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nebelland – into the fog | a journey into ingeborg bachmann’s poetry

i was in the national library today collecting the books that astrid and i had ordered up for me last week. they included two editions of geschichte der o (pauline reagé) for anna-friend (in contrast to anna-lapin), and a book of ingeborg bachmann’s poetry in translation and a translation of her stories the winding road.

one of the first things that astrid spoke to me about was a woman poet from klagenfurt, her home town. i had never heard of her.

but my first real look at bachmann’s verse was an eye opener. strong stuff all of it. the aesthetic encounters the personal encounters hard language. none of the caterwauling of an anna akhmatova for stern bachmann.

with the time i spent in advertising and my current dark mood, i was especially taken with a very short poem called reklame – advertisement:


Wohin aber gehen wir
ohne sorge sei ohne sorge
wenn es dunkel und wenn es kalt wird
sei ohne sorge
mit musik
was sollen wir tun
heiter und mit musik
und denken
angesichts eines Endes
mit musik
und wohin tragen wir
am besten
unsre Fragen und den Schauer aller Jahre
in die Traumwäscherei ohne sorge sei ohne sorge
was aber geschieht
am besten
wenn Totenstille

the play is between the poet’s personal voice and the washing commercial which plays in the background and infiltrates her consciousness. the poet’s voice is in oblique text and the washing commercial in italics. the symphonic dissonance between the gay jingle of advertising and the hard reality of daily life strikes one hard here.

as a sometimes poet who has indeed not only listened to washing commercials, but made them, i have a great sympathy for bachmann’s interrupted thought processes. sadly these days so does every other consumer/soul in the western world and most of the rest of the planet.

i will try to post a translation to this poem later as i can’t seem to find one on the net, let alone a good one.

perhaps astrid might have a go at it? in which case i’ll tidy up.

two other lines overwhelmed me. i first caught sight of them as just a fragment before seeing the larger whole.

Nebelland hab ich gesehen,
Nebelherz hab ich gegessen.

this may be roughly translated as:

the fog land have i seen the fog heart have i eaten.

but really english fails us here. there is no worthy equivalent to nebelland. perhaps misty moors. distant duns. no. nein. nought.

those two strong lines are part of a longer poem entitled “nebelland” or “into the fog”. well worth looking up, as it is too long to reproduce here.

as you can see, i had the good fortune of reading from a facing translation. ingeborg bachmann’s poems. finally another good reason to learn german, some very good poetry. written by a young woman from klagenfurt.

something about those carinthian women. strange dark artists. carinthia is beautiful, the mountains and the lakes. what are they so despondent about? is it in the water? i drank my share this summer.

on a lighter note, i highly recommend joining the national library for anyone of scholarly or literary bent who happens to be sejouring in vienna. for about ten euros a year, you have access to a fabulous collection (rather strong on german language resources and things austrian, but there’s lots leftover for the merely trilingual) and a wonderful reading room look over the city garden. it is a serious environment where one finds people who take writers and words and books very seriously indeed.

very inspiring for any kind of a writer, i am certain. i can see why astrid likes it here.


  1. natalia natalia

    hello. i’m looking for “nebelland” translation. can’t find it anywhere. it’s quite important for me. do you know where i can find it?

  2. anna anna

    I am looking for a translation of a poem by Ingeborg Bachmann which should be called something like “Street of Glory” in English.
    Any tips?

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