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Ingeborg Bachmann: Ich weiss keine bessere Welt: Unveroffentlichte Gedichte.

Isolde Moser et al., eds. Munich Piper. 2000. 195 pages, ill. DM 38 ISBN 3-492-04255-4

NONPOETRY BY A consummate author of poetry is certain to be of interest, if for no other reason than to measure the distance between the two modes of expression. Ich weiss keine bessere Welt (I Know No Better World) contains a selection of poems and poetic fragments from the Ingeborg Bachmann archive, texts that Bachmann herself did not publish; but neither did she destroy them (as was the case with others). Five of the poems in the present collection were published by Hans Holler in a superb 1998 critical edition (see WLT 73:2, p. 330). The present editors, the Bachmann heirs, recognize that publication and proceed with their own, which has a very different goal. It is nonscholarly, and thus no criteria of selection are given, nor is there any way of knowing the relation of these texts to those in the archive that remains closed. Facsimiles of some of the manuscripts are given, but for illustrative purposes only. Variants are provided in the end-notes in some cases, and in a few instances a second or third version of the poem is printed; but the presentation of genetic stages is in no way complete. The editors seem to have opted for breadth rather than depth, and they offer nearly one hundred different titles.

The poetic manuscripts are not dated, but the editors give the time frame of 1962-64 as the probable date of origin. The ostensible occasion for publication at this point, according to the editors, is that the time is ripe for texts which stand in proximity to the Todesarten cycle of prose works, namely Malina, Das Buch Franza, and Fanny Goldmann. There is some commonality of theme in the works stemming from this particular time in Bachmann's life, particularly in regard to the negativity. The poetic texts are characterized by sadness at the loss of poetic power: "Meine Gedichte sind mir abhanden gekommen." This is accompanied by the loss of love: "das Ende der Liebe." The resulting sensation is deadly: "Tot ist alles. Alles tot." Insight into existence brings with it such suffering that the speaker searches for "einen Spalt des Inferno." There are occasional metaphors of great expressive power, but one recognizes by the structure of a poem that it is unfinished.

On seeing the "raw" emotion in these incomplete texts, one can all the more appreciate the mastery in Ingeborg Bachmann's published works.
Beth Bjorklund
University of Virginia
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Author:Bjorklund, Beth
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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