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Max Frisch: Mein Name sei Gantenbein (A Wilderness of Mirrors; Gantenbein)

Communication or rather the difficulty of communicating is the theme of this novel. There is no plot and, at times, it is not only not clear what is going on but who is who. This is all too often a recipe for disaster but, in the hands of a skilled writer like Frisch, it works. The author/narrator who may or may not be Gantenbein creates himself as a fictional character and invents various episodes to go with the character. And, of course, this is one of Frisch’s favourite themes – are we who we say we are, do we invent ourselves, or are we who others say we are. There are actually four main characters in this book – Lila, a famous actress, Svoboda, her first husband, who is jealous of Gantenbein, her second husband, who is jealous of Enderlin, one of her current lovers. The book is mainly about episodes in their lives but, in the end, it is Gantenbein who is defining his life, free of the roles imposed on him by others.

Publishing history

First published in German 1964 by Suhrkamp
First English translation in 1965 by Methuen
Translated by Michael Bullock