This Spiegel Online article from Dirk Kurbjuweit has a paragraph about Peter Handke's book "Sommerlicher Nachtrag zu einer winterlichen Reise":

In dem Buch las ich Schmähungen gegen Journalisten, ich las ein Vorbeischreiben am Massaker. Ich las das Wort Farnvordringlichkeit. Ich sagte meinen Boykott ab, bis heute denke ich bei Spaziergängen an dieses Wort, das so schön ausdrückt, wie der Farn vorwitzig in die Waldwege greift.

Kurbjuweit might refer to this passage from said book:

Auch das Tara-Plateau oben dann hätte Teil der mitteleuropäischen Alpen sein können, mit seinen buckligen Kurzgrasflächen, der Fichten-, Kiefern- und Farnvordringlichkeit, und überhaupt Abgehobenheit von der brütenden, da und dort von einem Auto blinkenden Tälerwelt.

What does Farnvordringlichkeit mean?

  • 2
    That's a valid compound noun, but one made up on the spot. You won't find it in any dictionary. The author described its meaning in the very next sentence. Most likely it was a funny typo in that book he was reading.
    – Janka
    Oct 22, 2019 at 19:28

1 Answer 1


I think this question would benefit from some context. Looks like you are diving into the wonderfully weird world of Peter Handke, who just received the Nobel prize for literature.

The word "Farnvordringlichkeit" is not standard German and you won't find it in the Duden or any other dictionary. But it is a great example of how composite nouns can be used in German for an evocative poetic effect.

Handke explains the meaning himself as a "Wort, das so schön ausdrückt, wie der Farn vorwitzig in die Waldwege greift."

So he ascribes a certain urgency or excited forwardness ("Vordringlichkeit") to the ferns in the woods as they grow over the trail; lining your way on a walk through the woods just like paparazzi would line the red carpet when a celebrity walks by.

  • 1
    There is some more context in the question now. You might want to update your answer :) While you're at it, it would be nice if you could add the source for the "Handke explains the meaning himself as ..." part. Thank you!
    – Arsak
    Oct 23, 2019 at 11:38
  • @Arsak: It's part of the Spiegel Online article Oct 21st, 2019: Farnvordringlichkeit.
    – mic
    Oct 23, 2019 at 13:52
  • @mic You mean the article that is now linked in the question? If I read it correcty, the "Wort, das so schön ausdrückt, wie der Farn vorwitzig in die Waldwege greift." was written by the Spiegel-Autor, not by the Handke himself, as this answer suggests. But maybe Simon has a source, where Handke wrote this first and the Spiegel-Autor forgot to mention it. That is why I was asking for a source/clarification.
    – Arsak
    Oct 23, 2019 at 13:59
  • 1
    @Arsak "was written by the Spiegel-Autor", Ah, yes, you are right. Didn't read it thoroughly enough.
    – mic
    Oct 23, 2019 at 14:07
  • 1
    Yes, looks like the explanation is from the journalist. Would be a little unusual for an author to explain their work like that, anyway.
    – Simon
    Oct 24, 2019 at 5:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.