It’s actually been a couple of weeks since I finished this and I think my lack of writing about it (I was actually wondering whether I hadn’t already) reflects my unremarkable impression of this book.
In theory Homo Faber by Max Frisch sounds extremely exciting – Walter Faber (main character and narrator) is in a plane crash in South America and which eventually leads him to taking a ferry where he meets a young woman – I hope it’s not giving too much away here to discuss and expand on the blurb, which said something along the lines of “which would destroy the lives of the young woman and the daughter he never knew he had” – which I took to mean that the young woman and the daughter were one and the same (I thought correctly) and that he has some sort of affair with the girl (also correct). In spite of the extraordinary events, the dispassionate tone of the narrator – who is extremely dismissive of women, firstly his girlfriend at the start of the novel (who he describes as younger and slightly fanatical) then Sabeth (aforementioned young woman) who he can’t really tell if he likes or not, and also Hanna (Sabeth’s mother) in his recollections of their relationship in his youth. In all cases, he seems to identify women as an “other” of which he has no comprehension or desire to understand – and most definitely a simpler, less capable “other”. I suppose this obliqueness could be down to his retrospective telling of the story, by which point he has already ruined his daughter’s life and is spiralling into ill health himself: he does take pains to emphasise at the beginning of his relationship with Sabeth that he did not intend to pursue her or attract her in any way (survivor’s guilt ?).
I think that reads quite scathingly and in reality this was a curious read: curious because of the dispassionate narration rather than the plot (as I’d expected) – and not altogether un-enjoyable but it wasn’t as gripping or stimulating as I’d hoped.