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Frisch, Max (Rudolf)

FRISCH, Max (Rudolf)

Nationality: Swiss. Born: Zurich, 15 May 1911. Education: Studied Germanistics, University of Zurich, 1930-33; Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, diploma in architecture 1940. Military Service: Swiss Army, 1939-45. Family: Married 1) Gertrud Anna Constance von Meyenburg in 1942 (divorced 1959), two daughters and two sons; 2) Marianne Öllers in 1968 (divorced). Career: Freelance journalist for various Swiss and German newspapers, including Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Frankfurter Zeitung, beginning 1933; architect, Zurich, 1942-54. Full-time writer, 1955-1991. Awards: Conrad Ferdinand Meyer prize; Rockefeller Foundation drama grant, 1951; Raabe prize, 1954; Schleussner Schüller radio play prize, 1955; Georg Büchner prize, Veillon prize, and city of Zurich literature prize, all in 1958; Northrhine-Westphalia literature prize, 1963; city of Jerusalem prize and Schiller prize (Baden-Wurttemberg), both in 1965; Schiller prize (Zurich), 1974; German Book Trade peace prize, 1976; Modern Language Association of America commonwealth award and International Neustadt prize for literature, University of Oklahoma, both in 1986; Heine prize (Düsseldorf), 1989. Honorary degrees: Philipps University, Marburg, West Germany, 1963; Bard College, New York, 1980; City University of New York, 1982; Technische Universität, Berlin, 1987. Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 1985. Member: Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung; Akademie der Künste; American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (honorary); American Academy of Arts and Sciences (honorary). Died: 4 April 1991.

Publications

Collections

Stücke [Plays] (2 vols.):

Stücke 1: Santa Cruz; Nun singen sie wieder; Die Chinesische Mauer; Als der Krieg zu Ende war; Graf Öderland. 1962.

Stücke 2: Don Juan oder Die Liebe zur Geometrie; Biedermann und die Brandstifter; Die grosse Wut des Philipp Hotz; Andorra. 1962.

Gesammelte Werke in zeitlicher Folge (7 vols.):

Bd.1.1931-1944: Kleine Prosaschriften; Blätter aus dem Brotsack; Jürg Reinhart; Die Schwierigen, oder, J'adore ce qui me brûle; Bin: oder, Die Reise nach Peking. 1976.

Bd. 2. 1944-1949: Santa Cruz; Nun singen sie wieder; Die Chinesische Mauer; Als der Krieg zu Ende war; Kleine Prosaschriften; Tagebuch 1946-1949. 1976.

Bd. 3. 1949-1956: Graf Öderland; Don Juan: oder, Die Liebe zur Geometrie; Kleine Prosaschriften; Der Laie und die Architektur Achtung; Die Schweiz; Stiller; Rip van Winkle. 1976.

Bd. 4. 1957-1963: Homo faber; Kleine Prosaschriften; Herr Biedermann und die Brandstifter; Biedermann und die Brandstifter; Mit einem Nachapiwl; Die grosse Wut des Philipp Hotz; Andorra. 1976.

Bd. 5. 1964-1967: Mein Name sei Gantenbein; Kleine Prosaschriften; Zürich-Transit; Biografie, ein Spiel. 1976.

Bd. 6. 1968-1975: Tagebuch 1966-1971; Wilhelm Tell für die Schule; Kleine Prosaschriften; Dienstbüchlein; Montauk. 1976.

Bd. 7. 1976-1985: Kleine Prosaschriften; Triptychor; Der Mensch erscheint in Holoz an; Blaubart. 1986.

Plays

Nun singen sie wieder: Versuch eines Requiems (producedZurich, 1945). 1946; as Now They Sing Again: Attempt of aRequiem, in Contemporary German Theatre, edited by Michael Roloff, 1972.

Santa Cruz: Eine Romanz (produced Zurich, 1946). 1946.

Die chinesische Mauer: Eine Farce (produced Zurich, 1946). 1947; revised edition, 1972; as The Chinese Wall, 1961.

Als der Kriege zu Ende war: Schauspiel (produced Zurich,1948). 1949; as When the War Was Over, in Three Plays, 1967.

Graf Öderland: Ein Spiel in Zehn Bildern [Count Öderland: APlay in Ten Scenes] (produced Zurich, 1951). 1951; as Count Öderland, in Three Plays, 1962; revised edition, 1963; as A Public Prosecutor Is Sick of It All (produced Washington D.C., 1973).

Don Juan; oder, die Liebe zur Geometrie: Eine Komödie in fünf Akten (produced Zurich, 1953). 1953; as Don Juan; or, The Love of Geometry: A Comedy in Five Acts, in Three Plays, 1967.

Biedermann und die Brandstifter: Eine Lehrstück ohne Lehre, mit einem Nachspiel (produced Zurich, 1958). 1958; as The Fire Raisers (produced London, 1961), published as Biedermann and the Fire Raisers: A Morality without a Moral, 1962; as Biedermann and the Firebugs: A Learning Play without a Lesson, 1963.

