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A Companion to the Works of Max Frisch

A Companion to the Works of Max Frisch

Edited by Olaf Berwald
Volume: 137
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    A Companion to the Works of Max Frisch
    Book Description:

    One of the most influential German-language writers of the late twentieth century, Max Frisch (1911-1991) not only has canonical status in Europe, but has also been well received in the English-speaking world. English translations of his works are available in multiple recent editions. Frisch was a recipient of both the Büchner Award (1958), and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (1976); his body of work explores questions of identity, alienation, and ethics in modern society. He is best known for the plays 'Andorra' (1961), a seminal drama that examines indifference and mass psychology in the context of the Shoah and continues to be produced by theaters around the world, and 'Biedermann und die Brandstifter' (1958), another worldwide success and one of the most frequently used texts in advanced undergraduate German courses in the US, as well as for his novels 'Stiller' (1954), 'Homo Faber' (1957), and 'Mein Name sei Gantenbein' (1964). Yet Frisch has only recently begun to receive the sustained scholarly attention he deserves: neither a comprehensive introductory volume to nor a collaborative handbook on the works of Frisch is available in English, a situation that this volume redresses. Contributors: Régine Battiston, Olaf Berwald, Amanda Charitina Boyd, Daniel de Vin, Céline Letawe, Walter Obschlager, John D. Pizer, Beate Sandberg, Caroline Schaumann, Frank Schaumann, Walter Schmitz, Margit Unser, Klaus van den Berg, Ruth Vogel-Klein, Paul A. Youngman. Olaf Berwald is Associate Professor of German and Chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures at the University of North Dakota.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-872-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    O. B.
  4. Note on the Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: Max Frisch in the Twenty-First Century
    (pp. 1-9)
    Olaf Berwald

    Why should we read Max Frisch (1911–91) in the twenty-first century? Because his works relentlessly examine an acutely crippling human condition, our addiction to turning ourselves and others into passive recipients of fixed images and projections. But beyond the undiminished relevance of this main thematic thread that runs through all of Frisch’s works, his sparse and precise prose style generates a rare level of aesthetic and intellectual pleasure that reintroduces his readers to the intense joy of thinking through what it could mean to be human. The introspective playfulness of this classic writer of late modernism seduces readers to...

  6. 1: Max Frisch’s Early Plays
    (pp. 10-22)
    Walter Schmitz

    Max Frisch’s path toward authorship did not evolve in a direct and uninterrupted manner. Two traumatic experiences resulted in ruptures and turning points in the early phase of Frisch’s development as an author. In 1936, Frisch committed an auto-da-fé, solemnly burning everything he had hitherto written. With this act he intended to reject the writer’s profession and turn toward a bourgeois career that provided an income that would enable him to start a family. In his twenty-fifth year, Frisch, a student of German philology, a journalist and writer, realized that life can become a failure, and he decided to build...

  7. 2: Spielraum in Max Frisch’s Graf Öderland and Don Juan: Transparency as Mode of Performance
    (pp. 23-38)
    Klaus van den Berg

    Frisch conceived his plays Graf Öderland (Count Oderland, first version 1951, later versions 1956 and 1961) and Don Juan oder Die Liebe zur Geometrie (Don Juan or The Love of Geometry, 1953, later version 1962) during a fascinating period of transformation in international theater in the 1950s. One component of this transformation was the presence of Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialism, which painfully examines the roots of the human condition in the twentieth century, on the German stage. Another component was the showcase of the Berliner Ensemble, which staged Brecht’s political vision of an alterable world, a showcase that transformed Brecht,...

  8. 3: Max Frisch’s Biedermann und die Brandstifter and Die große Wut des Philipp Hotz
    (pp. 39-57)
    Amanda Charitina Boyd

    Biedermann und die brandstifter (1958; translated under various titles: The Fire Raisers, The Firebugs, and The Arsonists) has attained international renown and is considered Max Frisch’s most famous play. Yet many are aware neither of its complex evolution through various literary genres, nor of its relationship with Die große Wut des Philipp Hotz (The Great Rage of Philipp Hotz, 1958), its sister drama originally written to accompany Biedermann, but now only rarely performed.¹ This chapter seeks to provide an overview of the literary life of both plays by introducing their primary themes, possible scholarly interpretations, and, when possible, the authorial...

