The Return to Privacy?: Biography. A Game

  • Michael Butler


It is an extraordinary fact that after the huge success of Andorra and the lively controversy that work provoked, the public had to wait seven years before Frisch’s next venture into the theatre. This long gap has been frequently explained, however, by Frisch himself. For example, in such speeches as Der Autor und das Theater (1964) and the Schillerpreis-Rede (1965) he expressed his increasing sense of frustration with the theatre. In the Schillerpreis-Rede he spoke of his dissatisfaction with the parable play, in particular with his own The Fire Raisers and Andorra, which followed ‘eine Dramaturgie der Fügung, eine Dramaturgie der Peripetie’ (v, 366; ‘a dramaturgy of fate, a dramaturgy of peripeteia’). What worried Frisch in the middle 1960s — no doubt under the impact of the radical debate on the nature of literature developing at that time in West Germany — was an uneasiness about the predictable nature of the didactic parable itself in which ‘das Gespielte hat einen Hang zum Sinn, den das Gelebte nicht hat’ (v, 368; ‘what is played tends to develop a meaning which the lived experience does not have’). He was looking instead for a theatre which could more accurately reflect an experience of life in which Chance always seemed to play the greatest role, ‘eine Dramaturgie, die eben die Zufälligkeit akzentuiert … eine Dramatik der Permutation’ (v, 368f; ‘a dramaturgy which emphasises fortuitousness … a dramatic art of permutation’) — a theatre in other words which would emphasise openness, experiment and the possibility of change.


Communist Party Fire Raiser Private Dimension Biographical Data Radical Debate 
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  1. 1.
    For a discussion of the extent to which Biography reflects the theoretical position sketched in the Schillerpreis-Rede, see Ulrich Profitlich, ‘Beliebigkeit und Zwangsläufigkeit. Zum Verhältnis von Frischs Schillerpreis-Rede und Biografie’, Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie 95, 4 (1976) pp. 509–26.Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    Cf. Peter Ruppert, ‘Possibility and Form in Max Frisch’s Biography. A Game’, Modern Drama 18 (1975) p. 352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 20.
    For a discussion of Biography in the context of ‘political’ theatre, see Marianne Biedermann, Das politische Theater von Max Frisch (Lampertheim, 1974) pp. 128–44.Google Scholar

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© Michael Butler 1985

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  • Michael Butler

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