Die grosse Wut des Philipp Hotz (produced Zurich, 1958).1958; as The Great Fury of Philipp Hotz (produced 1969), published as Philipp Hotz's Fury, in Esquire, October, 1962, in book form, in Three Plays, 1967.

Andorra: Stück in zwölf Bildern (produced Zurich, 1961).1962; translated as Andorra: A Play in Twelve Scenes (produced New York, 1963), in Three Plays, 1962.

Zurich-Transit: Skizze eines Films (television play). 1966.

Biografie: Ein Spiel (produced Zurich, 1968). 1967; revised edition, 1968; as Biography: A Game, 1969.

Rip van Winkle: Hörspiel (radio play). 1969.

Triptychon: Drei szenische Bilder. 1978; as Triptych: Three Scenic Panels, 1981.

Radio Plays:

Rip van Winkle, 1953; Herr Biedermann und die Brandstifter, 1953; Herr Quixote, 1955; Eine Lanze fur die Freiheit, 1955; Andorra, 1959.

Television Play:

Zurich-Transit, 1966.

Novels

Jürg Reinhart: Eine sommerliche Schicksalsfahrt. 1934; revised edition, as J'adore ce qui me brule; oder, Die Schwierigen: Roman, 1943, 2nd revised edition, as Die Schwierigen; oder, J'adore ce qui me brule, 1957.

Antwort aus der Stille: Eine Erzählung aus den Bergen [Answer out of the Silence: A Tale from the Mountains]. 1937.

Bin; oder, Die Reise nach Peking [Am; or, the Trip to Peking].1945.

Stiller. 1954; as I'm Not Stiller, 1958.

Homo Faber: Ein Bericht. 1957; as Homo Faber: A Report, 1959.

Meine Name sei Gantenbein. 1964; as A Wilderness of Mirrors, 1965.

Montauk: Eine Erzählung. 1975; translated as Montauk, 1976.

Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän: Eine Erzählung. 1979; asMan in the Holocene: A Story, 1980.

Blaubart: Eine Erzählung. 1982; as Bluebeard, 1984.

Other

Geschrieben im Grenzdienst 1939. 1940.

Blätter aus dem Brotsack [Pages from the Knapsack] (diary).1940.

Marion und die Marionetten: Ein Fragment. 1946.

Das Tagebuch mit Marion [Diary with Marion]. 1947; revised edition, as Tagebuch, 1946-1949, 1950; as Sketchbook, 1946-49, 1977.

Achtung, die Schweiz: Ein Gespräch über unsere Lage und ein Vorschlag zur Tat, with Lucius Burckhardt and Markus Kutter. 1956.

Die Neue Stadt: Beiträge zur Diskussion, with LuciusBurckhardt and Markus Kutter. 1956.

Ausgewählte Prosa, edited by Stanley Corngold. 1961.

Öffentlichkeit als Partner (essays). 1967.

Erinnerungen an Brecht. 1968.

Dramaturgisches: Ein Briefwechsel mit Walter Höllerer. 1969.

Der Mensch zwischen Selbstentfremdung und Selbstverwirklichung, with Rudolf Immig. 1970.

Glück: Eine Erzählung. 1971.

Wilhelm Tell für die Schule. 1971.

Tagebuch, 1966-71. 1972; as Sketchbook, 1966-71, 1974.

Dienstbuchlein. 1974.

Stich-Worte. 1975.

Zwei Reden zum Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels 1976. 1976.

Erzählende Prosa, 1939-1979. 1981.

Forderungen des Tages. 1983.

*

Film Adaptation:

Voyager, 1991, from the novel Homo Faber.

Bibliography:

A Bibliography of Four Contemporary German-Swiss Authors: Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch, Robert Walser, Albin Zollinger by Elly Wilbert-Collins, 1967; "Bibliographie zu Max Frisch" by Thomas Beckermann, in Text + Kritik (Germany), 47-48, 1975, pp. 88-98; "Max Frisch Bibliography" by Gerhard F. Probst, in his Perspectives on Max Frisch, 1982.

Critical Studies:

