The Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921–90) was one of the most important literary figures of the second half of the twentieth century. During the years of the cold war, arguably only Beckett, Camus, Sartre, and Brecht rivaled him as a presence in European letters. Yet outside Europe, this prolific author is primarily known for only one work, The Visit. With these long-awaited translations of his plays, fictions, and essays, Dürrenmatt becomes available again in all his brilliance to the English-speaking world.
Dürrenmatt’s essays, gathered in this third volume of Selected Writings, are among his most impressive achievements. Their range alone is astonishing: he wrote with authority and charm about art, literature, philosophy, politics, and the theater. The selections here include Dürrenmatt’s best-known essays, such as “Theater Problems” and “Monster Essay on Justice and Law,” as well as the notes he took on a 1970 journey in America (in which he finds the United States “increasingly susceptible to every kind of fascism”). This third volume of Selected Writings also includes essays that shade into fiction, such as “The Winter War in Tibet,” a fantasy of a third world war waged in a vast subterranean labyrinth—a Plato’s Cave allegory rewritten for our own troubled times.
Dürrenmatt has long been considered a great writer—but one unfairly neglected in the modern world of letters. With these elegantly conceived and expertly translated volumes, a new generation of readers will rediscover his greatest works.