Austrians are to deal openly with their fascist past.

Visions of the Holocaust haunt the narrator's nightmares in the central chapter of Bachmann's only completed novel, Malina. Elisabeth Mattrei, the protagonist of Bachmann's last story published during her lifetime, "Three Paths to the Lake," remembers reading Jean Améry 's essay "On Torture," although she never mentions him by name, referring only to "an essay … by a man with a French name who was Austrian and lived in Belgium … She wanted to write to this man, but she didn't know what to say or why." Bachmann's story, as if written in place of Elisabeth's letter, is an "homage to Améry."

Jews are among the most important people in Bachmann's life and work. Her diary tells of her ecstatic encounter in June 1945 with an English occupation soldier, Jack Hamesh, who, as the immigrant son of Viennese Jews, was able to interview her in perfect German about her membership in the BDM (Bund Deutscher Mädel, or League of German Girls). They talked endlessly of "books by Thomas Mann and Stefan Zweig and Schnitzler and Hofmannsthal," all authors who had been banned by the Nazis, as he introduced her to many authors she had been kept ignorant of under National Socialism. During this "most beautiful summer of my life," she proudly professed her friendship with this Jew as she walked with him through the streets of her hometown. Bachmann's writings are informed by the work of (mostly Austrian) Jews, from Joseph Roth to Améry, from Paul Celan , who was also a close friend, to Hannah Arendt, whom she met in New York in 1962, from Arnold Schoenberg to Gustav Mahler, from Ludwig Wittgenstein and Sigmund Freud to Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Gershom Scholem. After their meeting in Rome, Scholem sent Bachmann a poem in 1967 with the title "To Ingeborg Bachmann after Her Visit in the Ghetto of Rome." The poem, as if in answer to the description of the ghetto in Bachmann's essay "What I Saw and Heard in Rome," marked the beginning of their dialogue over messianism and forgiveness.

—Karen R. Achberger

See the essay on Malina: A Novel.