Max Frisch: Homo faber Ein Bericht



This book is reuired reading in many schools in Germany Crazy idea What are the children supposed to get out of it And so are the ratings and rev I had never heard of this book or of its author but boy am I glad I decided to buy it on a whim It is a work that deserves to stand with Camus and Sartre in its penetration of the modern condition an understanding of which is in each case elucidated through the perspective of a misanthrope The protagonist Faber is an engineer who is characterised by certain stereotypically male traits he lacks empathy and is logical and analytical to the point of inhumanity He treats significant events even those of life and death or less with apathy and purely as the culmination of probabilistic forces His world is at the precipice of technological rebirth There is a hint of wonders to come the arrival of computers and the ease of travel and communication On a Warning contains major spoilers for Sophie s WorldManfred my inner German child is looking even smugger and annoying than usual I m not a child any he informs me I m grown up I read Max Frisch s Homo FaberYou are a child Manfred I sigh You re only threeThree and a half says Manfred with a little less confidenceThree and a half if you like I agree And you didn t understand that book It was too difficult for youDid so says ManfredOkay Manfred I say If you understood it why don t you tell me what it was about Which books did it remind you of in your vast reading experienceWell says Manfred after pretending to think It reminded me of Sofies WeltIncredible I reply and roll my eyes Sartre s Die schmutzigen H nde reminded you of Jostein Gaarder and this also reminded you of Jostein Gaarder Think of the oddsYou underestimate Jostein Gaarder says Manfred sullenly I can tell he d like to storm out and slam the door but it s not biologically possible He really does resent sharing my body at times like thisAlright I say Why did it remind you of Jostein Gaarder The ey to the book is Hanna s speech on page 140 says Manfred Here it is Der Mann sieht sich als Herr der Welt die Frau nur als seinen Spiegel Der Herr ist nicht gezwungen die Sprache der Unterdr ckten zu lernen die Frau ist gezwungen doch n tzt es ihr nichts die Sprache ihres Herrn zu lernen im Gegenteil sie lernt nur eine Sprache die ihr immer unrecht gibtAnd that means I askMan sees himself as the master of the world woman only as his mirror says Manfred Man is not obliged to learn the language of the subjugated class in contrast and although it does not help her woman is obliged to learn the language of her master a language which always puts her in the wrongWhy is that the Fifty Ways To Be Your Lover key to the book I want tonowWalter speaks the fragmented language of the ruling male class says Manfred Half the time it isn t even proper sentences but he doesn t care He Caught on Camera with the CEO knows engineering and chess and that s enough for him He pays so little attention to the coherence of his life that he doesn t even notice when No spoilers Manfred I remind himYeah well he doesn t even notice something he really should notice says Manfred in an irritated voice In the end he does start to understand the coherence that s central to Hanna s way of looking at things But only when it s too lateAnd what s the connection to Gaarder I askSee says Manfred I suddenly realized what the real point of Sofies Welt is The first time you read the book you think it s a good story and the philosophy isind of interesting but it doesn t make any sense Like why is the heroine a teenage girl What s the deal with how she discovers halfway through that she s not a real girl at all just a character in a book Why is it so important to her to study philosophy How does that help her get out of the book What has any of it got to do with anythingGood uestions I agreeBut you see says Manfred It makes perfect sense That s exactly what teenage girls most need to understand They aren t real girls They re just social constructs Fictitious characters in a male narrativeWhere on earth is he getting all this jargon from Has he been reading feminist theory But that s clearly impossibleAnd the only way they ll ever escape from that narrative is by studying philosophy concludes Manfred