"Max Frisch: Moralist without a Moral" by Theodore Ziolkowski, in Yale French Studies, 29, 1962, pp. 132-41; Max Frisch by Ulrich Weisstein, 1967; Max Frisch by Carol Petersen, translated by Charlotte La Rue, 1972; The Novels of Max Frisch, 1976, and The Plays of Max Frisch, 1985, both by Michael Butler; The Dramatic Works of MaxFrisch by Gertrud Bauer Pickar, 1977; Max Frisch, His Work and Its Swiss Background by Malcolm Pender, 1979; " Montauk: The Invention of the Max Frisch" by Timothy Shipe, in Critique, 22(3), 1981, pp. 55-70; Perspectives on Max Frisch, edited by Gerhard F. Probst and Jay F. Bodine, 1982; "Max Frisch Revisited: Blaubart " by Alfred D. White, in Monatshefte fur Deutschen Unterricht, Deutsche Sprache und Literatur, 78(4), Winter 1986, pp. 456-67; Life As a Man: Contemporary Male-Female Relationships in the Novels of Max Frisch by Claus Reschke, 1990; Understanding Max Frisch by Wulf Köpke, 1991; "Max Frisch: The Courage of Failure" by Victor Brombert, in Raritan, 13(2), Fall 1993, pp. 9-32; Max Frisch, the Reluctant Modernist by Alfred D. White , 1995; "'Insanity in the Darkness': Anti-Semitic Stereotypes and Jewish Identity in Max Frisch's Andorra and Arthur Miller's Focus " by Ladislaus Lob, in Modern Language Review (England), 92(3), July 1997, pp. 545-58; "'Das Vorhandensein einer andern Welt': Max Frisch, the Second World War and Morality in German-Swiss Writing" by Malcolm Pender, in The Writers' Morality/Die Moral der Schriftsteller, edited by Ronald Speirs, 2000.

* * *

Max Frisch, the author of Andorra , Biedermann and the Firebugs (U.K. title, Biedermann and the Fire Raisers ) and Now They Sing Again , was born on 15 May 1911 in Zurich, Switzerland, and died there on 4 April 1991. As a German-Swiss dramatist and novelist, he is one of the most respected writers in German-speaking countries. Frisch's life was characterized by frequent travels; he finally settled in Berzona, a Swiss canton of Ticino.

Just as Frisch moved around the world, he explored many areas as he sought to establish himself professionally. He began studying literature and history at the University of Zurich in 1930 but left the university after the death of his father in 1933. Subsequently, he supported himself as a freelance journalist and architect and later returned to writing full time. In his literary productions he tried varied genres, including diaries, dramatized lyrical poetry, plays of social criticism, allegorical plays, prose investigating the dichotomous nature of the individual, literary and political essays, and parable plays castigating anti-Semitism. Like Frisch, his characters are wanderers. In the novel Homo Faber, Walter Faber, a 50-year-old UNESCO engineer, moves from New York to Venezuela, back to New York, then to Paris, Italy, Germany, Athens, and other regions of the world. These frequent moves seem to reflect structurally the search for self-identity, a theme that also appears in Frisch's novels Stiller and A Wilderness of Mirrors and in his stage play Andorra.

Frisch's plays are didactic, just like those written by Bertolt Brecht , with whom he is sometimes compared. Unlike Brecht, however, Frisch was more pessimistic in his belief that mankind is capable of learning from previous mistakes. The inability to change is the central theme in Biography: A Game , in which the protagonist, a famous middle-aged professor, is given a chance to modify his biography, but the alterations he makes are only minimal and he, and his fate, remain essentially the same. This "recurrence of the same" is also apparent in his allegorical play The Chinese Wall. Of the three dramatic unities—plot, time, and place—only that of the basic underlying idea stays the same, since the action spans more than 2,000 years in different countries and regions. The central figure, however, the weak modern intellectual, remains just as ineffective when it comes to controlling dictatorial governments, torture, war, and mass killings. Frisch uses the figure of the ineffectual intellectual in many of his plays: in Biedermann and the Firebugs the warning of the Ph.D. that the world is on the verge of being destroyed is drowned out by the sirens, and the professor in Now They Sing Again, as well as the teacher in Andorra, demonstrate the futility of humanistic thinking and humanistic values.

In his Questionnaire 1987 (translated by Rolf Kieser), Frisch's pessimism is starkly apparent. Since mankind has developed the technical means to realize the apocalypse, he asks, "Can you imagine that the human spirit we have trained is programmed for self-destruction of the species?" This leads him to the question, "What, except for wishful thinking, speaks against it?" Frisch does not answer this question, just as he does not offer a solution to the pressing existential problems of modern time, which include violence, prejudice, dictatorships, genocide, and anti-Semitism. When once criticized by students at the University of Zurich in this regard, Frisch, in "Café Odeon" (from his Sketchbook 1946-1949 ), referred to Henrik Ibsen, who once said that he was there to ask questions, not to answer them: "As a playwright I should consider I had done my duty if I succeeded in a play of mine in putting a question in such a way that from then on the members of the audience were unable to live without an answer. But it must be their answer, their own, which they can provide only in the framework of their own lives." In this sense Frisch can be compared to Sisyphus in Albert Camus's Myth of Sisyphus, who rolls the stone to the mountain top, being well aware that the stone does not stay put but keeps falling down. Frisch, just like Sisyphus, never gave up asking his contemporaries uncomfortable questions, and in this sense he was a true educator, albeit a pessimistic one since he believed that mankind did not learn much from past experiences, including the Holocaust.

—Gerd K. Schneider

See the essays on Andorra: A Play in Twelve Scenes, Now They Sing Again: Attempt of a Requiem, and Biedermann and the Firebugs: A Morality without a Moral.

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