Authors: Max Frisch

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Swiss novelist and playwright

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Jürg Reinhart, 1934

J’adore ce qui me brûle: Oder, Die Schwierigen, 1943

Stiller, 1954 (I’m Not Stiller, 1958)

Homo Faber, 1957 (Homo Faber: A Report, 1959)

Mein Name sei Gantenbein, 1964 (A Wilderness of Mirrors, 1965)

Montauk, 1975 (English translation, 1976)

Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän, 1979 (Man in the Holocene, 1980)

Blaubart, 1982 (Bluebeard, 1983)

Short Fiction:

Bin: Oder, Die Reise nach Peking, 1945

Wilhelm Tell für die Schule, 1971

Drama:

Nun singen sie wieder: Versuch eines Requiems, pr. 1945 (Now They Sing Again, 1972)

Santa Cruz, pr. 1946

Die chinesische Mauer, pr. 1946, 2d version pr., pb. 1955, 3d version pr. 1965, 4th version pr. 1972 (The Chinese Wall, 1961)

Als der Krieg zu Ende war, pr., pb. 1949 (When the War Was Over, 1967)

Graf Öderland, pr., pb. 1951, 2d version pr. 1956, 3d version pr. 1961 (Count Oederland, 1962)

Don Juan: Oder, Die Liebe zur Geometrie, pr., pb. 1953 (Don Juan: Or, The Love of Geometry, 1967)

Biedermann und die Brandstifter, pr. 1953 (radio play), pr. 1958 (staged; The Firebugs, 1959; also known as The Fire Raisers, 1962)

Die grosse Wut des Philipp Hotz, pr., pb. 1958 (The Great Fury of Philip Hotz, 1962)

Andorra, pr., pb. 1961 (English translation, 1963)

Three Plays, pb. 1962

Biografie, pb. 1967 (Biography, 1969)

Three Plays, pb. 1967

Four Plays, pb. 1969

Triptychon: Drei szenische Bilder, pb. 1978 (Triptych, 1981)

Three Plays, pb. 1992

Nonfiction:

Tagebuch, 1946-1949, 1950 (Sketchbook, 1946-1949, 1977)

Tagebuch, 1966-1971, 1972 (Sketchbook, 1966-1971, 1974)

Dienstbüchlein, 1974

Der Briefwechsel: Max Frisch, Uwe Johnson, 1964-1983, 1999

Die Briefwechsel mit Carl Jacob Burckhardt und Max Frisch, 2000

Miscellaneous:

Gesammelte Werke in zeitlicher Folge, 1976 (6 volumes)

Novels, Plays, Essays, 1989

Biography

Max Rudolf Frisch was arguably the most important Swiss writer of the twentieth century, considering his popular and critical successes in the areas of prose fiction and drama. He was born in Zurich to Franz Bruno Frisch, an architect, and Karolina Wildermuth. There he completed his schooling, studied German literature at the University of Zurich, and later completed a degree in architecture. During the 1930’s, Frisch traveled to Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Turkey, and Greece as a freelance journalist, until he was called into military service. During this time, he wrote prose sketches and fiction and made his first attempts at drama. At the conclusion of World War II, he traveled throughout Europe and was able to see the destruction and desolation at first hand; these experiences gave him greater insight into the social and political conflicts confronting the individual and society in the atomic age.{$I[AN]9810001079}{$I[A]Frisch, Max}{$I[geo]SWITZERLAND;Frisch, Max}{$I[geo]GERMANY;Frisch, Max}{$I[tim]1911;Frisch, Max}

Frisch continued as a practicing architect until 1954, when he turned his entire energies to his literary career. He had already been awarded a Rockefeller grant to study drama, and his first successful novel, I’m Not Stiller, had received instant popular and critical acclaim. He traveled extensively throughout the world and received numerous prizes and awards, including honorary membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Frisch’s diaries, or sketchbooks, are in many ways representative of his approach to literature. Published in 1950 and 1972, they concentrate on two crucial periods in the twentieth century: the immediate postwar years and the revolutionary times at the end of the 1960’s. Though most readers interpret these journals to be personal in nature, they are, in fact, carefully crafted works of fiction and social criticism, intended to confront the reader with issues of the day.

