Sunday, September 07, 2008

Requiem for Fanny Goldmann

This short novella that immediately follows Franza's Book is perhaps Ingeborg Bachmann's most simple narrative, for it follows a straightforward narration without the excessive use of allusions, symbols or other devices which are generally difficult for the uninitiated reader. Considered as a part of the Todesarten novels, Fanny Goldmann represents that particular concern fully which is generally considered to be at the heart of the Bachmann oeuvre.

Fascism in politics is a known concern in her fiction especially after the inheritance of the post world war residues; inherent to her motives as a writer is to make the reader realize the absolute fascism that exists between people at interpersonal levels. This essentially translates as the destruction that is brought on by one person on another and in the world of her novels between men and women or men and one woman. Fundamentally in the Bachmann scheme of things, a woman is not just exploited but destroyed by men and the choice that she makes or choices that she has are inherently fraught with roads that lead to destruction. Todesarten signifies ways of dying and we get to understand how relationships, the pursuit of happiness or love or a relationship leads to annihilation.

It is essential however to understand and this is quite difficult to realize when reading her for the first time, that, the choices that her women make are not because of a lack of will or resources but a reaction to the unchangeable absolutism of relationships that exist in society. Therefore, right from the beginning, from paternal induced destruction to later more personal ties, the choices that are made cannot be different for women because the status quo cannot be changed. It is a given condition of the social contract. When in Malina, she disappears into a crack in the wall, it is the only refuge for her.

Fanny Goldmann dies of pneumonia after drinking excessively? I w'd say no. She dies because she has been used, betrayed, left and jilted by her husband, betrayed by her younger and newer lover, who has sold her trust to become famous and written her story in his novel, who has left Fanny for another woman. Fanny Goldmann is thus not just another woman for these are common things that happen. She is quite independent and to boot beautiful, and yet, yet, she succumbs to the fascism of the relationships that she has got intertwined in, that everybody gets fixed in. There being no hope, there being spectres of incest, power struggles yield corpses and she is dead.

The important question that Bachmann asks is how could this society have suddenly changed after the spectre of the Nazi times? How is it suddenly possible, after seven or such years for people to roll back their fascist sleeves, say yes, that was a nightmare, we are sorry, sanity is restored anew. The seeds of fascism that lie inherent in every society filter into the domestic arena too and it is this, this mind bending destruction that people engage in, that captures the reader as Goldmann drinks towards her death. My only critique is that women are as cruel to men as men are generally supposed to be and this prejudice must be recognized too. Inherent in relationships is the desire to dominate and these are the seeds that lead to death. Such deaths are not physical generally but crush a person's soul. And since there are different persona's, thus different deaths, and different ways of dying.


Alok said...

"My only critique is that women are as cruel to men as men are generally supposed to be and this prejudice must be recognized too. Inherent in relationships is the desire to dominate and these are the seeds that lead to death."

men sometimes do find themselves in an abusive relationship too but in that case the violence is not systemic, it is not institutionalized, unlike male violence on women which is internalized in the patriarchal institutions and I think that's what the feminist argument is.

i personally don't feel comfortable with this line of argument that finds continuity between fascism, holocaust and then takes it into interpersonal realms but it is certainly a very provocative idea.

Kubla Khan said...

Institutionalization of violence or rather attitudes. i agree.

re the theme of fascism finding continuity, that is a way of putting things. control and domination need not necessarily be called fascism. that is just semantics.

Bachmann's concern is daily violence and daily deaths. my point is: are not both men and women the sufferers?

btw.....did you know that Malina c'd be read as Animal? i have finished reading a book called Understanding Bachmann by Achenberg. interesting insights about Malina. recommended.

Alok said...

I read an essay by mark anderson which was included in the edition I read from. he also mentioned that malina could be an anagram of animal or rather "anima". I will see if i can find that book.