The Crisis of Humanism: Now They Are Singing Again

  • Michael Butler


Despite the private, apolitical nature of the early work which culminated in Santa Cruz, Frisch was obviously not oblivious to what was happening beyond his country’s borders. Indeed, it appears to have been his compulsory participation in the annual army manoeuvres which led to the general mobilisation of the Swiss Army on 1 September 1939 that brought Frisch back to writing at all.1 The journal recording his experiences, Blätter aus dem Brotsack (1939), was composed in moments of spare time from his military duties which in themselves were neither dangerous nor particularly arduous. Yet whilst this book lacks the critical edge of the much later reminiscences of this period, Dienstbüchlein (1973), which provoked an ill-tempered political controversy within Switzerland, it nevertheless served as a reminder of the country’s precarious position, sandwiched between the Fascist Powers of Germany and Italy. In contrast to the emphasis of his other early work Frisch declares quite unequivocally in Blätter aus dem Brotsack: ‘Es gibt doch keinen Urlaub von der Zeit!’ (I, 116; ‘There can be no leave of absence from [our] Time!’).


Moral Courage Critical Edge Wireless Operator Military Duty Final Scene 
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  1. 16.
    Almost forty years after Ernst Bieri, Alexander Stephan makes the same elementary mistake of confusing Herbert’s viewpoint with Frisch’s. Not surprisingly therefore he completely misses the moral impetus of the play and accuses its hapless author of coming close to being a fellow-traveller of the Nazis. See his article on Max Frisch in: Heinz Ludwig Arnold (ed.), Kritisches Lexikon der deutschen Gegenwartsliteratur (Munich, 1982) p. 9.Google Scholar

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© Michael Butler 1985

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  • Michael Butler

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