A Month of Max Frisch: Notes from a Reader’s Diary

One of my favourite literary magazines, The Scofield included my Frisch reading diary in their latest issue, devoted entirely to Max Frisch and his work:

There are writers I read just once and those whose books I read reverently once a year. Reading Sartre’s Nausea transports me to the salt marshes on the Brittany coast where I lay in the grassy dunes and vowed to read this novel every year. This annual tradition unites Sartre’s nauseating stone with the sucking stones which Beckett’s Molloy collects from the shore, another novel I read annually without fail.

There are other writers in whose words, sentences and paragraphs I must immerse myself the way some people soak for hours in hot baths. I devote myself to a single writer’s work and, if I read carefully, get some sense of the contours of their thought, its darkness and yearnings. Over the last year I conversed in this way with Pascal Quignard, Brigid Trophy, Denton Welch and, this February, with Max Frisch.

Saturday

Beckett, who showed scant interest in contemporary writers, read several of Frisch’s books including Sketchbook 1966–1971 and Homo Faber (which Beckett read twice, letter to Barbara Bray, 2 February 1960).

It was Man in the Holocene that I rest read last summer, a story, on a surface reading of the text, of an old man losing his memory. In his Paris Review interview, Frisch says it was his favourite of his books. The image of haunted narrator Herr Geiser covering his walls in clippings from cut-up books and encyclopaedias stays with me, despite some disappointment with its apparently cheery ending. I suspect that I misread the serenity of its closing pages and maybe I will reread Man in the Holocene. Perhaps knowing its plot, without the suspense, its ethical construct will be more apparent, but I discover that I’ve lost my copy of the book I read last summer, and instead find a handsome edition of Frisch’s An Answer from the Silence. It has waited patiently on my shelves for several months, and this evening was fine accompaniment to a young Barbera d’Alba.

Please read the rest of the diary here [PDF] or at The Scofield.

4 thoughts on “A Month of Max Frisch: Notes from a Reader’s Diary

  1. I’ve been meaning to comment on this piece, one of the first I looked up when the issue went live. I really enjoyed it. And I’m pleased to see you are likewise a victim of a, shall we say, less than flattering portrait (like everyone else). Writing my eight sentence Port of Entry for Homo Faber was great fun, more of a challenge than one might imagine to create a miniature window into a work. Every issue of The Scofield is essential reading and I was happy to be included with so many of my virtual friends and colleagues.

    Liked by 1 person

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