with satisfaction It all came to me when I was reading Homo FaberAn even impossible hypothesis crosses my mind has he got a girlfriendThat s for me to Wyoming Strong (Wyoming Men, know and you to find out says Manfred smugly Interview concluded April 20 2011I bought this book in 1979 and read it sometime in the early 80 sIt 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 booksApril 22 2011Re reading this novel has been a total revelationFirstly I had previously rated it four stars from memory Now I have upgraded it to five starsIt s not just good it s great one of the best books I ve readSecondly I haven t seen the Volker Schlondorff film Voyager which is based on the novelIf it is anywhere near as good as the book I will seek out the film with a passionAbout the Right LengthI have read numerous books that were anywhere in length between 300 and 1000 pages longHowever there is something in me that feels that 200 pages is just the right lengthIn the early days of the internet when grazing seemed to have superseded dinin oh my god I am so glad to be done with this tortuous book I appreciate the other reviewers who point out the reasons for this story s existence It is very well written and I suppose it serves to remind us not to live like robots to have feelings Fortunately I don t live like a robot and I already have many feelings thank you very much so for me reading this was like spending hours and hours with a depressed and depressing very sad old man who is telling me all his regrets without even really having learned anything from them Very painful dreary What a difference a reread makes Now I want to seize everybody in turn by the lapels and say read this book and then read it again Unusually Inow when I had the book for the first time the Easter of 1995 there s an inscription in my Mother s handwriting on a flyleaf with that date Now I ve read it again but also read it for the first time You can t read the same book twice since you never can be the same readerThe narrator doesn t see things that way He is told technologythe Arabian Nights knack of so arranging the world that we don t have to experience ittechnology as thenack of eliminating the world as resistance for example of diluting it by speed so that we don t have to experience itthe technologist s worldlessnesstechnologists try to live without death However the narrator s dissertation on Maxwell s demon was uncompleted Life intervenes The world intervenes Repeatedly The willfully blind man is forced to seeMax Frisch was Swiss This novel written in 1957 As with D rrenmatt s The Judge and His Hangman the war is in the background souring the lives of men who go profoundly off the rails years later I like the opening to this book very much I get a good sense of the main character the time and his way of life Brief images are very powerful From the first we see how the narrator has lost sense of himself He s on the verge of a breakdown but can t see it He hangs back from revelations the reader perceives He transfers his own sudden inexplicable oddness to his around him His past opens up and swallows him whole Homo Faber is the title What does man fabricate if not his own tragedyRereading there is a sudden sharpness in the descriptions of places I smell an ocean I ve never seen see the oozing red mud of a continent I ve never stepped foot on and my stomach feels as though I ve smoked too many cigars The disrupted interrupted narrative works to give the effect of being in his mind increasingly discontinuous and illustrates his ignorance of himself The man who made himself does not now himself The narrator talks about cybernetics but is deaf and blind to the feedback Nowadays we can give tragedy a technologist s name and call it systems collapse And now here at last is a real book for grown ups Intelligent and utterly unsentimental Homo Faber would I feel have been wasted on me if I d read it ten years ago now it strikes me as extraordinary This is unlike most novels which if not actually aimed at people in their late teens and early twenties seem to resonate most strongly with that intense and exciting age grou. Frisch's novel tells the story of a middle class UNESCO engineer called Walter Faber who believes in a rational calculated world Strange events undermine.