  9. 4: Max Frisch’s Andorra: Balancing Act between Pattern and Particular
    (pp. 58-71)
    Caroline Schaumann and Frank Schaumann

    The theme of Andorra: Ein Stück in zwölf Bildern (Andorra: A Play in Twelve Scenes, 1961), both as a geographical topos and as an allegory of isolation and narrowness, absorbed Max Frisch since the early stages of his career. In Frisch’s Tagebuch 1946–1949, one finds a first reference to the small state: “Andorra ist ein kleines Land, sogar ein sehr kleines Land, und schon darum ist das Volk, das darin lebt, ein sonderbares Volk, ebenso mißtrauisch wie ehrgeizig, mißtrauisch gegen alles, was aus den eigenen Tälern kommt” (Andorra is a small country, very small indeed, and just for this...

  10. 5: Eternal Recurrence in Life and Death in Max Frisch’s Late Plays
    (pp. 72-90)
    John D. Pizer

    This essay will examine Frisch’s two last plays, Biografie: Ein Spiel (Biography: A Game, 1967) and Triptychon: Drei szenische Bilder (Triptych: Three Scenic Panels, 1978).¹ Biografie was first performed on February 1, 1968 at the Schauspielhaus Zürich under the direction of Leopold Lindtberg. Triptychon was initially staged in French at the Centre dramatique de Lausanne on October 10, 1979 and was directed by Michel Soutter. Its German premiere took place on February 1, 1981 at the Akademietheater Vienna. The director on this occasion was Erwin Axer.² While these two dramatic works have been extensively analyzed by Frisch scholars, the common...

  11. 6: Max Frisch’s Early Fiction
    (pp. 91-104)
    Margit Unser

    Max Frisch was sixteen when he sent his first play, Stahl (Steel), to Max Reinhardt at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, but when the rejection slip came back from Berlin, the play was consigned to flames. So it was not in 1937, but as early as 1927 that he first voluntarily destroyed some of his own writings. The play had been typed on a rented typewriter, for which Frisch had to use his pocket money. That is perhaps why he was writing in a hurry. However, the rejection from Berlin did not give rise to any sense of resignation or...

  12. 7: From Life to Literature: Max Frisch’s Tagebücher
    (pp. 105-124)
    Céline Letawe

    Max Frisch’s Tagebücher mainly consist of Tagebuch 1946–1949 (1950) and Tagebuch 1966–1971 (1972). The first volume received close attention only after the second was published and rapidly became a bestseller in 1972, with extremely positive reviews by Rudolf Hartung¹ and Marcel Reich-Ranicki² in Die Zeit and by Hans Mayer in Der Spiegel.³ Thus, it is not surprising that the first volume to be translated into English, in 1974, was the Tagebuch 1966–1971 (under the English title Sketchbook 1966–1971), followed a few years later, in 1977, by the Tagebuch 1946–1949 (Sketchbook 1946–1949), more than twenty-five...

  13. 8: “Writing in order to be a stranger to oneself”: Max Frisch’s Stiller
    (pp. 125-139)
    Beatrice Sandberg

    Frisch’s novel Stiller (1954) begins with an exclamation: “Ich bin nicht Stiller!” (I’m not Stiller!)¹ The novel’s protagonist, Anatol Stiller, a Swiss sculptor who has taken on a new identity and moved to the United States and then to Mexico, returns to his home country and is arrested upon his arrival after an altercation with a Swiss border guard who questions the validity of his identification papers. The novel consists of two parts, a journal that Stiller writes in a series of notebooks while in pre-trial confinement, and an account in which the district attorney, who had become a friend...

