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Max Frisch
Born May 15, 1911
Zurich, Switzerland
Died April 4, 1991 (aged 79)
Zurich, Switzerland
Occupation Architect, novelist, playwright, philosopher
Language German
Nationality Swiss

Max Rudolf Frisch (May 15, 1911 – April 4, 1991) was a Swiss architect, playwright and novelist, regarded as highly representative of German literature after World War II. In his creative works Frisch paid particular attention to issues relating to problems of human identity, individuality, responsibility, morality and political commitment.[1] His use of irony is a significant feature of his post-war publications. Frisch was a member of the Gruppe Olten.



Max Rudolf Frisch was born in 1911 in Zurich; the son of Franz Bruno Frisch (an architect) and Karolina Bettina Frisch (née Wildermuth). After studying at the Realgymnasium in Zurich, he enrolled at the University of Zurich in 1930, but had to abandon his studies in German literature owing to financial problems caused by the death of his father in 1932. Instead, he started working as a journalist and columnist for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), one of the major newspapers in Switzerland. With the NZZ he would entertain a lifelong ambivalent love-hate relationship, for his own views were in stark contrast to the conservative views promulgated by this newspaper. In 1933 he travelled through eastern and south-eastern Europe, and in 1935 he visited Germany for the first time.

From 1936 to 1941 he studied architecture at the ETH Zurich. His first and still best-known project was in 1942, when he won the invitation of tenders for the construction of a public swimming bath right in the middle of Zurich (the Letzigraben).

In 1947, he met Bertolt Brecht in Zurich. In 1951, he was awarded a grant by the Rockefeller Trust and spent one year in the United States. After 1955 he worked exclusively as a freelance writer. His experience of postwar Europe is vividly described in his Tagebuch (Diary) for 1946-1949; it contains the first drafts of later fictional works.

During the 1950s and 1960s Frisch wrote several novels that explored problems of alienation and identity in modern societies. These are I'm Not Stiller (1954), Homo Faber (1957) and Wilderness of Mirrors/Gantenbein (1964). In addition, he wrote political dramas, such as Andorra and The Fire Raisers. He continued to publish extracts from his diaries. These included fragments from contemporary media reports, and paradoxical questionnaires, as well as personal reflections and reportage. He fell in love with a woman called Antonia Quick in 1969.

Max Frisch died of cancer on April 4, 1991 in Zurich. Together with Friedrich DĂĽrrenmatt, Max Frisch is considered one of the most influential Swiss writers of the 20th century. He was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Marburg, Germany, in 1962, Bard College (1980), the City University of New York (1982), the University of Birmingham (1984), and the TU Berlin (1987). He also won many important German literature prizes: the Georg-BĂĽchner-Preis in 1958, the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels) in 1976, and the Heinrich-Heine-Preis in 1989. In 1965 he won the Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society.

Some of the major themes in his work are the search or loss of an individual's identity; guilt and innocence (the spiritual crisis of the modern world after Nietzsche proclaimed that "God is dead"); technological omnipotence (the human belief that everything was possible and technology allowed humans to control everything) versus fate (especially in Homo Faber); and also Switzerland's idealized self-image as a tolerant democracy based on consensus — criticizing that as illusion and portraying people (and especially the Swiss) as being scared by their own liberty and being preoccupied mainly with controlling every part of their life.

Many of his works make reference to (or, as in Jonas und sein Veteran, are centered around) political issues of the time.

List of works


  • Stiller (1954, I'm Not Stiller)
  • Homo Faber (1957)
  • Mein Name sei Gantenbein (1964, A Wilderness of Mirrors 1982, Gantenbein)
  • DienstbĂĽchlein (1974)
  • Montauk (1975)
  • Tryptichon. Drei szenische Bilder (1978)
  • Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän (1979, Man in the Holocene )
  • Blaubart (1982, Bluebeard )
  • Wilhelm Tell fĂĽr die Schule (Novella, 1971, Wilhelm Tell: a School Text, published in fiction 1978)


  • Blätter aus dem Brotsack (1939)
  • Tagebuch 1946-1949 (1950)
  • Tagebuch 1966-1971 (1972)

Dramatic works

  • Nun singen sie wieder (1945)
  • Santa Cruz (1947)
  • Die Chinesische Mauer (1947, The Chinese Wall)
  • Als der Krieg zu Ende war (1949, When the War Was Over)
  • Graf Ă–derland (1951)
  • The Fire Raisers (1953/1958)
  • Don Juan oder Die Liebe zur Geometrie (1953)
  • Andorra (1961)
  • Biografie (1967)
  • Jonas und sein Veteran (1989)

Further reading

  • Butler, Michael (1976) The Novels of Max Frisch (London)
  • Butler, Michael (1985) The Plays of Max Frisch (London)
  • Butler, Michael (1994) Andorra, Grant and Cutler Study Guide, 2nd edition, London
  • Kieser, Rolf, ed. (1989) Max Frisch: Novels, Plays, Essays, The German Library Series, Continuum, New York


  1. ^ Frisch, Max (1911-1991).(Narrative biography). (1998). In Encyclopedia of World Biography. Thomson Gale. Retrieved April 18, 2007

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Max Frisch (15 May 1911 – 4 April 1991) was a Swiss architect, playwright and novelist, who is regarded as one of the most influential Swiss writers of the 20th century.



