Praj's Reviews > Homo Faber

Homo Faber by Max Frisch
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May 03, 11

bookshelves: lp
Read in May, 2011

“Nothing is harder than to accept oneself." - Max Frisch.

Walter Faber is a paradigm of collective identity v/s self-identity, rationality v/s irrationality and providence v/s concurrence; counter positioning free will. You cannot find yourself anywhere except in yourself. Frisch portrays the contradictory worlds of methodical reasonableness and the quandary of being a mortal. Walter believes in what he nurtures. As a technologist working for UNESCO, he lives in the present and connects with the world through scientific implications of his free will. Walter truly believes that it is mere a sequence of coincidences that fashions a man’s life, not fate. He defies the very nature of human sentiments sheltering his vulnerabilities through an itinerant lifestyle and transitory associations. Nevertheless, when circumstantial occurrences go beyond coherent justifications revealing the blatancy of Walter’s concealed emotions; the dichotomy of fate and coincidences are collided. Walter’s encounter with Herbert, his travel to the tobacco plantation, facing his uneasy past through Hannah and the sexual relation with Sabeth banishes Walter’s logic of concurrent consequences and imposes the idea of destiny. His obstinate belief that a man should not be held responsible for the actions he did not choose is shattered when guilt overrides his conscious after knowing Sabeth’s true identity. He appreciates the value of forgiveness, a concept which he had alienated himself from.

A man is a not a machine but an incongruous creature. Frisch talks about the influence of industrial age and its significance in etching human mentality. The evolution of scientific technologies has assured human beings the capabilities of capturing the materialistic wonders controlling every aspect of human survival.

Above all, however, the machine has no feelings; it feels no fear and no hope ... it operates according to the pure logic of probability. For this reason I assert that the robot perceives more accurately than man.

Walter’s fixation with the technology constantly asserts the conflict between the modern world and the so called primitive thought processes. To a spiritual mind, death is the ultimate liberation of a soul. Whereas in a scientific setting death is seen as a failure of the aortic pump. Frisch toys with the post-modernism attitude towards technology suggesting that even though technology can make life easier it cannot define the workings of human connections. Walter’s practicality in every decision shielded him from the absurdity of emotions and fear making him helpless and nauseated in his own personality, is analogous to the resolution of Antoine Roquentin in Sartre’s Nausea:-

I was thinking of belonging, I was telling myself that the sea belonged to the class of green objects, or that the green was a part of the quality of the sea. Even when I looked at things, I was miles from dreaming that they existed: they looked like scenery to me. I picked them up in my hands, they served me as tools, 1 foresaw their resistance. But that all happened on the surface. If anyone had asked me what existence was, I would have answered, in good faith, that it was nothing, simply an empty form which was added to external things without changing anything in their nature. And then all of a sudden, there it was, clear as day: existence had suddenly unveiled itself. It had lost the harmless look of an abstract category: it was the very paste of things; this root was kneaded into existence. Or rather the root, the park gates, the bench, the sparse grass, all that had vanished: the diversity of things, their individuality, was only an appearance, a veneer. This veneer had melted, leaving soft, monstrous masses, all in disorder—naked, in a frightful, obscene nakedness. I kept myself from making the slightest movement, but I didn't need to move in order to see, behind the trees, the blue columns and the lamp posts of the bandstand and the Velleda, in the midst of a mountain of laurel. All these objects . . . how can I explain?.......... I realized that there was no half-way house between non-existence and this flaunting abundance. If you existed, you had to exist all the way, as far as mouldiness, bloatedness, obscenity were concerned. (Jean Paul Sartre; Nausea)

The underplayed incestuous approach and the irony in Walter’s analysis on abortion as a logical outcome in a civilization, shows that even though ‘man plans’ the absurdity of fate makes technology a pitiable surrogate of human identity. Ultimately, Walter’s trepidation of death and emancipation from his social identity as an engineer, proves that “Man the Maker” relates to how an individual classifies oneself from a hollow world where one cannot suffer nothing.
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Comments (showing 1-25 of 25) (25 new)

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message 1: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Go for it, Praj, and thanks for the nudge.


Paul Good review Praj; another one for my ever growing to be read list. Loved the quoye from Nausea, a book I really enjoyed and must read again


message 3: by Praj (last edited May 03, 2011 12:32PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Praj Thanks, Paul :)


message 4: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Thanks for a wonderful review, Praj.
Of course, when I used the word "existentialist" just once in my own review, I meant it to convey everything you've said so eloquently. ;)


message 5: by K.D. (new) - added it

K.D. Absolutely Excellent review, Praj!


Praj @ K.D :- thanks! :D.

