Sunday, October 14, 2012

Max Frisch, Man in the Holocene

Max Frisch's novella Man in the Holocene, starts with Geiser, the elderly protagonist of the story, is building a pagoda out of crispbread as torrential rains fall upon his Swiss canton of Ticino. The rain continues for days, triggering landslides and floods and blocking the highway. Bored, Geiser finds another way to keep his failing mind occupied - he cuts entries out of the encyclopedia and attaches them to the walls of his house.

He gathers articles on every topic that he can think of: the creation of the world, the history of his canton, and, more obsessively, the geologic timelines of the Earth. He starts from the Cambrian period of 500,000,000 years ago and all the way to the present, known as the Holocene. Soon he’s cutting out every entry he can find about dinosaurs. He then, as the storm intensifies even further, he moves onto texts about of personal annihilation: getting struck by lightning, memory loss, apoplexy.
He packs his rucksack and heads toward a mountain that is crumbling above him due to the rains. No point in staying trapped inside a house, he reasons. He escapes into the rain and begins a hike along the mountain...

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