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Imprints Literary Supplement

The Best Books You've Never Read

The Thirtieth Year

By Sandy Asirvatham | Posted 10/13/1999

The Thirtieth Year

Ingeborg Bachmann

Reprinted by Holmes & Meier in 1995

This hard-to-find paperback is the first story collection by Ingeborg Bachmann, an Austrian poet, fiction writer, and radio playwright who died young in 1973 under rather gruesome circumstances (she accidentally set herself on fire). Although 47 at the time of her death, she'd already been acknowledged as a major German-language writer of the era and a serious influence on Max Frisch, Günter Grass, Peter Handke, and Christa Wolf. This collection contains her best-known story, "Everything," a strange, elliptical, and deeply ambivalent portrayal of a man whose misanthropic/idealistic desire to remake the world through his son keeps him from loving the child in his utter ordinariness. Other beautifully wrought pieces take up some classic postwar German themes—rebellion and obedience, parochialism, human cruelty—in subtle but provocative ways. As one of the few prominent female writers to have been allowed into the boys' club of European postmodernists and writers-of-ideas, Bachmann avoids pat realism without becoming boringly emotive (like much of Marguerite Duras) or overly cerebral (like much of Christa Wolf).

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