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Homo Faber

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  17,653 ratings  ·  520 reviews
Walter Faber is an emotionally detached engineer forced by a string of coincidences to embark on a journey through his past.
Paperback, 228 pages
Published May 1st 1994 by Mariner Books (first published October 1957)
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Wolfgang
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Wolfgang A colloquial translation:
"The difference betweeen a probable and an improbable event does not lie in their essential natures, but rather only in the f…more
A colloquial translation:
"The difference betweeen a probable and an improbable event does not lie in their essential natures, but rather only in the frequency with which they occur. The more frequent event appears at the outset to be more believable. But when an improbable event does occur there is nothing really special or miraculous about it, as many (non-professional) peope seem to think."(less)

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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  17,653 ratings  ·  520 reviews


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Ian "Marvin" Graye
Apr 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
April 20, 2011:

I bought this book in 1979 and read it sometime in the early 80's.

It's only a couple of hundred pages, so when Praj asked me to review it, I thought, hey, why not re-read it (even though I very rarely re-read books).

April 22, 2011:

Re-reading this novel has been a total revelation.

Firstly, I had previously rated it four stars from memory. Now I have upgraded it to five stars.

It's not just good, it's great, one of the best books I've read.

Secondly, I haven't seen the Volker Schlondo
...more
Steven Godin
Is everything in life a coincidence, or are things predestined for us? How much do the decisions that we make in life influence the outcome?, even down to the smallest of details?. For globe-trotting Walter Faber this is a conflict that is never really resolved, through the misadventures of a strange semi mid-life crisis, Frisch writes a poignant and sometimes shocking novel as Faber struggles to maintain his previously unwavering belief in technology, whilst human connections both past and pres ...more
Warwick
And now here at last is a real book for grown-ups. Intelligent and utterly unsentimental, Homo Faber would, I feel, have been wasted on me if I'd read it ten years ago; now it strikes me as extraordinary. (This is unlike most novels, which, if not actually aimed at people in their late teens and early twenties, seem to resonate most strongly with that intense and exciting age group.)

As it happens, Walter Faber, the central character of this novel, does not read novels at all. He can't see the po
...more
Manny
Warning: contains major spoilers for Sophie's World

Manfred, my inner German child, is looking even smugger and more annoying than usual.

"I'm not a child any more," he informs me. "I'm grown up. I read Max Frisch's Homo Faber."

"You are a child, Manfred," I sigh. "You're only three."

"Three and a half," says Manfred with a little less confidence.

"Three and a half if you like," I agree. "And you didn't understand that book. It was too difficult for you."

"Did so," says Manfred.

"Okay, Manfred," I say
...more
BlackOxford
Dec 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: german-language
A Swiss Heart of Darkness

An engineer with an engineering outlook on life, the eponymous Homo (Walter) Faber believes in the randomness of existence. But he fails to recognise that such randomness is equivalent to a kind of cosmic spontaneity. And that such spontaneity implies some sort of spirit. He insists on the absolute disjunction between spirit and matter. The former is emotional, sentimental and soft. The latter is masculine and what constitutes reality, what can be measured, assembled and
...more
Jan-Maat
Jul 05, 2011 added it
Recommended to Jan-Maat by: My mother
What a difference a reread makes. Now I want to seize everybody in turn by the lapels and say 'read this book and then read it again!'.

Unusually I know when I had the book for the first time, the Easter of 1995, there's an inscription in my Mother's handwriting on a flyleaf with that date. Now I've read it again, but also read it for the first time. You can't read the same book twice since you never can be the same reader.

The narrator doesn't see things that way. He is told: "technology..the kna
...more
Edward
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had never heard of this book, or of its author, but boy am I glad I decided to buy it on a whim. It is a work that deserves to stand with Camus and Sartre in its penetration of the modern condition; an understanding of which is in each case elucidated through the perspective of a misanthrope.

