Read Homo faber: Ein Bericht by Max Frisch Free Online
Book Title: Homo faber: Ein Bericht|
The author of the book: Max Frisch
Edition: Bibliothek Suhrkamp
Date of issue: 1975
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 576 KB
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Reader ratings: 5.8
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April 20, 2011:
I bought this book in 1979 and read it sometime in the early 80's.
It's only a couple of hundred pages, so when Praj asked me to review it, I thought, hey, why not re-read it (even though I very rarely re-read books).
April 22, 2011:
Re-reading this novel has been a total revelation.
Firstly, I had previously rated it four stars from memory. Now I have upgraded it to five stars.
It's not just good, it's great, one of the best books I've read.
Secondly, I haven't seen the Volker Schlondorff film "Voyager", which is based on the novel.
If it is anywhere near as good as the book, I will seek out the film with a passion.
About the Right Length
I have read numerous books that were anywhere in length between 300 and 1,000 pages long.
However, there is something in me that feels that 200 pages is just the right length.
In the early days of the internet (when grazing seemed to have superseded dining), I thought everybody would head in this direction, and that the days of the epic were over.
I was clearly wrong, but I still feel that, if an author has a 600 page book in them, they should write three 200 page novels (or at most two 300 page novels).
Hit the ground running, say what you want to say, don't subject us to the risk of boredom, finish it and move onto the next novel.
It's ironic that I'm about to start "The Pale King".
But "Homo Faber" does just this.
Some Short, Sharp Examples
I have read a few novels that more or less live up to my prescription and are perfect as well.
Camus' "The Stranger" is one.
Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice" is another.
Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness".
"Tourmaline" by Randolph Stow.
To these great novels, I would now add "Homo Faber".
Towards Crystalline Perfection
Given the relatively small canvas, what matters to me is the crystalline perfection of the prose.
Not a word wasted, not a word that I would change.
Circumnavigating the Plot
I don't think it is fair to you to summarise or hint at the plot.
It is not a detailed or hyperactive plot.
The narrator (Walter Faber) finds himself in a number of related predicaments that conspire to reach a resolution, almost despite Faber's reluctance or inability to seize the initiative and direct or change the course of his life.
In retrospect, each predicament is an existentialist challenge to the certainty of his worldview and the way he (and we) live our lives.
Walter's Tanned and Toned
Part of the novel's appeal is the tone that derives from the unlikely character of Walter.
He is no hero, but neither is he an anti-hero.
He is a thin, wiry, 1950's Swiss engineer, a technologist, a believer in the reign of rationality over sentiment.
The Age of Aquarius isn't even on the horizon.
The tale is by him as well as about him.
His tone is dry and clinical, like an engineer's report.
Initially, he is world-weary, detached, disengaged, sarcastic, resigned.
You laugh at his interaction with the world, but it's not in your face comic farce per se, it's a serious farce scaling its way up to an immodest tragedy.
He's hanging on in quiet desperation (not just the English way, but the Swiss way as well).
Then things start to happen to him, some good, some bad.
Bit by bit, he becomes more engaged, more interactive, more hopeful.
Only to experience the greatest sadness I can conceive of.
It's not giving anything away to say that Walter's plight revolves around the women in his life.
Given the relative absence of women friends, he is typical of many men in that he can only relate to a woman in one of three ways: in their capacity as mother, lover/wife or daughter.
This not only shapes the relationships in his life, it shapes him and the women as well.
The Feel, the Craft, the Finish
The novel starts dry, but builds quietly and confidently towards its end.
Max Frisch is a master of his craft.
An architect himself, Frisch's novel is immaculately conceived, flawlessly constructed and consummately delivered.
On time, on budget.
Ultimately, it defines the existentialist plight with both a rational and an emotional sensibility.
I realise that I haven't given you much to go on but my enthusiasm, but if you can find a copy, I guarantee that you will be hooked from the first sentence and you won't be able to stop.
Many thanks to Praj for prompting me to revisit the book and re-discover a classic of the second half of the last century.
P.S. Volker Schlöndorff Discusses His Film "Voyager [Homo Faber]" in 2011
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Read information about the authorMax Rudolph Frisch was born in 1911 in Zurich; the son of Franz Bruno Frisch (an architect) and Karolina Bettina Frisch (née Wildermuth). After studying at the Realgymnasium in Zurich, he enrolled at the University of Zurich in 1930 and began studying German literature, but had to abandon due to financial problems after the death of his father in 1932. Instead, he started working as a journalist and columnist for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), one of the major newspapers in Switzerland. With the NZZ he would entertain a lifelong ambivalent love-hate relationship, for his own views were in stark contrast to the conservative views promulgated by this newspaper. In 1933 he travelled through eastern and south-eastern Europe, and in 1935 he visited Germany for the first time.
From 1936 to 1941 he studied architecture at the ETH Zurich. His first and still best-known project was in 1942, when he won the invitation of tenders for the construction of a public swimming bath right in the middle of Zurich (the Letzigraben).
In 1947, he met Bertolt Brecht in Zurich. In 1951, he was awarded a grant by the Rockefeller Trust and spent one year in the U.S. After 1955 he worked exclusively as a freelance writer. His experience of postwar Europe is vividly described in his Tagebuch (Diary) for 1946-1949; it contains the first drafts of later fictional works.
During the 1950s and 1960s Frisch created some outstanding novels that explored problems of alienation and identity in modern societies. These are I'm Not Stiller (1954), Homo Faber (1957) and Wilderness of Mirrors/Gantenbein (1964). In addition, he wrote some highly intelligent political dramas, such as Andorra and The Fireraisers. He continued to publish extracts from his diaries. These included fragments from contemporary media reports, and paradoxical questionnaires, as well as personal reflections and reportage. he fell in love with a woman called Antonia Quick in 1969.
Max Frisch died of cancer on April 4, 1991 in Zurich. Together with Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch is considered one of the most influential Swiss writers of the 20th century. He was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Marburg, Germany, in 1962, Bard College (1980), the City University of New York (1982), the University of Birmingham (1984), and the TU Berlin (1987). He also won many important German literature prizes: the Georg-Büchner-Preis in 1958, the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels in 1976, and the Heinrich-Heine-Preis in 1989. In 1965 he won the Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society.
Some of the major themes in his work are the search or loss of one's identity; guilt and innocence (the spiritual crisis of the modern world after Nietzsche proclaimed that "God is dead"); technological omnipotence (the human belief that everything was possible and technology allowed humans to control everything) versus fate (especially in Homo faber); and also Switzerland's idealized self-image as a tolerant democracy based on consensus — criticizing that as illusion and portraying people (and especially the Swiss) as being scared by their own liberty and being preoccupied mainly with controlling every part of their life.
Max Frisch was a political man, and many of his works make reference to (or, as in Jonas und sein Veteran, are centered around) political issues of the time.
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