Walter Faber is an engineer working for UNESCO and is en route to Latin America for a work project. When his plane has to do an emergency landing in the desert and he meets the brother of an old friend there, it is only the first of a series of coincidences that start to shake Walter’s belief in a rational, technocratic world and ultimately lead him to a young woman not even half his age, Sabeth, with whom he falls in love. But doom is not far away.
Despite many good qualities, Homo Faber feels longer than it is and I never really connected with Walter or any of the other characters in it.
Everything is very dramatic in the book and there is a lot of potential for grand emotion. But all that emotionality never really reached me. Maybe because I didn’t connect with Walter and he is the narrator of the story, so if you don’t connect with him and his emotions, you don’t stand much of a chance of connecting with anybody else. And when my emotions aren’t along for the ride, that never bodes well for any story.
That being said, there was enough about it that I did like. Frisch writes in a rather sober style but every once in a while there is a turn of phrase in all that calmness that has a little more flouris to it and is really quite beautiful.
What I loved most about it, though, where the unusual and complex women in the book, especially Hanna, Walter’s first love [SPOILER] and Sabeth’s mother [/SPOILER], though I also appreciated Ivy, Walter’s lover, and Sabeth. Here are women who mostly do their own thing, who live life on their own terms and Walter is invited for some stretches of their way, sometimes for longer than he would like, but mostly not.
But in the end those good things weren’t enough to make the book work for me, especially since I thought that the ending was disappointing with [SPOILER] Sabeth’s death that feels like a punishment for her, even though she is not even as guilty of the “sin of incest” as Walter, since she never suspected that he was her father, while he suspected that she was his daughter even before they had sex. [/SPOILER]
Summarizing: Not my cup of tea.