Works of Max Frisch

9780394702193-us-300Works of Max Frisch (1911-1991), a Swiss avant-garde novelist whose works have been widely translated; reviewed here are “I’m not Stiller” (1954), “Homo Faber” (1957) and “Man in the Holocene” (1979). A fourth work called “A Wilderness of Mirrors” (1974) turned out to be unavailable on Kindle and I had to order it in paperback, but its print was too small for my e-book-accustomed 92-year-old eyes and I had to give it up.

The “Stiller” is a rousing tale of a chap seized by the police; the plot well-summarized by Wiki: The narrator, travelling on an American passport in the name of James Larkin White, is arrested on arrival in Switzerland. He is accused of being the missing Swiss sculptor Anatol Ludwig Stiller. An accusation which White persistently denies. The action is amusing and occasionally tragic, but it should hold your interest, it certainly held mine, and it will introduce you to a new genre.

His “Homo Faber” is his best known, but I can’t recommend it as much as the “Stiller” and the “Holocene,” which is a wonderful tale of a man living alone in a frozen landscape ruminating on death and awaiting it. My favorite passage, if the Panhypersebastos will allow a long quote, is where he expatiates on the nine kinds of thunder:

UnknownThe twelve-volume encyclopedia DER GROSSE BROCKHAUS explains what causes lightning and distinguishes streak lightning, ball lightning, bead lightning, etc., but there is little to be learned about thunder; yet in the course of a single night, unable to sleep, one can distinguish at least nine types of thunder: 1. The simple thunder crack. 2. Stuttering or tottering thunder: this usually comes after a lengthy silence, spreads across the whole valley, and can go on for minutes on end. 3. Echo thunder: shrill as a hammer striking on loose metal and setting up a whirring, fluttering echo which is louder than the peal itself. 4. Roll or bump thunder: relatively unfrightening, for it is reminiscent of rolling barrels bumping against one another. 5. Drum thunder. 6. Hissing or gravel thunder: this begins with a hiss, like a truck tipping a load of wet gravel, and ends with a thud. 7. Bowling-pin thunder: like a bowling pin that, struck by the rolling ball, cannons into the other pins and knocks them all down; this causes a confused echo throughout the valley. 8. Hesitant or tittering thunder (no flash of lightning through the windows): this indicates that the storm is retreating over the mountains. 9. Blast thunder (immediately following a flash of lightning through the windows): this is not like two hard masses colliding; on the contrary, it is like a single huge mass being blasted apart and falling to either side, breaking into countless pieces; in its wake, rain comes pouring down.

As far as I know, this is the ultimate taxonomy of thunder.

Thomas Lemann

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