Academic journal article German Quarterly

Murder, He Wrote: The Fate of The Woman in Max Frisch's Mein Name sei Gantenbein

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Murder, He Wrote: The Fate of The Woman in Max Frisch's Mein Name sei Gantenbein

Article excerpt

At least since the publication in 1989 of Monika Albrecht's meticulously documented study, Die andere Seite: Zur Bedeutung von Werk und Person Max Frischs in Ingeborg Bachmanns Todesarten, reading Malina as Bachmann's targeted response to Mein Name set Gantenbein has been well established. Bachmann, so the conventional wisdom goes, recognized herself all too clearly in the figure of Lila Gantenbein and was deeply offended by Frisch's indiscreet exploitation of their relationship-they lived together on and off from 1958 to 1963-as "literarisches Material."2 She wielded her revenge in the form of her own roman à clef in which Frisch appears camouflaged as Ivan. Indeed, the entire Todesanen project may be read as Bachmann's coming to terms with Max Frisch both personally and professionally, her planned trilogy (Malina, Das Buck Franza, and Requiem für Fanny Goldmann) conceived as countertexts to Frisch's own (Stiller, Homo faber, and Mein Name sei Gantenbein).3

In her monumental study on Bachmann, Sigrid Weigel has recently challenged this view. Dismissing Frisch's incorporation of his affair with Bachmann into Gantenbein and Bachmann's embittered, vengeful response to it in Malina as no more than a "rumor" (337), she posits that it is rather with Paul Celan's poetic work that Bachmann enters into a "cryptogrammic" intertextual dialogue (411). And while Weigel is careful to emphasize that the character of Ivan "is" not Celan -"[d]ie Bedeutung Celans fur Malina ist nun keineswegs so zu verstehen, dass Ivan Celan sei" (emphasis Weigel, 417)-her very juxtaposition of their assonant names (Ivan/Celan) more or less forces the equation. She qualifies her claim by localizing the Bachmann/Celan correspondences in what she calls "eine Form Sprachmagie:" "Es sind weniger Motive oder Themen, eher einzelne Wörter, sprachliche Bilder oder Schriftbilder, die zwischen der Lyrik Celans und Bachmanns kursieren" (426). This she substantiates with a four-page list of lyrical allusions in Malina to Celan's poetry (420-23), most from the twenty-eight poems Celan had personally dedicated to Bachmann, and most contained in the fairy tale "Die Geheimnisse der Prinzessin von Kagran" embedded into the first chapter of her novel.

Yet the either/or question of whether Max Frisch or Paul Celan served as a model for Ivan-however disguised or artistically sublimated-belies the long recognized polyphonic complexity of Malina. No doubt both men, and other men, meld into a composite much like the catchall figure of Hans, the "Ungeheuer " in the story Undine geht, of whom the narrator says, "daß ihr alle so heißt, einer wie der andere [...]" (Bachmann 2: 253). The name Ivan, which calls forth the familiar epithet "the Terrible," would speak for an interpretation along these lines: for the female Ich, all men are "terrible" in the same all-encompassing sense.4 That the historic "Ivan der Schreckliche" appears in Frisch's play Die Chinesiscke Mauer as the epitome of patriarchal power politics-a correspondence not yet pointed out-lends further credence to Frisch's role in Bachmann's casting of the Ivan figure. Weigel's outright dismissal of the Frisch connection, her refusal to acknowledge any influence on Bachmann whatsoever, seems to say more about her own (negligible) relationship with the Swiss author than it does about Bachmann's.

Weigel's position is all the more perplexing since she is so careful to qualify Bachmann's allusions to Celan. Her recognition of their localized quality within Malina and especially her claim that Bachmann and Celan do not share motifs and themes speak for the existence of another intertextual site at which thematic concerns are in fact addressed. I will argue that, indeed, Frisch's Mein Name sei Gantenbein constitutes that site. The remarkable congruence of motifs and themes between Malina and Gantenbein attests to a much more fundamental correspondence between the two works than has thus far been assumed. This applies especially to what has long been recognized as the central theme in Malina but has yet to be acknowledged as central to Mein Name sei Gantenbein as well: the annihilation of female subjectivity. …

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