One of the German-speaking world’s most prestigious literary awards is the annual Bachmannpreis, named in honour of Ingeborg Bachmann (1926-1973). The Literature Museum presents a homage to the name giver.
- One of Austria’s greatest writers
- Known for her poems, essays, plays, and much more
- Lots of archive material reveals her genius
- All explanatory text in English, too
- Runs Nov 17, 2022 – Nov 5, 2023
- See also:
(Ingeborg Bachmann in Rome, 1962; photo © Heinz Bachmann/Familienarchiv Bachmann)
As with all too many creative geniuses, Ingeborg Bachmann left us before her time, aged just 47. Yet she also left her literary mark on the German-speaking world and beyond through a body of work that stretches across poems, essays, plays, and more.
To give you an indication of Bachmann’s talent and impact, the New York Times described her only finished novel, Malina, as:
…equal to the best of Virginia Woolf and Samuel Beckett.
(If you’d like to read the novel, New Directions Publishing has a translated edition, for example.)
Almost 50 years after her death in Rome, Bachmann still remains a figure of interest. As I write this, a treatise covering the letters she exchanged with her one-time lover Max Frisch sits on bestseller lists at Amazon Germany.
The Literature Museum of the Austrian National Library pays respect to Bachmann’s work in a special exhibition pitched as a homage.
Many of the materials she left behind found their way into the library’s archives, so the exhibition presents us with manuscripts, letters, draft poems, and other items that bring her world and words to life.
Audio clips (in German), films, photos, and contributions from contemporary creators also help to build a picture of this enigmatic and iconic writer.
(Ingeborg Bachmann: “Böhmen liegt am Meer”, revised version; photo © Österreichische Nationalbibliothek)
Essentially, we take a journey through various themes, such as Bachmann’s views on gender relations, her interest in music and philosophy, or her travels. Each theme fills a small niche area, with a summary text and various items providing illustration and detail.
Most English speakers will not be familiar with Bachmann, but the exhibition quickly reveals her intellectual depth and skill…
A writer of libretti who crafted important essays on Wittgenstein. A novelist with a doctorate in philosophy. A poet who made the cover of Der Spiegel in her mid-20s. A correspondent with the likes of Henry Kissinger.
The displays also offer incidental insight into the writing life. One glass cabinet, for example, has the accoutrements of the stereotypical writer: a notebook with scribbled lines of text, some crossed out. A packet of cigarettes. A poem drafted on a paper napkin.
Annotated drafts pervade the exhibition; the driven writer is never truly finished.
And for those brought up on PCs and smartphones, a little bonus treat: have a go on the kind of mechanical and electronic typewriters Bachmann would have used and compose your own tribute to her talent.
(We actually see Bachmann’s own Olympia typewriter elsewhere in the exhibition.)
Dates, tickets and tips
Explore the life and legacy of Ingeborg Bachmann from November 17th 2022 to November 5th, 2023. A ticket for the Literature Museum includes the special exhibition.
If Bachmann’s story inspires your own literary endeavours, Vienna’s coffee houses have provided warmth and succour to writers through the centuries. Café Frauenhuber, for example, is just around the corner and first opened in 1824. At the time, Charles Dickens was not yet a teenager.
How to get there
Follow the travel tips at the bottom of the Literature Museum article. The location is just off the central pedestrianised area, so easily reached while trawling through the old town.
Address: Johannesgasse 6, 1010 Vienna