Das Buch Franza; The Book of Franza

[This page by Katya Krylova]

Das Buch Franza; The Book of Franza

Das Buch Franza; The Book of Franza, Bachmann’s unfinished novel, composed in the years 1965-1966, forms part of her uncompleted ‘Todesarten’-Projekt (Ways of Dying Project), a compendium of the human crimes that Bachmann saw plaguing post-war society. Although incomplete, the main draft of Das Buch Franza is still highly-polished, even in its fragmented form, and it is for this reason that the text has attracted so much critical interest following its publication as Der Fall Franza; The Franza Case, along with other unpublished texts in the Piper critical edition of Bachmann’s complete works in 1978 (Das Buch Franza is the title that Bachmann herself consistently gave to the work, and the text was published under this name in the critical edition of the ‘Todesarten’-Projekt in 1995).

The text focuses on the story of two siblings as they undertake a journey from their native Carinthia in southern Austria to Egypt. Having made all the preparations for an impending research trip to Egypt, Martin Ranner, a young geologist-turned-historian, finds himself unexpectedly having to switch his attention to the marital problems of his sister, who has left her husband, Professor Leo Jordan, a famous Viennese psychiatrist. It emerges that Jordan has extended his investigations of long-term psychological effects in female concentration camp inmates to the home, in his treatment of his wife. Unable to find his sister in Vienna, Martin is instinctively prompted to return to his and Franza’s childhood home in the fictional village of Galicien in Carinthia. He indeed finds Franza there but is shocked at her psychological condition. Following a short stay in Galicien where the siblings plunge into reminiscences of their childhood, prompted by their walks in the area, Franza decides to accompany Martin on his impending trip. While the Ranners hope that the journey will afford them a new beginning, the past proves inescapable, as even in the Egyptian desert Franza cannot evade the trauma of her past. The Ranners’ whole trip to Egypt is described as a ‘journey through an illness’, and the text ends with the death of Franza, resulting from the consequences of an assault at the Giza pyramids. Bachmann’s text is primarily concerned with the interconnections of topography and personal and collective history, and with the belated manifestations of trauma (particularly that of the Second World War and the Holocaust) in another time and place.

English Translation

Ingeborg Bachmann, The Book of Franza and Requiem for Fanny Goldman, trans. by Peter Filkins (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2010)

Further Reading in English

Karen R. Achberger, Understanding Ingeborg Bachmann (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1995), Chapter 5 on Malina and the “Death Styles” Cycle

Stephanie Bird, Women Writers and National Identity: Bachmann, Duden, Özdamar (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), Chapter 1 on Das Buch Franza, pp. 13-38

Kirsten Krick-Aigner, Ingeborg Bachmann’s Telling Stories: Fairy Tale Beginnings and Holocaust Endings (Riverside: Ariadne Press, 2002), Chapter 3

Katya Krylova, ‘“Ein Wahnsinniger, der die Fakultäten vermischt”: Interdisciplinarity and Ingeborg Bachmann’s Das Buch Franza’ in Jens Elze et al (eds.), Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der Philologie. Germanistik im Netz: October 2011, pp. 163-70. http://publikationen.ub.uni-frankfurt.de/frontdoor/index/index/docId/22920

Further Reading in German

Sara Lennox, ‘“White Ladies” und “Dark Continents”: Ingeborg Bachmanns ‘Todesarten’-Projekt aus postkolonialer Sicht’, in Monika Albrecht and Dirk Göttsche (eds.), Über die Zeit schreiben 1 (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 1998), pp. 13-33

Sigrid Weigel, Ingeborg Bachmann (Vienna: Zsolnay, 1999), pp. 516-26