Although Frisch wrote both prose fiction and dramas beginning in the mid-1940’s, his most successful dramas stem from roughly a fifteen-year period beginning about 1950, while his novels were consistently well received over the years. His two most successful plays, The Firebugs and Andorra, directly allude to events during the Nazi era yet are exemplary for contemporary society as well. Frisch’s novels are more personal, depicting an individual (often strikingly similar to Frisch himself) as representative of the modern age. His three works appearing from the mid-1950’s through the mid-1960’s try to define humankind’s role in an increasingly hostile social environment.

Beginning in 1975, a noticeable undertone of resignation, at times pessimism, dominated Frisch’s works. As Frisch aged, his literary concerns mirrored this change. For nearly four decades, Frisch was compared and contrasted with his Swiss counterpart, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, as if they were literary competitors. To be sure, their artistic careers developed almost simultaneously. Both were successful on the stage as well as in prose fiction, and both were outspoken critics of modern life (as well as of each other’s works). Yet such comparisons are ultimately futile. Frisch’s plays will be performed again and again, and his novels and diaries will continue to arouse interest–and not simply because they are well crafted. Frisch poses difficult, often painful questions for himself and his audience–questions that are at the very heart of a meaningful existence in contemporary society. Frisch died of cancer in 1991 shortly before his eightieth birthday.

BibliographyButler, Michael. The Novels of Max Frisch. London: O. Wolff, 1976. Provides a readable account (through Montauk) of Frisch’s novels.Butler, Michael. The Plays of Max Frisch. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985. Provides criticism and interpretations of Frisch’s works up to the mid-1980’s. Index and bibliography.Demetz, Peter. “Max Frisch: The Last Romantic.” After the Fires: Recent Writing in the Germanies, Austria, and Switzerland. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986. Demetz provides a separate chapter on Frisch within the context of contemporary German-language literature. His broad overview dictates a focus on essentials and high points; an excellent introduction and orientation to major aspects of Frisch’s career and life.Ivask, Ivar, ed. World Literature Today 60 (Autumn, 1986). A special issue dedicated to Frisch on the occasion of his receipt of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Includes short texts by Frisch, an introduction by the editor, a chronology, a selected bibliography, and commissioned articles in English by Swiss, American, British, and Canadian scholars on various aspects of his work, as well as several photographs and illustrations.Köpke, Wulf. Understanding Max Frisch. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991. Explores the themes and dramatic approaches of Frisch. Bibliography and indexLob, Ladislaus. “‘Insanity in the Darkness’: Anti-Semitic Stereotypes and Jewish Identity in Max Frisch’s Andorra and Arthur Miller’s Focus.” Modern Language Review 92 (July, 1997): 545-558. Compares the depiction of the plight of Jews in a hostile environment in both playwrights’ works.Pickar, Gertrud Bauer. The Dramatic Works of Max Frisch. New York: Peter Lang, 1977. Explores themes and approaches of Frisch’s plays. Bibliography.Probst, Gerhard F., and Jay F. Bodine, eds. Perspectives on Max Frisch. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1982. Offers criticism and interpretations of Frisch’s life and works. Bibliography.Reschke, Claus. Life as a Man: Contemporary Male-Female Relationships in the Novels of Max Frisch. New York: Peter Lang, 1990. Examines the psychology of gender roles in Frisch’s works.Thornton, Peter C. “Man the Maker: Max Frisch’s Homo Faber and the Daedalus Myth.” Germanic Review 70, no. 4 (1995). A specialized journal article.Weisstein, Ulrich. Max Frisch. New York: Twayne, 1967. Provides biographical discussion of Frisch and interpretations of his works.White, Alfred D. Max Frisch, the Reluctant Modernist. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellon Press, 1995. Offers a biography and criticism of Frisch’s life and works.World Literature Today 60 (Autumn, 1986). A valuable special issue devoted to Frisch, occasioned by his winning the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Includes a chronology and a selected bibliography.Yang, Peter. Play Is Play: Theatrical Illusion in “The Chinese Wall” by Frisch and Other “Epic” Plays by Brecht, Wilder, Hazelton, and Li. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2000. Discusses dramatic techniques of Frisch and his contemporaries. Bibliography and index.
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