Andorra: A Play in Twelve Scenes

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(Andorra: Stück in zwölf Bildern) Play by Max Frisch, 1962

Andorra —set in a fictitious town, not in the European region of the same name—was completed in 1961 and premiered in November of the same year at Zurich's Schauspielhaus. In January 1962 it was performed on various German stages. The idea for the play came much earlier; in his Sketchbook 1946-1949 (translated by Geoffrey Skelton) Max Frisch recorded an entry under the heading "The Andorran Jew":

In Andorra there lived a young man who was believed to be a Jew. It will be necessary to describe his presumed background, his daily contacts with the Andorrans, who saw the Jewishness in him: the fixed image that meets him everywhere. Their distrust, for instance, of his depth of feeling—something that, as even an Andorran knows, no Jew can possibly have. A Jew has to rely on the sharpness of his wits, which get all the sharper because of it. Or his attitude toward money, an important matter in Andorra as elsewhere… He could not become like all the others, and so, having tried in vain not to make himself conspicuous. he began to wear his otherness with a certain air of defiance, of pride…

Andorra is a play about political and personal issues, specifically about racial and national prejudice, stereotypes, identity, and collective guilt. Andri, a young man considered a Jew by the Andorrans, has been "adopted" by a teacher who, as he finds out later on, is his real father, although he does not admit to his paternity because he is ashamed of having a child out of wedlock. Andri tries to assimilate with the Andorrans and to their way of life, but they reject him because of his seeming "otherness." The Andorrans see in Andri what they consider "Jewish" traits—cowardice, greed, sexual urges, and ambition—traits they themselves have and project onto him. Andri is confused about his identity, and he finally adopts the image society has made of him. At the end the invaders who occupy Andorra take him away on the pretext that the Andorrans have murdered Andri's real mother. Andri is slaughtered, while his father hangs himself and his sister goes insane.

In Andorra Frisch uses devices reminiscent of Bertolt Brecht 's Epic Theater, although he does not share Brecht's optimism that society can be enlightened through the theater. Between the scenes the perpetrators, except members of Andri's immediate family, step up to a ramp where they rationalize their behavior to the audience and take refuge in their collective guilt, denying personal responsibility. This whitewashing technique, which Frisch introduces at the beginning of the play when Andri's sister is whitewashing the facades of the house, is very effective inasmuch as it makes the audience aware of the dangers inherent in image-making. In order to prevent a recurrence of this personal tragedy, which ultimately could lead to a Holocaust, Frisch admonishes the viewer in the section of "The Andorran Jew": "Thou shalt not, it is said, make unto thee any graven image of God. The same commandment should apply when God is taken to mean the living part of every human being, the part that cannot be grasped. It is a sin that, however much it is committed against us, we almost continually commit ourselves—except when we love." Frisch points out that each individual carries the responsibility of preventing a future Holocaust by accepting and affirming every person's unique being.

—Gerd K. Schneider