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9 - Cybernetic Flow, Analogy, and Probability in Max Frisch's Homo Faber

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2013

Olaf Berwald
Affiliation:
Associate Professor of German and Chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures at the University of North Dakota
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Summary

Wir [sind] denn doch keine kybernetischen Mäuse, gesteuert von “information” und “feed back” und basta.

[After all, we are not cybernetic mice, guided by “information” and “feedback,” once and for all.]

—Max Frisch, Biografie: Ein Spiel

The American author Kurt Vonnegut proclaimed, “novels that leave out technology misrepresent life as badly as Victorians misrepresented life by leaving out sex.” If Vonnegut was correct, then Max Frisch's 1957 novel Homo Faber is a remarkably accurate representation of life. Although there is a tendency in some of the secondary literature, as noted by Ferdinand van Ingen in his article on technology and mythology in Homo Faber, to view the protagonist Walter Faber's occupation and his obsession with all things technological as more or less coincidental, and although Frisch himself gave conflicting answers regarding Faber as a “Techniker,” I suggest that technology is indeed a key to understanding this novel. Faber's former lover Hanna Landsberg puts it best when she describes technology as a trick that allows humans to order the world in such a way “daßwir sie nicht erleben müssen” (so that we don't have to experience it). This is Faber's goal. Throughout the text he denigrates “Erlebnisse” and the idea of “erleben.” His connection to the natural world is filtered or mediated by technology, and Faber claims to prefer it that way.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2013

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