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Ingeborg Bachmann: Malina (Malina)

This is a difficult but ultimately fascinating novel – one of the classics of modern Austrian literature. It is a stream-of-conscious novel in which the unnamed (female) narrator tells her story but not in conventional narrative fashion. There are three men in her life. The first two are her lover, the Hungarian, Ivan, married with two children, and Malina, her room-mate and alter ego. The narrator more than once indicates that Malina is not really a separate entity but a part of her. But, if he is a part of her, he is the gloomy, depressing side of her, while Ivan, despite the fact that their affair is on his terms and at his convenience, is the more joyful side. There is a third man in her life (she wittily entitles the chapter The Third Man, immediately reminding us of the movie of that name set in Vienna – the Vienna setting is important in this novel). This man is her father or, at least, a father figure who, partially in a dream sequence, is seen as violent and abusive. There is no doubt that Bachmann is showing the destruction of (a) woman by (a) man, whether it is in a sordid love affair, as with Ivan, or absorption and eventual destruction as finally happens to her.

Publishing history

First published in German 1971 by Suhrkamp
First English translation 1990 Holmes & Meier
Translated by Philip Boehm