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Max Frisch: Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän (Man in the Holocene)

This story is about the seventy-four year old Herr Geiser who has retired to a small cottage in the Ticino district of Switzerland (where Frisch himself lives). Most of the novel is his thoughts as he does what many retired people do – think, walk, read. One day he senses that a storm is coming and is fearful that it will bring a landslide and plans a laborious escape over the mountains to a neighbouring valley but finally returns home when he sees the other valley from above. At home he has a minor stroke but, lying there, not fully conscious, he is reminded of a time when he climbed the Matterhorn with his brother when he was much younger. All of these thoughts of Geiser are mixed in with his readings – particularly geology and the Holocene but also the Bible and the local history of the area. While not as an important work as his earlier novels, this book is, as usual, superbly written and is clearly intended to show man’s infinitesimal place in nature.

Publishing history

First published in German 1979 by Suhrkamp
First English translation 1980 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Translated by Geoffrey Skelton