Thursday, January 11, 2007

On Cooking and Ingeborg Bachmann

An interesting passage from Bachmann's novel Malina. The narrator (who is Bachmann herself I think, she studied philosophy and psychology too) is agonising before cooking something for her lover... Reading this I was thinking if even a mildly sensible man has a girlfriend like her, shouldn't he agree to do all the cooking, cleaning and washing in exchange of some tuitions and lectures from her? I will definitely settle for that. Anyway, here is the passage:

For if Ivan wants me to cook, then it has to mean something, he won't be able to run away so quickly anymore like he can after a drink, and tonight while looking around my library among all the books I can't find a single cookbook, I have to buy some at once, how absurd, what was I reading before, what good is it to me now, if I can't put it to use for Ivan. The Critique of Pure Reason, read under 60 watts in the Beatrixgasse, Locke, Leibnitz and Hume, befuddling my mind with concepts from all ages in the dismal light of the National Library under the little reading lamps, from the pre-Socratic philosophers to Being and Nothingness, kafka, Rimbaud and Blake read under 25 watts in a hotel in Paris, Freud, Adler and Jung read at 360 watts in a lonely Berlin street, to the quiet rotation of the Chopin Etudes, an inflammatory speech about the expropriation of intellectual property studied on a beach near Genoa, the paper full of salt flecks and warped by the sun, La Comedie Humaine read with a fairly high fever, weakened by anti-biotics, In Klagenfurt, Proust read in Munich until daybreak and until the roofers broke into the attic, the French Moralists and the Vienna Circle of Logical Positivists with my stockings hanging loose, everything from De Rerum Natura to Le Culte de la Raison at thirty French cigarettes a day, history and philosophy , medicine and psychology practiced , in the Steinof asylum work on the anamneses of schizophrenics and manic-depressives, scripts written in the Auditorium Maximum at only 43 degrees and taken at 100 degrees in the shade on de mundo, de mente, de motu, Marx and Engels read after washing my hair and V.I. Lenin when completely drunk, newspapers and newspapers, and newspapers read while still a child in front of the stove, while starting the fire, and newspapers and periodicals and paperbacks everywhere, at all train stations, in all trains, in streetcars, fortiter, fortiter, and everything understood that can be read, and freed from all I have read for one hour, I lie down next to Ivan and say: If you really want I will write a book for you which doesn't yet exist. But you have to really want it, want it from me, and I'll never demand that you read it.
Ivan says: Let's hope it'll be a book with a happy ending.
Let's hope so.

What a sad situation and how oppressive love can be! This is followed by a hilarious passage in which she makes fun of the idea of cooking. One sentence here:

"The things I am cooking for him aren't on the menu, and I'm puzzled how to mix the good old days of pork fat and sweet and sour cream with the sensible new age of yogurt and lettuce lightly sprinkled with oil and lemon juice, dominated by vegetables rich in vitamins which are not supposed to be cooked, where carbohydrates, calories and moderation all count, without spices."

Much as I despise gluttons and gourmands (I can't suffer those restaurant and cuisine talks at all, I feel like jumping out of window if the conversation turns to food and that's the reason I generally avoid going to restaurants with people) I like cooking very much. My repertoire though still remains very limited and highly parochial. Basically it is this, this and this and few others. I think I have had enough with German literature for now. I will try the cookery section of the library after I am done with this book.


Antonia said...

yes and the interesting thing is she even has a secretary who for instance could do all the cooking. Ivan is just a normal, dull bloke who isn't interested in complicated books and what can you do with such a guy, only fall back to stereotypes in order to bind him, to connect to him. Problem of conforming to role expectations here.
And it is austrian literature, not german :). But three meals are good, alok, enough for variety in the food schedule. I also can probably only cook three meals, fish, soup and noodles. Will you delight us soon with cooking recipes? ;) Easy ones?

Alok said...

yes it is interesting she doesn't ask frau Jellinek to do the cooking for her. she wants to please Ivan by whatever way possible. it is like what Swann says in the first volume of Proust, people alway fall for someone who are not even their "type." actually the second chapter of the book is more interesting than the first one. I liked those nightmare scenes.

recipes? haha. I cook with hit and trial. But I am thinking of learning new things, and also have to learn to prepare these things in proper Indian-hausfrau way :)

Antonia said...

yes and the third chaoter is the most interesting one....the dialogues and the journalist interviews are the best parts fo the book...

Sofimay said...

stumbled on this blog while looking for a pdf of malina in german.. not to be found! (or not to be found by me, never had the knack of finding what i want to download on the internet, bit of a so called sweetwaterpirate,) but then, I would have totally paid for it, and amazon kindle shop doenst have it either!
this bit about ingeborg b and cooking made me think a lot, how somehow my german psychiatrist mom, big fan of bachmann and of a generation of women that considered the hausfrau thing to be beneeth them and turned to the pursuit of intelectual and career goals, spawned me, translator/graphics artist secret devoted housewife and in love with cooking :) aanyway, really cool blog.