The protagonist, Faber, is an engineer, who is characterised by certain stereotypically male traits: he lacks empathy, and is logical and analytical to the point of inhumanity. He treats significant event
...more
Praj
Apr 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lp
“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
...more
Anne
Nov 27, 2011 rated it did not like it
oh my god I am so glad to be done with this tortuous book. I appreciate the other reviewers who point out the reasons for this story's existence. It is very well-written and I suppose it serves to remind us not to live like robots, to have feelings. Fortunately I don't live like a robot and I already have many feelings, thank you very much, so for me reading this was like spending hours and hours with a depressed and depressing very sad old man who is telling me all his regrets without even real ...more
Matt
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book is required reading in many schools in Germany. Crazy idea. What are the “children” supposed to get out of it? And so are the ratings and reviews (here and elsewhere) by the young ones. Unfavorable. I have, I believe, seen the film one time. But have forgotten all about it.

Homo Faber is Walter Faber. Engineer. Lives by the motto “für einen Ingenör ist nichts zu schwör”. Constructs his world around technology. Writes letters in the desert after an emergency landing on a typewriter (mech
...more
david
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘Homo Faber’ is the concept of humans being able to control their fate and the environment through tools.

Idealistic, maybe, but it becomes the fodder for Mr. Frisch’s last published book.

It took a few pages to catch this writer’s rhythm but, soon thereafter, it was an easy lope to the end.

This grateful reader was awed by the sublime dexterity the author employed to integrate so many themes concomitantly. Not in the patronymic way of the old Russians where we are always trying to remember the e
...more
Paul
Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: european-novels
On the surface a straightforward story, simple and resembling a parable; but like a parable capable of many interpretations and readable on more than one level.
Walter faber is a rational man who believes in technology, a creature of habit. A series of events disrupt his settled life. A plane crash, a chance meeting with the brother of an old friend, a visit to the friend in central america, whose body they discover at his home. Then there ia a boat journey across the Atlantic. Faber, a middle a
...more
leynes
May 16, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Oh my, my German teacher forced us to read this in 8th-grade, and up to this day, I don't understand why you would force 14-year-olds to read about incest and call it a day???
J.M. Hushour
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Frisch is a titan of decalibrating literature, a force of dissolution of equilbriums: his novels focus on unsettling painstakingly, absurdly crafted ideas of ourselves and our circles of existence, tearing them up by the roots, scattering the resultant fluff around and letting it alight where they may. Faber is probably the best example of this, being the story of an engineer utterly unmoved by and uninterested in anything abstract, whose reliance on technicality and design is upended completely ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
A series of number cropping up everywhere you look ("a lotto winning combination"). A girl (or a boy) you meet, accidentally, in several unlikely places ("we are meant for each other"). A sudden inclement weather on a scheduled date for a job interview ("a better job is waiting for me elsewhere"). Coincidences, synchronicity--people read meanings from them, even the atheists or those who believe in the pure randomness of the world.

An author who can create a world, and horrify you with it (e.g.,
...more
Blanca Mazón
Nov 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe this book is under the category "unpopular books"!!! this is one of books that have influenced me the most. The story of this man destined to become a robot, ignoring his emotions, trying to avoid suffering and depending always on logic and system, is a story of people in the 20th century. What we know now about emotional intelligence is what Max Faber lacks. If someone is interested in the depths and miseries of the human soul, he should read this book. Morover the language is s ...more
Ellinor
Homo Faber was really a suprise for me. It was quite different from what I had imagined it to be. Also, I have to admit that my expectations for it weren't very high. I previously had read Gantenbein by the same author which I didn't like too much. But sometimes it's good to have low expectations for a book: I've often had better reading experiences with novels I wasn't looking Forward to too much than with ones that everyone was raving about.
Homo faber is very well written and I literally coul
...more
Ugh
Feb 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Vit Babenco
Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“There aren't any prehistoric monsters any more. Why should I imagine them? I'm sorry, but I don't see any stone angels either; nor demons; I see what I see – the usual shapes due to erosion and also my long shadow on the sand, but no ghosts.”
Walter Faber is a pragmatist and he lives as if he is blown by the wind – he is a ship without an anchor and there is no haven for him in the sea of life and there is no place he can call his own. And in this endless roaming and his genuflection before the
...more
jesse
Aug 25, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-german
i truly hate this book! i had to read it in class once and create a frikking presentation. my mood drops several degrees when only thinking about this crappy book!

