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Monday, December 21, 2015

Homo Faber (1959) by Max Frisch


Julie Delpy playes Elizabeth "Sabeth" Piper in the Schlondorff movie of Homo Faber by Max Frisch.
Book Review
Homo Faber (1959)
 by Max Frisch

  Homo Faber is a weird little book built around an unknowingly incestuous relationship between a Swiss-German man and his half Jewish daughter (played by Julie Delphy in the Schlondorff movie version.)   The copy I checked out from the San Diego Public Library was the movie edition of the book, and Julie Delpy's face was plastered on the cover.    I hadn't heard of the movie.  Most of Schlondorff's films are in the Criterion Collection, so the fact of the movie edition even existing gave me pause.

  With Homo Faber, the reader is in Lolita territory.  Frisch doesn't stop with incest, the first portion of the novel, prior to the incestuous relationship deals with the discovery of the suicide of the step father of Sabeth Piper by Max Faber, her father lover.  The opening portion of Homo Faber is set in the Yucatan, as Faber travels to a remote plantation to find Piper's step-father hanging by the neck, a suicide.    I thought the description of the Yucatan was spot on and surpassed other descriptions of Mexico by European/English/American authors.

  Despite the heavy subject matter, the narrator maintains a breezy, conversational tone.  Faber is an existential hero, undisturbed by events that historically drive people stark raving mad. You could read that detatchment as representing unprocessed trauma from the experiences of World War II, but Frisch hardly alludes to the War or it's aftermath.

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