What Is Malina? Decoding Ingeborg Bachmann's Poetics of Secrecy

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Since the publication of Ingeborg Bachmann’s feminist novel, Malina, in 1971, the identity of the eponym has been the subject of ongoing debate. By asking the question “What is Malina?” rather than seeking out the identity of the male protagonist, a new discovery has been made owing to the recent translation of texts from the Hebrew concerning the Jewish Holocaust. These reveal that the term denotes the secret hiding places in which Ashkenazi Jews sought to evade deportation by Nazi authorities during World War II. Thus, the novel reveals the safe house as a metaphorical representation of the experience of womanhood in postwar Europe. By rereading the novel in light of these findings, this article further argues that Bachmann employs the malina as a private code that enables her to articulate the unspeakable through a furtive poetics of secrecy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-94
Number of pages18
JournalWomen in German Yearbook : Feminist and Gender Studies in German Literature and Culture
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Ingeborg Bachmann
  • Malina
  • Holocaust
  • Poetics
  • safehouse


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