At the Burning Abyss

Experiencing the Georg Trakl Poem

Franz F├╝hmann

Translated by Isabel Fargo Cole


5 x 8 inches, 232 pp. October 2017

ISBN : 9780857424327

Rs  599.00 (HB)
$27.50 (HB)
£18.99 (HB)

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At the Burning Abyss is Franz Fühmann’s magnum opus—a gripping and profoundly personal encounter with the great expressionist poet Georg Trakl. It is a taking stock of two troubled lives, a turbulent century, and the liberating power of poetry.

Picking up where his last book, The Jew Car, left off, Fühmann probes his own susceptibility to ideology’s seductions—Nazism, then socialism—and examines their antidote, the goad of Trakl’s enigmatic verses. He confronts Trakl’s “unlivable life,” as his poetry transcends the panaceas of black-and-white ideology, ultimately bringing a painful, necessary understanding of “the whole human being: in victories and triumphs as in distress and defeat, in temptation and obsession, in splendor and in ordure.”

In 1982, the German edition of At the Burning Abyss won the West German Scholl Siblings Prize, celebrating its “courage to resist inhumanity.” At a time of political extremism and polarization, has lost none of its urgency. 


Franz Fühmann spent his childhood in the congested Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia and served in the Wehrmacht signal corps from 1941 to 45. Embracing socialism in a Soviet POW camp, he cast in his lot with the German Democratic Republic. Gradually, however, he became an outspoken critic of the regime and the unofficial patriarch of a new dissident literature, revered in both Germanies. A magician of many literary forms, his idiosyncratic oeuvre has lost none of its urgency and appeal. 


Isabel Fargo Cole is a US-born, Berlin-based writer and translator. Her translations include Boys and Murderers by Hermann Ungar (2006) and All the Roads are Open by Annemarie Schwarzenbach (2011). She is the initiator and co-editor of, the online magazine for new German literature in English.

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