ONLINE Homo faber Ein Bericht – ecogenlife.org

Y to me I picked them up in my hands they served me as tools 1 foresaw their resistance But that all happened on the surface If anyone had asked me what existence was I would have answered in good faith that it was nothing simply an empty form which was added to external things without changing anything in their nature And then all of a sudden there it was clear as day existence had suddenly unveiled itself It had lost the harmless look of an abstract category it was the very paste of things this root was neaded into existence Or rather the root the park gates the bench the sparse grass all that had vanished the diversity of things their individuality was only an appearance a veneer This veneer had melted leaving soft monstrous masses all in disorder naked in a frightful obscene nakedness I ept myself from making the slightest movement but I didn t need to move in order to see behind the trees the blue columns and the lamp posts of the bandstand and the Velleda in the midst of a mountain of laurel All these objects how can I explain I realized that there was no half way house between non existence and this flaunting abundance If you existed you had to exist all the way as far as mouldiness bloatedness obscenity were concerned Jean Paul Sartre NauseaThe underplayed incestuous approach and the irony in Walter s analysis on abortion as a logical outcome in a civilization shows that even though man plans the absurdity of fate makes technology a pitiable surrogate of human identity Ultimately Walter s trepidation of death and emancipation from his social identity as an engineer proves that Man the Maker relates to how an individual classifies oneself from a hollow world where one cannot suffer nothing A Swiss Heart of DarknessAn engineer with an engineering outlook on life the eponymous Homo Walter Faber believes in the randomness of existence But he fails to recognise that such randomness is euivalent to a ind of cosmic spontaneity And that such spontaneity implies some sort of spirit He insists on the absolute disjunction between spirit and matter The former is emotional sentimental and soft The latter is masculine and what constitutes reality what can be measured assembled and disassembled and icked with one s foot Technology instead of mysticism is how he puts itThat there should be any sort of continuity between physical matter and emotional spirit is not a consideration for Walter Art bores him ancient ruins are merely old Conseuently neither does he comprehend the possibility of love If strictly random materiality is all that exists casual affection can be a fact but certainly not self less love A silent declaration sums him up Caresses in the evening yes but I can t stand caresses in the morning and frankly than three or four days with one woman has always been for me the beginning of dissimulation no man can stand feelings in the morning I d rather wash dishes Homo Faber true to his name is above all practical a maker a fixer at least in those aspects of life he regards as real He can repair things like automobiles turbines and electric shavers He nows the theories of cybernetics plumbing and electricity He nows his way around the engine room of a ship But Walter is aesthetically and emotionally dead to most of the world around him While a companion uietly appreciates a tropical sunset Walter s only thought is sarcastic Herbert stood there still experiencing And he can neither commit to nor abandon his married girlfriend He can t decide what relationship he wants with a young girl who is unknown to them both his daughter He even dithers repeatedly about where he intends to go and whyWalter records everything from Mayan ruins to the harbour of New York with the latest high tech cameras but he doesn t now why and he has no use for the results He has had exactly one one friend in his life whom he hasn t seen in 20 years And the daughter he new nothing about had been raised by this one friend who had married her mother The friend is found by a series of improbable coincidences dead by suicide in a remote Central American jungle Eually improbably Walter encounters the daughter on his voyage home to EuropeFaber s monadic existence he finds not in the least unpleasant He has freedom to travel to think to meet others that any sort of close relationship would impede But the encounter with his daughter disturbs his euilibrium Although only fifty he feels suddenly old tired irrelevant in her presence But the discovery that she is uite possibly his daughter is understandably even de stabilising The order of his existence is torn apart its logic made nonsensicalThe possibility that Walter has had sex with his daughter is the ultimate dislocation The mother s uestion is precisely the reader s How far did you go with the child Randomness must be accompanied by something of the spirit and not a small degree of love for his life to retain any coherence whatsoeverFrisch has than a touch of Patricia Highsmith of Studebaker and Nash automobiles transatlantic sea voyages post war Mediterranean exoticism as well as of her sexual ambiguity incipient incest and public homosexuality He has produced a period piece to rival even hers Is everything in life a coincidence or are things predestined for us How much do the decisions that we make in life influence the outcome even down to the smallest of details For globe trotting Walter Faber this is a conflict that is never really resolved through the misadventures of a strange semi mid life crisis Frisch writes a poignant and sometimes shocking novel as Faber struggles to maintain his previously unwavering belief in technology whilst human connections both past and present start to send his perfectly controlled