Malina by Ingebor Bachmann with Anne Sophie Dubois Alchimiste
I would like to remember where I happened upon Malina. Or how it happened to find its way to my apartment—present but forgotten until last week when, in a fit of Spring Cleaning, I discovered Malina on my bookshelf and upon dusting off its mysterious cover, I began reading right there, among my many disorganized stacks. But from the very first sentence it became clear to me that everything else I had ever read, or that had happened to me because of books, or lived “in my theater of thoughts” previously, was Before, and that what I was experiencing ‘today’ and what unfolded in the days following would become After. So though I do not remember where it came from, it’s Malina. Malina, again and again that I will remember.
And now that I have finished Malina, and am writing from that After place: I’d like to think that “I immediately grasped what had so struck me in that first hour”— reading as if glued to the hardwood floor: legs prone, elbow resting against a stack of books, turning pages to satisfy a growing thirst. But this is the beauty of Bachmann’s novel: the sensation of having grasped something so profound, ancient even, followed quickly by the feeling of having lost it. Again, and again. Bachmann’s coloratura builds in a way that feels “urgent and new,” like a plant blooming then dying— rapidly, its Beauty begins to erase itself. And to say I recommend reading Malina cover to cover without breaks, or injections of reality, would be accurate though I know that might be difficult. Or, I know Malina is a difficult novel. One that moves at a monstrous pace, a rubato that grows from its own desires. And what are those exactly? That I am still trying to unwind.
This month’s wine is one that’s existed in my consciousness for some time. Not forgotten, per say, but waiting. Of her winemaking process, Anne Sophie Dubois says: wine is a sum of details. Which seems like exactly what Bachmann might say about being taken (erased, perhaps) by this novel. And while distortion is the word I would use to describe Bachmann’s narrative magic, transformation is more appropriate for Dubois’ brand of alchemy. The 2020 Fleurie L’alchimiste is 100% Gamay from the highest point in Beaujolais: Fleurie. It tastes of “blooming violet,” and bright, hard earth. And while the grape trills brightest on day one, we drank it on day two and three, because, frankly, we still needed, and rather enjoyed the soft earth and worn leather quality it arrived at. So when to drink this wine? The third day, which will perhaps last several ‘todays.’ But be warned: this particular juice will rapidly disappear, just as quickly as you perceive it.
Ingeborg Bachmann was an Austrian poet and author of short stories, radio plays, Operas, and a single novel, Malina (first translated and published in the U.S. in 1990, then revised in 2019). Malina was to be the first in a series of three novels, but the following were never published. Bachman died in 1973 (two years after Malina was published) from injuries sustained from a fire in her bedroom: it is rumored that the 47 year old Bachmann fell asleep while smoking a cigarette in bed.
Anne Sophie Dubois was born in Champagne, and learned to make wine in Burgundy. She now farms and makes Gamay in Fleurie Beaujolais on eight hectares of land. For Anne Sophie the “sum of details” means hand-harvested, no filtration, and no added sulfur. *Fun fact, L’alchimiste gets its name from the Paul Celan novel of that same title, and Paul Celan was, at one time, married to Ingeborg Bachmann.