HIGHLY NOT RECOMMENDED
AC
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
How moving... How..., shockingly...surprisingly so
Missy J
I’m not going to lie. Homo Faber was a difficult story to read. We meet a restless and unfeeling man called Walter Faber, who understands the world only through reason and technology. At the beginning of the novel, Faber travels to South America, but the plane crashes in the Mexican desert. Despite being stranded in the desert for several days, Faber does not lose his temper and fixates his mind on playing chess to pass the time. By chance, he learns that a fellow passenger is the brother of his ...more
Gregory Tkac
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A friend of mine, originally from Lichtenstein, read my first book and then immediately suggested that I read Max Frisch's "Homo Faber". He described it as a standard lit class novel in German language high schools throughout Europe, and I cringed with the notion that it would be boring as hell. When he told me that it was from one of the most famous Swiss authors and that it would be interesting to read his 1950's take on Switzerland, México and the US (all places I've lived) as well as some of ...more
Kat
I had to read this for school and it was better than all the other books I've read for school. I actually enjoyed it and it was really quick and easy to read.
Nooilforpacifists
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Unbelievably compelling; a spiraling of complexity and madness. Almost any description would be a spoiler, but in its simplest form: a very model of the modern (and detached) Swiss modernist is thrust into a whirlwind increasingly beyond his understanding. When epiphany arrives, death and insanity are its companions.


"She thought it stupid of a woman to want to be understood by a man; the man (said Hanna) wants the woman to be a mystery, so that he can be inspired and excited by his own incompre
...more
  LunaBel
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faustus
This was a difficult novel to read. It's not difficult to understand the words, nor is the translation bad. It's rather the events themselves and the way they are conveyed that is draining. Homo Faber deals with many issues: incest, technology, postcolonialism, incest in the age of technology, loss, desire, and emptiness.
The protagonist, Walter Faber, a completely rational man, who only believes in statistics and technology, fidns himself driven in a journey he was never meant to take. One flig
...more
George
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
A well written short novel that is an engaging, interesting read. It is told in the first person by Walter Faber, a 50 year old Swiss man who is an engineer, focussed on the calculable and verifiable. Walter is on a work assignment, flying from New York to South America, when his plane has engine failure and lands safely in the Mexican dessert. After some adventure he meets an old acquaintance. Later he takes of boat from New York to France. On the boat he meets a young 20 year old woman who he ...more
Josh Friedlander
Sep 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
In anthropology, Homo Faber is man as creator, manipulator of technology, as opposed to Homo Ludens, man as player. But creator can also be destroyer. This novel is narrated by a jaded engineer, with the hardened cynicism of a Meursault or a Philip Marlowe. His past is complex, described piecemeal over the course of the book, and the narrator's reliability is questionable. The hero repeats like a mantra his materialist and positivist creed in which science is the only truth worth seeking. But th ...more
Chris
Homo Faber begins as an exciting adventure story: swirling snowstorms, a plane crash, stranded passengers barely surviving in a Mexican desert for four days, then unexpected journeys into uncharted ethnically dangerous Central America in search of a lost, white businessman.

As the adventure proceeds, Frisch's evocation of the Mexican and Guatemalan jungle is positively Joseph Conrad, done with spare, perfect prose and pace: palpable suffocating heat, dripping sweat and humidity, torrential floods
...more
Ira Therebel
Surprisingly I have never heard about this book before and it is a pretty important book in German literature that it is even taught in school.

Now, it doesn't seem to me like a book that should be taught in school. It is not the correct age group for it and they just end up hating such a great book because it is too early to understand.

It is pretty easy to get what the main theme of the book is when one knows what "homo faber" is. The book has a few main ideas and the author brings it to the re
...more
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Max Rudolph Frisch was born in 1911 in Zurich; the son of Franz Bruno Frisch (an architect) and Karolina Bettina Frisch (née Wildermuth). After studying at the Realgymnasium in Zurich, he enrolled at the University of Zurich in 1930 and began studying German literature, but had to abandon due to financial problems after the death of his father in 1932. Instead, he started working as a journalist a ...more

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