Confronting your ego – The Wall by Marlen Haushofer

Marlen Haushofer’s dystopian novel „The Wall“ presents its heroine and the reader of her diary with a rather weird situation: Overnight she has become separated from the world outside by an invisible wall. Assuming her isolation to be the result of a military experiment gone awry, she begins the terrifying work of survival and self-renewal.
Normally she lives in the city. Her hosts, her cousin with her husband, have failed to return from am evening out in the village nearby. A dog, a cat and a cow, who turns out to be pregnant, are her only companions in the woods. Like a female Robinson Crusoe the first-person narrator learns to live amidst and with nature.
I really didn’t expect to find much to enjoy in The Wall, but I was wrong. It is a very elemental story,very human, simple, not complex, but very touching and emotional.  I loved the encounter with the warmth of animals, their different characters, their need and reliability, the closeness you get to them, more than to any human being.

I’m sure, men don’t like this novel. In the end, when you think the heroine has found a way to survive, there is only aggression and devastation, and you needn’t speculate long about its source: It can only be male, and this cannot but make a female reader like me very angry.
You never get an answer to questions like who put up the wall and why and if all
the living creatures outside the wall are dead. Later, when I informed myself about the author Marlen Haushofer, I read that she suffered from an unfeeling husband in an unfulfilled marriage.



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3 Responses to Confronting your ego – The Wall by Marlen Haushofer

  1. Sam 18/09/2013 at 11:46 #

    I am not sure I agree with your interpretation of her marriage. I felt the same way as you for a large part of the novel but one passage near the end made me realise that the book was much more nuanced than that.

    Rather than placing herself in opposition to her marriage and her husband I instead now think that the novel is an exercise in demonstrating that affection and marriage do not supersede the need to find strength in one’s self and that they may in fact inhibit personal growth.

    Her marriage wasn’t ‚bad‘ so much as it was rendered totally irrelevant by the situation and as such of debatable necessity. Even the best marriage would be so and thus the novel is a challenge to realise that women should not see marriage as an end-goal and may be constraining in ways not readily anticipated.

  2. cnort 18/09/2013 at 12:45 #

    Thanks for your comment Sam.
    If you are interested in Marlen Haushofer’s life I can only recommend to read her biography. Unfortunately I can only recommend one in German:

    You will find, that the Haushofers had a very „free“ marriage agreement but inspite of that it wasn’t happy at all. You would settle it on a very sophisticated level and indeed far from the average marital difficulties. She was more on an endless journey to find the meaning in her life and needed desperately a companion for this search. I second you in: “ the need to find strength in one’s self and that they may in fact inhibit personal growth“. She wouldn’t let her marriage nor any man stand in her way – or any person at all. In that sense the book is for me not such women literature as claimed.

    I think the picture she draws with the „Wall“ can be taken very literally: She felt very much like separated from the world and from emotional proximity. And she couldn’t accept the unsurmountable distance to others and the weirdness of their behavior. But she understood very well that no life can be lived without becoming guilty.

    The drama of becoming guilty even if you have the best intentions is shown impressively in the film. The film made me understand the book and her life much better but I needed the biography to grasp the deeper meanings.


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