‘Man soll vor allem gegen sein Vaterland misstrauisch sein. Es wird niemand leichter ein Mörder als ein Vaterland.’

'Above all, be suspicious of your fatherland. Nobody is more inclined to become a murderer than a fatherland.' 

- Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Romulus der Große (Act 3) 

Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990)

Dürrenmatt was born in the village of Konolfingen near Bern, the son of the local Protestant pastor. He read philosophy and theology at the universities of Berne and Zurich.

Dürrenmatt wrote absurd dramas and philosophical crime novels. His dramas are influenced by the comedies of Aristophanes and Johannes Nestroy; by the Expressionist plays of Georg Kaiser; by the theatre of the absurd (Eugene Ionesco, Luigi Pirandello) and by the epic theatre of Bertolt Brecht.

Dürrenmatt was a painter as well as a writer. His paintings and drawings are on display at the Centre Dürrenmatt in Neuchâtel. The museum is based in the house where he lived between 1952 and 1990.

His works include:


Romulus der Große; Romulus the Great (1949; revised 1958) 

Ein Engel kommt nach Babylon; An Angel Comes to Babylon (1953)

Der Besuch der alten Dame; The Visit (1956)

Die Physiker; The Physicists (1962)


Der Richter und sein Henker; The Judge and his Hangman (1950)

Die Panne; The Breakdown (1956)

Das Versprechen; The Promise (1958)

English Translations

Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Selected Essays, trans. by Isabel Fargo Cole (London and Kolkata: Seagull, 2014)

Further Reading

Urs Jenny, Dürrenmatt: A Study of his Plays, trans. by Keith Hamnett and Hugh Rorrison (London: Eyre Methuen, 1978)

Moshe Lazar (ed.), Play Dürrenmatt (Malibu: Undena, 1983)

J. H. Reid, ‘Dürrenmatt in the GDR: The Dramatist’s Reception up to 1980’, Modern Language Review 79:2 (1984), 356-71

Timo Tiusanen, Dürrenmatt: A Study in Plays, Prose, Theory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977)

H. M. Waidson, ‘Friedrich Dürrenmatt’, in German Men of Letters, ed. by Alex Natan, vol. 3 (London: Wolff, 1964), pp. 323-43

Kenneth S. Whitton, Dürrenmatt: Reinterpretation in Retrospect (Oxford: Berg, 1990)

Web Link


Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Selected Writings, published by the University of Chicago Press