existence spiraling out of his controlThe narrator Walter Faber a Swiss bachelor heading towards fifty is an analytical headstrong but somewhat misanthropic individual who s life is about to seriously land him on the ropes A man of science heading to South America on business to do with a project involving turbines Unfortunately for him his plane making an emergency landing in the Mexican desert was not part of the plan and from here on in bizarrely Faber would face some uncanny happenings after first of all finding his old friend Joachim dead in the jungle the husband of Hanna his childhood sweetheart Later he would fall in love with a young lady the dynamic Sabeth whilst traveling across the Atlantic on board a ship destined for Europe not nowing she is actually his daughter who he had with Hanna After spending time in Italy together an accident in Athens would bring Hanna back into Faber s life leaving him torn between guilt and love amidst the ruins of his own fateThis has the feeling of an existential work certainly but this novel is of greater depth when dealing with the unusual predicaments Faber finds himself in There is an air of precision and efficiency in Frisch s writing the restrained repetition and rhythm combined with shifts forward and back in time create a remarkable tension The pragmatic Faber is spare unromantic and sometimes damn right obnoxious a character who engenders empathy and as the forces that be conspire against him you can t help feel for the poor man as of all the people on the planet this being the 50 s so the population would have been smaller than today but even still he falls for the one person he shouldn t have But he slowly starts to reveal a humanistic side not seen before he is obliged to admit that he has found himself caught in a flood of coincidences and dwindling to hold to this as an excuse to absolve his part in the tragedy that ultimately unfolds At least until that is no longer possibleWith respect to the women they basically hold the Lucy Carmichael key to the stories progression Frisch intentionally places very strong independent women in his protagonist s line of sight and they are the women who hold the deepest attraction for him my only problem that wasn t really a problem just something to get used to was the long paragraphs of animated description broken by single stark statement set alone which at first I found irritating but this didn t affect the flow of the narrative significantly As for Faber there is one line I will never forget where he describes the towering skyscrapers of New York as Tombstones this being decades before 911 in a sinisterind of way it makes sense no. Ith a woman who dies of a concussion he has an incestuous affair Finally Faber becomes ill with stomach cancer but it is too late for him to change his li.

PAs it happens Walter Faber the central character of this novel does not read novels at all He can t see the point A technician for UNESCO Faber builds things records them and analyses them He believes in logic reason facts brute statistics A machine impresses him in a way that a human does not because it feels no fear and no hope which only disturb it has no wishes with regard to the result it operates according to the pure logic of probability Faber has few close male friends women he can t relate to at all Too emotional I m not cynical he explains I m merely realistic which is something women can t stand I called her a sentimentalist and arty crafty She called me Homo FaberHis one serious relationship ended in divorce years ago She scorned his beloved technology as the Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti knack of so arranging the world that we don t have to experience it And she by contrast was an archaeologist I stick the past together she says in one of the novel s few moments of unsubtletyI can imagine many readers finding Faber very unlikeable even monstrous and yet I feel desperately defensive towards him perhaps because he reminds me of my father Actually he reminds me of all fathers there is an air of generalised daddishness about him and this is not coincidental the notion of paternity is crucial to the book I like functionalism Faber says He has a prose style to match This is not to say that it is dry or clunky or unartful because it is none of those things The style is astonishingly telegraphic elliptical Faber narrating the facts that he considers important The effect is staccato but wonderful an extreme example here from a virtuoso section set in HavanaMy lust for lookingMy desireVacuum between the loinsI exist now only for shoeshine boysThe pimpsThe ice cream vendorsTheir vehicle a combination of old pram and mobile canteen added to half a bicycle a baldachin with rusty curtains a carbide lamp all around the green twilight dotted with their flared skirtsThe lilac moonOften you are forced to read between the lines to understand what is really going on and sometimes this reaches such a pitch that one has the impression of having experienced a scene twice All the time Faber is writing to understand what has happened and to justify his behaviour to himself He can hardly accept the novelistic coincidences that the story involves this cannot have happened How was I tonow What else could I have done The probability was minuscule These were the facts as I One-Click Buy knew themI am not mentioning the plot because it shouldn t be spoiled Which seems strange because we are given all the main facts uite early on But part of the point of the book is discovering that the facts are not always after all the most important thingIt s not often I really really love books in translation This is not because of any hipsterish misconception that you re not getting the real book it s just