Marianne Fritz II

Note cards and diagrams from Marianne Fritz's work room.

Note cards and diagrams from Marianne Fritz’s work room.

Perhaps no other author has carried further the idea of literature as a vocation than the Austrian Marianne Fritz. After the publication of her first novel, Die Schwerkraft der Verhältnisse, which was supported from a stipend by the state, she ceased giving interviews and seems to have appeared in public only rarely . For her second novel, Das Kind der Gewalt und die Sterne der Romani, she had a scale model of the town in which the book was set placed in her work room to better visualize the geography in which the plot unfolded. Due to its monumental size and difficulty, her work is often considered within the context of so-called outsider writing, but this label is far from appropriate to a writer whose working methods were so rigorous and references so broad as those of Fritz, not to mention someone whose talent, while not without controversy, was recognized by numerous prize juries and by Siegfried Unseld, who took her on at Suhrkamp as a house author. I am inclined to think her sex has been unhelpful to her fortunes: there is a tendency to be more charitably disposed, more ready to accept on credit, the “genius” of men who shut themselves away in rooms than that of women, who get saddled with labels like “hoarder” and “cat lady.” In any case, her work is of nearly unprecedented scope: after a thin first novel and a substantial second one, in 1985 she published the 3600-page Dessen Sprache du nicht verstehst, and in the late 1990s the first two volumes of Naturgemäß, which run nearly double the length of the book that preceded them. Fritz continued to work on Naturgemäß until the moment of her death; pages of the third volume, which has not yet been printed, can be consulted here