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Max Frisch
(1911 - 1991)

- an introduction -



The author and his work

Max Frisch is one of the most intriguing figures of 20th Century German Literture.

Being of Swiss origin, the neutrality of his nation made him more or less an outside
spectator who was not directly involved in Europe's atrocities and struggles during
his life-time. Together with Friedrich Dürrenmatt, the Swiss author of "The Physi-
cists" and "Visit of the old Lady", he was the only author of his generation to repre-
sent the German-speaking theatre scene. Only they and the Zürcher Schauspiel-
, the Zurich theatre had a literary tradition that was not spoiled by National-

Yet he conciously followed the troubling events that shook our century and his books
reflect the problems man has stumbled over on his way ahead (and back...).
Recurring themes in his works are identity, guilt and innocence, self-image and the
problems that come up when we form images of others and see them only through
this narrow channel.

Another issue of Frisch that is one of the leitmotifs of his literary as well as his poli-
tical writings is his Swiss home. Switzerland's self-image as a respected consensus
democracy, a cradle of human-rights and tolerance is thoroughly questioned and
revised in Frisch's works. The small alpine country is itself a minature stage where
problems, struggles, ideologies and pretensions become evident in a focused
representation of the modern world.

Yet his position lacks the annoyingly permanent ideological raised finger that is 
characteristic for other authors such as Bertolt Brecht who has inspired Frisch in
the use of his form and style of the so called epic theatre.

Frisch is more of a moralist who lets his readers explore the depths of the human
and sets the path for him to draw his own conclusions while enjoying a good
book or an evening at the theatre
. It is self-recognition not promoting an ideology that
Frisch is aiming at. In his plays he does not present the reader or the viewer
with a
of the world that pretends to be objective - Frisch believes that reality evolves
in the mind and imagination of every individual. All that the playwright can thus hope
for is to substitute this story that we deem reality.
It is only in this sense, as a "change of ideas" that real change is possible.

Curriculum Vitae and Publications

Max Frisch is born in Zurich/Switzerland  on May 15; his father is an architect 

1923 -

attends the Zurich Realgymnasium (lycée)
1931 -

German Studies at the University of Zurich, breaks up his studies and works as a free-lance journalist, travels through Southeast Europe and reports from the Ice Hockey World Championship at Prague

"Jürg Reinhart. Eine sommerliche Schicksalsfahrt" is the first book of Frisch that is published


First trip to Germany. Is confronted with national-socialist racist ideology
1936 -

studies Architecture at the ETH (Eidgenössisch Technische Hochschule = Confederate Technical University) in Zurich; graduates and receives a diploma, his studies are financed by a friend's loan
His novel "Antwort aus der Stille" is published

receives "Conrad Ferdinand Meyer" award
1939 -
serves in the Swiss army in an artillery battalion - a total of 650 days of service
1940 writes "Blätter aus dem Brotsack"

marries Gertrud Constanze von Meyenburg, opens his own architect's office in Zurich, and is awarded the 1st price for his version of the municipial bath

1943 his daughter Ursula is born
1944 "J'adore ce qui me brûle oder Die Schwierigen" , birth of son Hans Peter, Frisch begins writing plays
1945 "Nun singen sie wieder" his first play to be performed at the Zürcher Schauspielhaus. "Bin oder Die Reise nach Peking"
1946 travels to Germany and other countries "Santa Cruz" and "Die chinesische Mauer" premier at Zurich
1947 visits Germany again, gets to know Bertolt Brecht, Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Peter Suhrkamp who becomes his publisher. "Tagebuch mit Marion"
1949 "Als der Krieg zu Ende war" is performed in Zurich. Birth of his daughter Charlotte
1950 "Tagebuch 1946 - 1949" is published in the newly founded Suhrkamp Verlag - it contains many outlines for later works
1951 "Graf Öderland" permiers. Frisch visits the USA
1953 "Don Juan oder Die Liebe zur Geometrie" ppremiers in Zurich and Berlin. A radio version of "Herr Biedermann und die Brandstifter" (The Firebugs) is broadcasted on Public Bavarian Radio
1954 "Stiller" Frisch withdraws from his family and wife. He sells his architect' office and from now on concentrates on writing - his success has made him financially independent
1957 "Homo Faber" Trips to Greece and the Arabian Peninsula
1958 "Biedermann und die Brandstifter" is first performed in its theatre version in Zurich. Firsch is awarded the Georg-Büchner-Preis, the most prestigious award for German literature. Holds the opening speech of the Frankfurt Book Fair. He acquaints the German writer Ingeborg Bachmann.
1959 divorces Constanze Frisch -von Meyenburg
1960 -
moves to Rome, Italy where he lives toghether with Ingeborg Bachmann
"Andorra" permiers in Zurich and becomes an imminent success in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Israel
1962 He acquaints 23year-old Marianne Oellers with whom he lives together the next several years
1964 "Mein Name sei Gantenbein"
1965 Frisch moves back to Switzerland, his residence is now Berzona, Ticino, in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland
1966 first trip to the USSR, his mother dies
1968 second visit of the Soviet Union. Marries Marianne Oellers. His play "Biographie. Ein Spiel" premiers
1969 travels to Japan
1971 spends several months in the U.S., "Wilhelm Tell für die Schule"
1972 "Tagebuch 1966 -1972"
1974 "Dienstbüchlein" stays in the U.S. for some time, has an affair with 31year-old Alice Locke-Carey there
1975 "Montauk" - a novel, is published
1976 He is awarded the prestigious Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels at the Frankfurt Book Fair
1978 Triptychon. Drei szenische Bilder"
1979 the novel "Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän" is published. Divorces Marianne Oellers
1980 Residences in New York, USA and Berzona, Switzerland
1982 "Blaubart. Eine Erzählung"
1983 "Forderungen des Tages. Portraits, Skizzen, Reden 1943-1982"
1984 moves his main residence to Zurich
1987 visits Moscow, USSR
1989 "Schweiz ohne Armee? Ein Palaver" - Frisch discusses the need for a Swiss army
1990 "Schweiz als Heimat? Versuche über 50 Jahre" - Frisch discusses his conroversial relationship with his Swiss homeland
1991 Max Frisch dies April 4th in his appartment in Zurich

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Max Frisch - An Introduction
provided by Benedikt Wahler
URL: http://werthers-welt.benwahler.net/frischebio.htm
Last revision: 11/21/1999
© copyright 1997 - 2007by Benedikt Wahler