Monday 8 May 2023

Ingeborg Bachmann, Malina

I came to Ingeborg Bachmann through reading Fleur Jaeggy. 

On the 31st of July, 1971, we left Rome by car, an Alfa Romeo 2600, for Poveremo-Forte dei Marmi. Ingeborg Bachmann manned the road maps. It seemed like a great voyage, with Poveremo further away than Vienna and Klagenfurt, where we had already been. But now we were to spend a month together. Already that could be a mental voyage: cohabitation, prefiguring. The house we had rented was vast, with a garden. But the water was salty.

Though we cannot know what it is to be a bat, as Thomas Nagel said, we can imagine what it is to be part of a culture, the two of them meshed in the Italian afternoon, with the rest of Europe behind them. Ingeborg and Fleur in Liguria. But the water was salty. Tilda Swinton striding through as Virginia Woolf's Orlando. Jacob Taubes in Vienna, sucking on his pipe, his philosophies. Me in Paris, in 1968, learning how to yearn in french.

On page 40 of Malina, there is a piece of young writing ecstasy.

A storm of words starts in my head, then an incandescence, a few syllables begin to glow, and brightly coloured commas fly out of all the dependent clauses and the periods which were once black have swollen into balloons and float up to my cranium, for everything will be like EXULTATE JUBILATE in that glorious book

One night in Paris, May, 1968, I got up in the middle of the night, washed, dressed, put on earrings, got out my diary and wrote six or seven visionary pages.

That night I knew what it was to be Ingeborg Bachmann, though at the time I did not know of her existence. 

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