The Pledge by Friedrich Dürrenmatt


Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

University of Chicago Press, 2006. Translated by Joel Agee. Originally published as Das Versprechen: Requiem auf den Kriminalroman, 1958. ISBN: 9780226174372. 172 pp.  

The PledgeThe story is based on an original screenplay written by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Hans Jacoby and Ladislao Vajda for the 1958 film Es geschah am hellichten Tag (English title: It Happened in Broad Daylight aka El Cebo in Spanish), directed by Ladislao Vajda, and starring Heinz Rühmann and Gert Fröbe. As far as I know, Dürrenmatt developed the film script into a novel Das Versprechen: Requiem auf den Kriminalroman (The Pledge: Requiem for the Detective Novel), with a different ending; he considered that Es geschah am hellichten Tag did not have a realistic ending. In 2001 The Pledge was adapted to the big screen in a film directed by Sean Penn and starring Jack Nicholson, this time reflecting the ending envisaged by Dürrenmatt.

The Pledge, a novella, is narrated primarily in first person. The author himself is inserted into the narrative as a lecturer on the art of writing detective stories, but the story is told by a certain Dr. H., a former chief of police in the canton of Zurich. It is also interesting to note that the original title is subtitled Requiem auf den Kriminalroman, this subtitle has disappeared from my English edition, probably due to the difficulties that can involve translating correctly Kriminalroman to English, as Dorothy James suggests in her blog My Place for Mystery.

The story, as narrated by Dr. H., takes place in the small town of Mägendorf in Switzerland and revolves around the murder of a little girl called Gritli Moser. A peddler named von Guten found her body among the bushes not far from the edge of the forest. Inspector Matthäi, the best man under his command, is called to investigate the crime. It just so happen that it was Matthäi’s last day at the department. Von Guten soon becomes the main suspect and finally he admits committing the crime. However Inspector Matthäi has his doubts as to the real identity of the murderer, knowingly that the confession was obtained after forty hours of interrogation. Following to his confession, Von Guten hangs himself in his cell. Meanwhile Matthäi leaves his position in the police to devote his time to find the real culprit and thus fulfil the promise he made to the parents of the murdered girl.

I cannot but recommend this novella not only to all crime fiction readers but to everyone in general. A small gem in my view. Given its length, it will only take but a few hours of your precious time, but it’s worth it. It took me two or three sittings even if I’m not a fast reader. It is paradoxical to write a detective novel, to announce the requiem for the detective novels, but the answer can be found reading this remarkable story. A masterpiece.

‘Real events can’t be resolved like a mathematical formula, for the simple reason that we never know all the necessary factors, just a few, an usually a rather insignificant few.’

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

The Pledge has been reviewed by The crime segments.. (NacyO), Mrs. Peabody Investigates, Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan (Bill), Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog (Keishon), My Place for Mystery (Dorothy James), What are you reading for..?

The University of Chicago Press Books   

La promesa de Friedrich Dürrenmatt 

Imagen del editor

La historia está basada en un guión original escrito por Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Hans Jacoby y Ladislao Vajda para la película de 1958, Es geschah am hellichten Tag (títulada en inglés: It Happened in Broad Daylight y conocida como El Cebo en español), dirigida por Ladislao Vajda, y protagonizada por Heinz Rühmann y Gert Fröbe. Por lo que yo sé, Dürrenmatt desarrolló el guión de la película en una novela Das Versprechen: Requiem auf den Kriminalroman (La promesa: Réquiem por la novela policíaca), con un final diferente; consideraba que Es geschah am hellichten Tag no tenía un final realista. En el 2001 La promesa fue adaptada a la gran pantalla en una película dirigida por Sean Penn y protagonizada por Jack Nicholson, esta vez reflejando el final previsto por Dürrenmatt.

La promesa, una novela corta, está narrada principalmente en primera persona. El propio autor se introduce en la narración como un conferenciante sobre el arte de escribir historias de detectives, pero la historia la cuenta un tal Dr. H., antiguo jefe de la policía del cantón de Zurich. También es interesante destacar que el título original se subtitula Requiem auf den Kriminalroman, este subtítulo ha desaparecido de mi edición inglesa,  probablemente debido a las dificultades que puede implicar traducir correctamente Kriminalroman al inglés, como sugiere Dorothy James en su blog My Place for Mystery.

La historia, según lo narrado por el Dr. H., tiene lugar en la pequeña ciudad de Mägendorf en Suiza y gira en torno al asesinato de una niña llamada Gritli Moser. Un vendedor ambulante llamado von Guten encontró su cuerpo entre los arbustos no muy lejos de la orilla del bosque. El inspector Matthäi, el mejor hombre bajo su mando, acude a investigar el crimen. Se da la casualidad que era el último día de Matthäi en el departamento. Von Guten pronto se convierte en el principal sospechoso y, por último, admite haber cometido el crimen. Sin embargo el inspector Matthäi tiene sus dudas en cuanto a la verdadera identidad del asesino, a sabiendas de que la confesión fue obtenida después de cuarenta horas de interrogatorio. Después de su confesión Von Guten se ahorca en su celda. Mientras tanto Matthäi deja su puesto en la policía para dedicar su tiempo a encontrar al verdadero culpable y así cumplir la promesa que hizo a los padres de la chica asesinada.

No puedo dejar de recomendar esta novela no sólo a todos los lectores de novelas de crímenes y de misteriro, sino a todo el mundo en general. Una pequeña joya en mi opinión. Dada su extensión, sólo le llevará unas pocas horas de su valioso tiempo, pero vale la pena. Tardé dos o tres sentadas, aunque no soy un lector rápido. Resulta paradójico escribir una novela de detectives, para anunciar el réquiem por las novelas de detectives, pero la respuesta se puede encontrar leyendo este extraordinario relato. Una obra maestra.

“Los casos reales no puede solucionarse como una fórmula matemática, por la sencilla razón de que nunca conocemos todos los factores necesarios, sólo unos pocos, y por lo general unos pocos bastante irrelevantes.” (My free translation).

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

La promesa ha sido reseñado en Calibre 38 (Alexis Ravelo), Leer sin prisa (Atram).

Navona

16 thoughts on “The Pledge by Friedrich Dürrenmatt

    • I presume you refer to The Pledge with Jack Nickolson. I had the opportunity to watch it last night. I don’t think the book is that sad. Certainly there is no romantic relaionship between the girl’s mother and the former policeman in the book. The emphasis is more on the story of an obsession.

  1. Hi José,
    I’m Giuseppe from ThrillerBooksJournal.com. I’m writing you just to let you know we’ve cited your site among the ones we suggest reading. You can find it here:

    http://www.thrillerbooksjournal.com/crime-fiction-blogs-1/

    The post is just a way to thank bloggers who help us spreading the news about crime fiction and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

    Of course, if you liked to cite it anywhere on your blog and your social profiles, it would be a pleasure for us.

    Cheers, and keep it up with the great work!
    Giuseppe

  2. I’m so glad you liked this one, Jose Ignacio. I’ve reread it a number of times and it never fails to impress. An absolute gem, as you say. Thanks too for the link to the Mrs P review.

  3. Jose Ignacio: Thanks for the link to my review. I had not known about the screenplay leading to the book. I found the obsession of the Inspector haunting. Readers will long remember the book.

    • You’re welcome Bill. Probably Dürrenmatt wrote both the script and the book almost at the same time but my unsderstanding is that the film was premiered first.

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