A Female ‘cross-border worker’: Ingeborg Bachmann reading Proust
Within the fragmented and complicated reception of Proust in Germany, Bachmann’s contribution remains relatively unknown, but is nevertheless significant. Proust was an important influence on her, as is evident not only from her private library, but also from her whole body of work. She dedicated one radio essay to his masterpiece, and she mentioned him in three of her lectures at the University of Frankfurt. Some of her essay reflections concern Proust’s tragic conception of love and his “positivist” picture of a permanent struggle between man and society, as shown through the figure of Baron Charlus, who is defined as an “homme traqué”. However, she also emphasizes Proust’s “mystical” moments of contemplation and artistic inspiration as well as his intensified perception of the moment, thus showing that 20th-century literature does not deal with “the self in history”, but with “history in the self”. Finally, the cycle of short-stories Das dreißigste Jahr is the best example of Bachmann’s literary reception of the Recherche. This work by Bachmann reveals a structural and thematic closeness to Proust’s masterpiece, as well as her particular way of depicting man’s inner devastation after the Second World War and the Shoah by indicating an open utopian direction.