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Enigma: Selected Poems

Enigma: Selected Poems

By Ingeborg Bachmann
Translation by Mike Lyons and Patrick Drysdale
Afterword by Hans Höller
Preface by Heinz Bachmann

Ingeborg Bachmann (1926-1973), an Austrian, is considered to be one of the most distinguished German-speaking poets of the years following World War II. As a female poet of the twentieth century, she can have had few rivals for the sweep and force of her imagination. She was born in Carinthia, a part of southern Austria close to the borders of Slovenia and Italy. She was from the frontiers, and much of her poetry is about place, belonging and not belonging, and about her yearning for a world without borders and above all for a world at peace. Other themes were her fear of a return to the conditions and attitudes of pre-war life and, again and again, the complexity of love – its emotional highs and the bitter pain when it goes wrong.

This collection is called Enigma, the title of one of the poems. Bachmann herself was enigmatic, both as a person and as a poet. Much of her poetry expresses her feelings in a figurative way, the ideas appearing at a tangent to their underlying meaning, and she loved to play with the intermingling of dream and reality. However her work is not difficult if one simply listens to the music of the lines and enjoys their wealth of imagery and the energy of their emotional involvement.

This translation has been prepared for the general reader rather than the academic and for students of literature who are not fluent in German. The translators have stayed as close as possible to the meaning of the original and to the forms, rhythms, and general feel of the German verse, and they have used rhyme when there is rhyme in the original. They have also followed Bachmann in using a simple, everyday choice of words, avoiding any artificial poetic language.

Bachmann ceased to write poetry in the 1960s, over forty years ago. Yet her poetry remains as timely and appropriate today as when it was written. She should be viewed as a world poet rather than an Austrian one, and it is hoped that this collection will make her work better known and admired in the English-speaking world.

Paperback
132 pages
Ariadne Press, 2011
5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
ISBN 9781572411814
Literature, Poetry

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