@ Ian :- I'm glad i read the book. Walter’s bizarre dream about all his teeth falling out, distinctly spelled out his insecurities. I was quite taken aback reading it, as I used to have the exact dream couple years ago.


Praj Brian wrote: "A very thoughtful review, Praj- you make a difficult book look easy!"


That is such an adorable thing to say.*(blushing)**


message 9: by Praj (last edited May 03, 2011 11:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Praj @ Ian :- Hahaha!! Thanks a lot for the link. I adore Freud for his fascination of muddled sexual connotations and for being a 'coke head'.

Sigmund Freud thought that dreams of teeth falling out represented an unconscious desire to masturbate.

Thankfully, mine did not represent that suppressed sentiment.


message 10: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch It's so much more fun when the desire is conscious (apparently).


message 11: by Velvetink (new) - added it

Velvetink Great review!


message 12: by Praj (new) - rated it 4 stars

Praj Thanks, V!


message 13: by Lit Bug (new) - added it

Lit Bug Lovely review and TBRed :) You analyze very well!


message 14: by Praj (new) - rated it 4 stars

Praj Thanks, Lit! When it comes to analysing a prose, Lit, you could give Spivak a run for her money:)


message 15: by Lit Bug (new) - added it

Lit Bug Money's always nice ;)
Btw, it's not just your analysis, but the way you put it that is striking.


message 16: by Lit Bug (new) - added it

Lit Bug I re-read your review - still wondering what you refer to by 'postmodern attitude towards technology'...


message 17: by Praj (last edited Oct 22, 2013 11:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Praj Sartre in his 'Existentialism is Humanism' infers that at the end of it all it is only but one’s humankind that one falls back on to reclaim the lost morality. Man the maker (homo faber) is the absolute being in the wisdom of existentialism. It is because we exist we nauseate. Walter was finding his lost humanity, his identity because if humanity is altogether lost where is then the stance of questioning one’s existence in this universe.

With the onset of modernism came the embryonic establishment of technology. Technology was then not only a part of identity but a concrete link between society and culture. Further, during its existence became a mystery and endured corruption leading to once again an unbearable nausea. Technology became a way of life. A banality in the dystopian world. Frisch contradicts the idea of “technological omnipotence” by depicting Walter as a body ridden by guilt. Technology can certainly help humans to control the nitty-gritty of lives, but can it help to build human relationships? Sometimes counterfeit human relationship can be detrimental than technology, and that is what Frisch tries to enlighten through this prose. Thus, the post-modernism aspect comes in as a challenger deconstructing the modernist doctrine of “technocracy”.

I hope this helped your query.


message 18: by Lit Bug (new) - added it

Lit Bug Ummm.. would you equate it with the the theme of technological pessimism - the conviction that technology has given us the means not to achieve unlimited progress but to destroy ourselves and our most cherished values?

That's how I interpreted a pomo approach to tech.


message 19: by Praj (last edited Oct 23, 2013 12:10AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Praj Equate what? the prose you mean?

If that is the case, then I would not restrict it too such classification.

Lit, you made me keen on re- reading varied existentialism prose.


message 20: by Lit Bug (new) - added it

Lit Bug No, I mean is that what you meant by 'postmodern attitude to tech'? Meaning that tech is messing with our lives instead of giving us a chance to progress? I'm asking because mostly in academic studies in pomo, this interpretation is universally understood when you say 'postmodern attitude to tech', so I was wondering if you meant the same or if your own interpretation was something else which I'd missed.


message 21: by Praj (new) - rated it 4 stars

Praj Lit Bug wrote: "No, I mean is that what you meant by 'postmodern attitude to tech'? Meaning that tech is messing with our lives instead of giving us a chance to progress? I'm asking because mostly in academic stud..."

Lit, my review is solely based on the prose analysis. as for my view about 'pomo attitude' I 'm always on the fence.


message 22: by Lit Bug (new) - added it

Lit Bug Thanks! Too much exposure to theories muddles up my mind...


message 23: by Samadrita (new) - added it

Samadrita Brilliant and eruditely written as always, Praj. Yours and Warwick's reviews made me add it to the tbr right away.


message 24: by Praj (new) - rated it 4 stars

Praj Lit Bug wrote: "Thanks! Too much exposure to theories muddles up my mind..."

You are very welcome. Lit!:) It is always refreshing to answer your queries.


message 25: by Praj (new) - rated it 4 stars

Praj Samadrita wrote: "Brilliant and eruditely written as always, Praj. Yours and Warwick's reviews made me add it to the tbr right away."

Thanks a lot, sweetie! you should certainly check out this book. You'll probably like it:)


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