  14. 9: Cybernetic Flow, Analogy, and Probability in Max Frisch’s Homo Faber
    (pp. 140-155)
    Paul A. Youngman

    The American author Kurt Vonnegut proclaimed, “novels that leave out technology misrepresent life as badly as Victorians misrepresented life by leaving out sex.”¹ If Vonnegut was correct, then Max Frisch’s 1957 novel Homo Faber is a remarkably accurate representation of life. Although there is a tendency in some of the secondary literature, as noted by Ferdinand van Ingen in his article on technology and mythology in Homo Faber,² to view the protagonist Walter Faber’s occupation and his obsession with all things technological as more or less coincidental, and although Frisch himself gave conflicting answers regarding Faber as a “Techniker,” I...

  15. 10: The Ends of Blindness in Max Frisch’s Mein Name sei Gantenbein
    (pp. 156-171)
    Olaf Berwald

    In an interview published in Die Zeit in 2010, Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, one of the most influential artists in the German-speaking world over the last fifty years, insists on the unreliability and fluid status of personal identity:

    Ich halte es nicht für einen allzu gesicherten, fest umrissenen Zustand, der zu sein, der ich bin. Ich denke, Identität besteht aus allen möglichen ungeklärten Teilen. Und was ist eigentlich dieses “Ich”? Ich versuche, das fliessend zu halten, weil ich Angst vor festen Grenzen habe. Andererseits merke ich schon, dass es so etwas wie “mich” gibt. Oder Dinge, die sich einfach immer...

  16. 11: Max Frisch’s Montauk. Eine Erzählung
    (pp. 172-196)
    Ruth Vogel-Klein

    In Frisch’s narrative Montauk (1975), various memories and episodes from the narrator’s life are alternately presented from a first-person and a third-person point of view. Throughout the text, the writing process of this specific book, and of literature in general, are negotiated in a self-referential discourse. The time frames change frequently. Fragmentary and constantly shifting memories that reach back into childhood are interwoven with a present-day plot set in the United States. This plot shows the sixty-two-year-old narrator “Max” in 1974 with Lynn, a young American woman whom he met at his New York publisher’s office and with whom he...

  17. 12: Man, Culture, and Nature in Max Frisch’s Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän
    (pp. 197-210)
    Walter Obschlager

    In Max Frisch’s early work, nature is often presented in a sentimental and Romantic manner. In his Tagebuch 1946–1949, for example, Frisch describes the golden autumn landscapes, and a morning break at a lake with “versponnener Sonne” (a hazy sun) and “verblauenden Ufern” (the banks turning bluish).¹ From his early works on, Frisch used images of water to symbolize a longing for vastness and distance, for movement, transformation, and therefore aliveness. Already young Jürg Reinhart, the protagonist in the eponymous novel published in 1934, is fascinated with the ocean. At the beginning of the novel, Frisch writes:

    Und wenn...

  18. 13: “My life as a man. Everyman”: Max Frisch’s Blaubart. Erzählung
    (pp. 211-219)
    Daniel de Vin

    In a notebook entry from 1982 posthumously published in Entwürfe zu einem dritten Tagebuch (Drafts for a Third Sketchbook, 2010), Max Frisch comments on the recent publication of his story or short novella Blaubart (Bluebeard): “Was habe ich geschrieben? Eine Fratze.” (What have I written? A grimace.)¹

    According to the notes in the critical edition of Frisch’s collected works, Blaubart was written in Zurich between October and December 1981. In February and March 1982 it appeared serially in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung before being published as a book in March 1982. The Frankfurter Allgemeine announced the work to its readers...

  19. 14: Max Frisch’s Essays and Speeches
    (pp. 220-228)
    Régine Battiston

    Literary scholars and critics have not discussed Max Frisch’s essays and speeches in a comprehensive manner yet, even though they constitute a considerable part of his prose texts and develop thematic threads found throughout the fabric of his work. The recipient of numerous literary prizes, Frisch used the genre of award acceptance speeches to reflect on creative tensions between aesthetic curiosity and ethical responsibility. His essays and speeches can be read as one continuous text throughout which Frisch juxtaposes the conflicting but mutually enriching voices of the writer as an artist whose projects are playfully open-ended and a concerned global...

  20. Frisch’s Major Works
    (pp. 229-230)
  21. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 231-232)
  22. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 233-236)
  23. Index
    (pp. 237-240)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 241-241)