I'm not Stiller (1955)

  • Nothing is harder than to accept oneself.
  • The renunciation of recognition will never become possible without a certitude that our life is directed by a suprahuman authority.
  • The horror of uncreative solitude.....
  • How much self-knowledge is limited to presenting other people with a more precise and exact description of our weaknesses.
  • You merely had an affair with me, to be exact, and therefore no right to prevent me from another affair.'
  • Cause and effect are never divided between two people
  • You can't make the incomprehensible comprehensible without losing it completely.
  • It is a sign of non love that is to say a sin, to form a finished image of ones neighbors.
  • My reality doesn't lie in the part I play, but in the unconscious decision as to what kind of part I assign to myself.

Gantenbein (1964)

  • Carrying on with the conversation like a woman when the bill comes...
  • They wanted what is possible only once: the now.
  • Not to know one another to a degree that went beyond all possibility of knowing one another was beautiful.
  • I know that I'm the happiest of lovers...
    • Gantenbein faking to his lover he is blind
  • It is the secret that a man and a woman keep from each other that makes them a couple
  • He knows that every piece of selfknowledge which one cannot keep to oneself makes one smaller and smaller, he knows that he who cannot keep silent his wishes to be recognized in the greatness of his selfknowledge which is no selfknowledge if it cannot be kept silent, and one becomes hypersensitive one feels betrayed because one wants to be recognized by people, one becomes ridiculous ambitious in inverse ratio to ones selfknowledge

Sketchbook 1946-1949

  • The monstruos paradox that people come closer to one another without words
  • We nest in an accident whose precarious valance, when we happen to become conscious of it, oppresses yet at the same time inspires us
  • To a certain degree we are really the person others have seen in us
  • Time does not change us it just unfolds us
  • Even silence becomes whether we want it or not a statement that is in fact astoundingly presumptuous
  • How can we ever judge a human being when he is and he will always be another person
  • Uniforms ruin every character
  • 'Everything that is human looks like a special case'
  • Overcoming prejudice: the only possible way through love, which creates no graven images.
  • The sort of misery that brings no moral reward, misery that is of no value to the mind and soul, that is the true misery, it is hopeless, bestial and nothing else.
  • To write is to read one's own self
  • One uses one's pen like the needle of a sismograph
  • A poem, a genuine one, does not need to fear the world; it stands up to it, even when a bell rings and an unexpected guest arrives to tell us, while the same coffee is still in our cups, of his fourteen years in captivity...
  • What we call unfaithfuless: our attempt for once to get out from behind our own face, our desperate hope of eluding the definitive.
  • Does not everyone who describes something he has experienced believe basically that whatever happens to him has some sort of relevance.
  • Half a lifetime is spent with the unspoken question: Will it happen will it not?
  • Finished things cease to be a shelter for the spirit; but work in progress is a delight
  • A person who does not concern himself with politics has already made the political choice we was so anxious to spare himself: he is serving the ruling party
  • (Present) it is a culture that strictly ignores present obligations and places itself entirely at the service of eternity
  • Why there are so many great actresses, so few great woman writers? The erotic urge that lies at the bottom of all art has a feminine and a masculine character. Feminine is the urge to be; masculine the urge to do. Interpretative art always has more of the feminine about it
  • People with the same education as my own, speaking the same words that I do, loving the same books, the same music, the same paintings, are by no means immune from the danger of turning into monsters and doing things we would not have thought possible among the people of our own day, apart from a few pathological exceptions. If they are not immune, Why should I be so confident of my own immunity?
  • One can be resolved to promote good, or one can be resolved to be a good person- Two separate things that are mutually exclusive
  • Your virtuous living is your enemy's best and cheapest weapon
  • What makes Shakespeare so overwhelming is the way in which the situation (who is confronting whom) is usually itself part of the composition, meaningful already as a situation
  • Theatrical effectiveness, I believe, lies in it's rarity its uniqueness
  • Plots- it seems there are thousands of them, all one's acquaintances known some, strangers make a present of them in letters, each the basis for a play or a novel...
  • That a plot has no real life of it's own; it exists only in it's precipitates. It cannot be distilled but only crystallized- in which form it is then immutable, whether successful or unsuccesful: once and for all
  • Where the works gives scope for individuality, one sees a blossoming of self respect

Sketchbook 1966-1977

  • How much frankness can we stand in a friend?
  • The older you get the simpler you want to make it.
  • I feel fairly certain that my hatred harms me more than the people whom I hate.
  • What hope have you know given up ?
  • Are you friend with yourself ?
  • Do you know what you need?
  • ...for no rational reason.

Montauk (1975)

  • A society needs famous people; the question is whom it chooses for that role. Any criticism of its choice is by implication a criticism of that society.
  • Our guilt has its uses. It justifies much in the lives of others.
  • Life is boring. I have experiences now only when I am writing.
  • There are moments when her voice is all he needs.
  • If on some occasion I happen to read something in it — because, for instance, I neet to know a date — I am always disconcerted to find that two or five years ago I came to exactly the same conclusion, only to forget it because I had not succeded in living up to it; in fact, I had tenaciously been doing the very opposite.
  • You can lose a woman when you have won her.
  • The selfknowledge that gradually or abruptly alienates a person from his previous life.


  • Man hat Arbeitskräfte gerufen, und es kamen Menschen.
    • (Translation: We were calling for manpower and people are coming).


A crisis is a productive state. You simply have to get rid of its aftertaste of catastrophe.

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