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Letters to Felician

Ingeborg Bachmann

Translated from the German and Introduced by Damion Searls

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A Bilingual Edition

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Ingeborg Bachmann
Letters to Felician
Series No.: 126
ISBN: 978-1-931243-16-2, Pages: 95
Austrian Literature, Fiction

Ingeborg Bachmann (1926–1973) was one of the major writers of the 20th century in both poetry and fiction. Letters to Felician was written, chronologically and conceptually, just before Bachmann shifted from poetry to prose, making it an important document for reading her later work. Passionate declarations of love to a male figure, Felician, these fictional letters—written when Bachmann was only 18 and 19 years of age—are also a hymn to the beauty of southern Austria, underlying Bachmann’s utopian visions of her later work.

Among Bachmann’s important other writings are, in English translation, Last Living Words: The Ingeborg Bachmann Reader, Songs in Flight (collected poems), The Thirtieth Year, The Book of Franza & Requiem for Fanny Goldman, Malina, and Three Paths to the Lake (short stories).

Translator Damion Searls lives in Oakland, California.

Also by Ingeborg Bachmann:
Last Living Words: The Ingeborg Bachmann Reader, Out of Stock

Book Review(s)

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 persona—the 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."

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