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Malina (novel)

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Country  Germany
Publication date  1971
Pages  355
Author  Ingeborg Bachmann
Publisher  Suhrkamp Verlag
Translator  Philip Boehm

Language  German
Published in English  1990
Originally published  1971
Page count  355
Adaptations  Malina (1991)
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Similar  Ingeborg Bachmann books, Other books

Malina is a 1971 novel by the Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann. It tells the story of a female writer and her relationships with two different men, one joyous and one introverted. The book was adapted into a 1991 film with the same title, directed by Werner Schroeter from a screenplay by Elfriede Jelinek.



The novel focuses on an unnamed female narrator, who explores her existential situation as a woman and writer, both through personal reflection and in dialogue form. She is a writer and intellectual and lives in Vienna during the second half of the 20th century.

The writer shares a flat with the calm and rational Malina, a historian, who offers her the necessary support as she is often confused and seems to be losing touch with reality. She eventually meets Ivan, a young Hungarian, and falls in love with him. They begin an affair but soon Ivan is starting to avoid her and ultimately rejects her.

The second chapter, "The Third Man", is the climax of the narrative. In dream sequences the narrator remembers the horrors of the Second World War, gas chambers and rape. A “father” figure is omnipresent in her dreams but she realises that he doesn’t represent her own father but is a personification of the male-dominated world of Nazism.

In the third chapter "From last things" the narrator tries to overcome her problems in dialogue with. The narrator realizes that a relationship with Ivan is not possible, and that for her a relationship with another man won’t be possible at all. She feels she can’t live in this male-dominated world anymore. "I have lived in Ivan and I die in Malina," she says soberly. At the end of the novel, the writer disappears without a trace into a crack in the wall and Malina removes any sign of her existence from their flat, as if she had never existed. The novel closes with the sentence "It was murder."


The book was reviewed in Publishers Weekly in 1991: "This demanding work contains flashes of great beauty and insight but is ultimately marred by Bachmann's cryptic, fragmented prose and internalized story line that is based entirely on the narrator's emotional responses to events conveyed only obliquely to the reader. Part of the problem derives from the veiled yet critical references to Austrian history, which are satisfactorily explained only in the excellent afterword."


Malina (novel) Wikipedia