CONTEXT, no. 17 (2005)
by Robert Buckeye
These letters were written in 1945 when Ingeborg Bachmann was nineteen, and they stand under the sign of fascism (as Theodor Adorno's Minima Moralia stands under the sign of exile). "There was one particular moment that shattered my childhood," Bachmann writes of 12 March 1938, "When Hitler's troops marched into Klagenfurt. It was something so awful that my memory begins with this day."
For Bachmann, fascism did not end with the defeat of the Nazis but continues to this day, particularly in the relationship between men and women. "There isn't war and peace," she writes. "There's only war." She left uncompleted a cycle of novels of what men do to women (only Malina was published in her lifetime) that she titled "Todesarten" (Ways of Dying). Letters to Felician was written between May 1945 and April 1946, between her graduation from high school and her entrance to the university in Innsbruck, but the letters were never sent.
Although Bachmann was in love for the first time, they are written less to a man than to a personathe letters of a young woman yearning for love, who addresses the idea of possibility of love she carries within herself. These letters are written, in part, to answer "this monstrous brutality" of fascism, but even at nineteen, she doubts they will. "Those who love can't hope," Marina Tsvetayeva writes, and Bachmann's hopelessness is the only hope she can keep. "For if I can't believe in it anymore, I am also unable to go on writing."
All her fiction addresses one side of herself against its other, her anima, if you will, moving between public and private, male and female, fact and recognition; which may be played out among several characters in her books or within the protagonist herself. Only if she confronts her own complicity will she be able to give voice to those who "go crying through the world without ever being heard."