Max Frisch, Bae Suah and Meaningless Existence

There are my old chestnuts, those writers to whom I’ve become attached. They are sufficient that I could just read and reread their works till the end, but something compels me to seek out new voices, or those that are new to me.

Three decent train journeys provided enough time to be disappointed with Max Frisch’s Man in the Holocene, not for its writing, which was quiet, meticulously observed and refreshingly bleak, but for its conservatism. It began as a novel about a man pottering about his house pondering the storm outside, how we are eroded by age and disenchantment, and how minuscule we are in time and space, and turned into the recounting of a perilous journey. The ending unspeakably compromised what started as a tale of the utmost simplicity. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with Frisch’s story if this sort of novel amuses you, just simply not to my taste.

The coal-dark humour of Bae Suah’s Nowhere to Be Found is far closer to the complicated depths I seek in apparently simple novels. Bae Suah’s characters inhabit the meaningless of existence, echoing TS Eliot’s hollow men, painfully aware that “life is very long, ” and that things more often end “not with a bang but a whimper.” I wanted this book to go on for so much longer than its hundred pages, with its loops, its repetition and its uncertainties.

3 thoughts on “Max Frisch, Bae Suah and Meaningless Existence

  1. I own that Frisch, so I’m rather disappointed to hear of your experience with it. Regrettable.

    I’m not familiar with Suah. One of the writers you regard I take it?

    • Max, this is is first Bae Suah I’ve read, but I’d like to read more. I went to a reading of hers that Deborah Smith (@londonkoreanist) arranged, and got a taste for her fiction and influences. My response to the Frisch is quite personal; there is much to like about the book.

  2. Pingback: Max Frisch’s An Answer from the Silence and Sketchbooks | Time's Flow Stemmed

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