An Answer from the Silence: A Story from the Mountains

Max Frisch, Author
Max Frisch, trans. from the German by Mike Mitchell, afterword by Peter Von Matt. Seagull (Univ. of Chicago, dist.), $19 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-906497-92-7
Reviewed on: 05/02/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
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In acclaimed Swiss writer Frisch's novella, available for the first time in English, a young man wrestles with his horror of ordinariness (i.e. getting married and starting a career as a teacher) by going on walkabout in the Swiss Alps, while his long-suffering fiancé Barbara wonders why he's disappeared 10 days before their wedding. In the mountains, he meets Irene, a "young foreign woman," who briefly diverts him from his desire to climb the treacherous North Ridge, giving rise to a hope that flirting with her rather than dying will satisfy his desire to "live...just one single, unrepeatable time in this unutterably magnificent world!" But even Irene's charms are not enough to distract him from his quest and he slips away early one morning to continue alone. Infused with a post-WWI despair at the human condition, Frisch (1911-1991) refused this early piece's inclusion in his collected works in the 1970s, having burned the original manuscript in the woods in 1937. It seems a pity that this earnest and unusual book, in a crisp translation by Mitchell, has been denied us until now. (Mar.)
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