Ingeborg Bachmann

  • Malina

  • 'An intense, courageous novel, equal to the best of Virginia Woolf and Samuel Beckett' The New York Times

    Part detective novel, part love story, part psychoanalytic case study, Malina is a staggering portrait of a writer trying to tell her own story in a world dominated by men.

    'I was subordinate to him from the beginning, and I must have known early on that he was destined to be my doom'

    A woman in postwar Vienna walks a tightrope between the two men in her life. There is her lover Ivan, beautiful and unavailable, who obsesses her. And there is Malina, the civil servant with whom she shares an apartment: reserved, fastidious, exacting, chillingly calm. As the balance of power between them starts to shift, she feels her fragile identity unravelling, gradually revealing the dark, bruised heart of her past.

Ingeborg Bachmann (1926-1973) was an icon of postwar literature in Europe. A poet and a philosopher, she wrote radio plays, short stories, essays and a single novel universally recognized as her masterwork, Malina. Born in 1926 in Klagenfurt, Austria, Bachmann was the daughter of a Nazi party member. She rose to prominence in the 1950s with two collections of poems that grapple with what she considered to be the jarring dissonance of writing poetry in German "after Auschwitz". Famously photogenic, she was courted by journalists, critics and fellow writers. She had affairs with Paul Celan (who gave her so many flowers that her studio in Vienna was transformed into 'a poppy field'), Max Frisch and even Henry Kissinger, who she met on her first visit to America in 1955 as a visiting scholar at Harvard-all of which were the subject of a swirl of cultural gossip. She steadily produced poetry and philosophical essays, as well as co-writing two operas and a ballet, and becoming politically involved with Heinrich Boll, Gunter Grass and Uwe Johnson against the Vietnam War. She was the constant subject of interviews, documentaries, and dissertations, and featured the front covers of Der Spiegel. She won all the major German and Austrian literary awards, including the prestigious Georg Buchner prize. But she was a naturally shy person and, sick of the sustained attention to her life and work, she left Austria for Ischia, then Naples, then Munich, Zurich, Berlin and finally Rome. In her final years she became dependent on alcohol and sedatives; she died in a fire in her bedroom in 1973, which police concluded was caused by a lit cigarette. Since her death she has been recognized as a significant influence on such writers as Günter Grass, Max Frisch, Christa Wolf, and Peter Handke. The annual Ingeborg Bachmann Prize is one of the most important awards for literature in the German language.

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