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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: December 2013

12 - Man, Culture, and Nature in Max Frisch's Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän

  • Edited by Olaf Berwald, Associate Professor of German and Chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures at the University of North Dakota
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
  • pp 197-210


In max Frisch's early work, nature is often presented in a sentimental and Romantic manner. In his Tagebuch 1946–1949, for example, Frisch describes the golden autumn landscapes, and a morning break at a lake with “versponnener Sonne” (a hazy sun) and “verblauenden Ufern” (the banks turning bluish). From his early works on, Frisch used images of water to symbolize a longing for vastness and distance, for movement, transformation, and therefore aliveness. Already young Jürg Reinhart, the protagonist in the eponymous novel published in 1934, is fascinated with the ocean. At the beginning of the novel, Frisch writes:

Und wenn man dann aufsprang und diese hellgrünen Holzlättchen verstellte, sah man zwischendurch das Meer; es lag in silbriger und makelloser Zartheit, und makellos war auch die Riesenmuschelbläue, die es überwölbte. Jauchzen hätte man wollen.

[And when one jumped out of bed and moved these light-green wooden battens, one could see the ocean in between; it lay in silvery and pristine delicateness, and the gigantic sea-shell blue that arched over it was also pristine. One felt like cheering.]

But soon Reinhart experiences the sea as a dangerous force of nature. As Reinhart is tacking along the coast of Dalmatia with his improvised sailboat, the wind intensifies dramatically and drives him and his boat out into the open ocean:

Es ging immer rasender in dieser neuen Richtung. […] er […] blickte gradaus, was wohl kommen würde. Und sein Herz hämmerte. Denn dieser Wind hatte ihm den Willen aus der Hand ge rissen, und er klammerte sich mit adergeschwollenen Fäusten ans Steuerruder.

(JR 245–46)