Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921 – 1990)

descargaFriedrich Dürrenmatt (1921 – 1990) was born in Konolfingen (canton of Berne, Emmental region) the son of a protestant minister; he died in Neuchâtel, where he lived for 38 years. He studied philosophy, German literature and history of art in Berne and Zurich and worked as a playwright, novelist, essayist and painter. His plays The Visit (1956) and The Physicists (1962) brought him his greatest international acclaim, together with the film adaptations of his detective novels such as The Judge and His Hangman (1952) and The Pledge (1958). His philosophical essays and late-career autobiographical works, as well as his visual art – accomplished in parallel with his writing – are less well-known. The author received numerous awards throughout his career. He was twice married, and the father of three children born of his first marriage.

Friedrich Dürrenmatt excelled in the mystery novel genre, intermingling morality and logic to the point of absurdity. He spun his plots using increasingly complex and confusing literary tactics, against a philosophical background.

One of Dürrenmatt’s earliest sources of income as a young writer were his detective novels The Judge and His Hangman (1950) and Suspicion (1951), which first appeared in serialized form in the Schweizerische Beobachter review. He gave his cancer-stricken Inspector Barlach of Bern the stature of a figure straight out of the Old Testament, while at the same time ironically calling that very stature into question. Today, many of his literary detective novels are required reading in German language classes.

Film projects lie at the root of three further books in this vein: The Pledge (1958, subtitled “Requiem for the Detective Novel”); The Execution of Justice (begun in 1959/60 and completed in 1985); and The Assignment (1986). In all three, the author’s characteristic intermingling of morality and logic is carried out to the point of absurdity. By the same token, his novels always provide philosophical outlooks on the relationship between law and morality, the origin of evil and the possibility of knowledge. The last of this genre of novels, Valley of Confusion (1989), skilfully and confusingly interweaves theological, cosmological and mythical motifs into a satirical gangster tale located in an Alpine spa town. (Source: Centre Dürrenmatt Neuchâtel)

Selected Bibliography: The Judge and His Hangman (Der Richter und sein Henker, 1950; novel); Suspicion (Der Verdacht, 1951, also known as The Quarry); The Pledge: Requiem for the Detective Novel (Das Versprechen: Requiem auf den Kriminalroman, 1958, novella); The Execution of Justice (Justiz, 1985); The Assignment (Der Auftrag, 1986, novella)

51Fv j7llFL._SY346_Synopsis: A respected professor is dead – shot in a crowded Zurich restaurant, in front of dozens of witnesses. The murderer calmly turned himself in to the police. So why has he now hired a lawyer to clear his name? And why has he chosen the drink-soaked, disreputable Spät to defend him?
As he investigates, Spät finds himself obsessed, drawn ever deeper into a case of baffling complexity until he reaches a deadly conclusion: justice can be restored only by a crime. This is a captivating neo-noir classic from
the master of the genre.
The Execution of Justice is a dark, wicked satire on the legal system and a disturbing, if ambivalent, allegory on guilt, justice, violence and morality.

Further reading: Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921 – 1990); Pushkin Press publicity page.

4 thoughts on “Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921 – 1990)”

  1. I actually had to study Dürrenmatt for my university entrance exam in German. His plays rather than his crime fiction, of course, but I’ve always thought him a master of grasping sinister nuances in apparently inoffensive scenes or conversations.

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