that one of the things I most enjoy analysing when I read is the nuts and bolts mechanics of sentence construction and vocabulary choice and this is all very different when you are reading the words of a translator Not that translators are not adept at this too they are but their motives and concerns are to do with fidelity to someone else s idea rather than their own and this difference is fundamental But here I was riveted by the techniue on displayThere is a moment where Faber recalls being on a beach in Greece with a girl The two of them have a competition of similes describing what they can see in terms of what it looks like This is new ground for scientific minded Faber but he gets into it and the paragraph rolls on for pagesThen we found we could make out the surf on the seashore Like beer froth Sabeth thought like a ruche I took back my beer froth and said like fibreglass But Sabeth didn tnow what fibreglass was Then came the first rays of the sun over the sea like a sheaf like spears like cracks in a glass like a monstrance like photos of electron bombardment But there was only one point for each round it was no use producing half a dozen similes Soon after this the sun rose dazzling Like metal spurting out of a furnace I thought Sabeth said nothing and lost a pointIt s hard to describe the effect this long passage has on you coming as it does after 150 pages in which I don t think a single simile had been deployed To me it felt like being hit by a truck It s one of the most unusual and powerful devices I can remember in terms of constructing a novel and the reason is that the passage coincides exactly with a moment of exuisite emotion both for Faber the character experiencing it and for Faber the narrator remembering it There is something technically brilliant going on in hereThere are so many other aspects to this superb novel that I haven t even touched on its comments on the war its deliberate and wide ranging internationalism its precise descriptive scenes The story is clear eyed and matter of fact and this has a cumulative effect that is uite devastating heart breaking really And yet for all that what I am left with is this unexpected life affirming feelinga renewed appreciation of what existence entails To be alive to be in the light Driving donkeys around somewhere like that old man in Corinth that s all our job amounts to The main thing is to stand up to the light to joy like our child in the nowledge that I shall be extinguished in the light over gorse asphalt and sea to stand up to time or rather to eternity in the instant To be eternal means to have existed Nothing is harder than to accept oneself Max Frisch Walter Faber is a paradigm of collective identity vs self identity rationality vs irrationality and providence vs concurrence counter positioning free will You cannot find yourself anywhere except in yourself Frisch portrays the contradictory worlds of methodical reasonableness and the uandary of being a mortal Walter believes in what he nurtures As a technologist working for UNESCO he lives in the present and connects with the world through scientific implications of his free will Walter truly believes that it is mere a seuence of coincidences that fashions a man s life not fate He defies the very nature of human sentiments sheltering his vulnerabilities through an itinerant lifestyle and transitory associations Nevertheless when circumstantial occurrences go beyond coherent justifications revealing the blatancy of Walter s concealed emotions the dichotomy of fate and coincidences are collided Walter s encounter with Herbert his travel to the tobacco plantation facing his uneasy past through Hannah and the sexual relation with Sabeth banishes Walter s logic of concurrent conseuences and imposes the idea of destiny His obstinate belief that a man should not be held responsible for the actions he did not choose is shattered when guilt overrides his conscious after nowing Sabeth s true identity He appreciates the value of forgiveness a concept which he had alienated himself from A man is a not a machine but an incongruous creature Frisch talks about the influence of industrial age and its significance in etching human mentality The evolution of scientific technologies has assured human beings the capabilities of capturing the materialistic wonders controlling every aspect of human survival Above all however the machine has no feelings it feels no fear and no hope it operates according to the pure logic of probability For this reason I assert that the robot perceives accurately than manWalter s fixation with the technology constantly asserts the conflict between the modern world and the so called primitive thought processes To a spiritual mind death is the ultimate liberation of a soul Whereas in a scientific setting death is seen as a failure of the aortic pump Frisch toys with the post modernism attitude towards technology suggesting that even though technology can make life easier it cannot define the workings of human connections Walter s practicality in every decision shielded him from the absurdity of emotions and fear making him helpless and nauseated in his own personality is analogous to the resolution of Antoine Rouentin in Sartre s Nausea I was thinking of belonging I was telling myself that the sea belonged to the class of green objects or that the green was a part of the uality of the sea Even when I looked at things I was miles from dreaming that they existed they looked like scener. His security an emergency landing in a Mexican desert against all odds his friend Joachim hangs himself in the dense Mexican jungle and he falls in love

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Max 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 a