Max frisch

Max Frisch, born on 15. May 1911 in Zurich, where he died on 4. April 1991 also died, was a Swiss writer, playwright, essayist and architect. His oeuvre is extensive, with Frisch most notable for the major novels Homo faber, Silent and My name is Gantenbein became enormously popular, while also his dramatic works Biedermann and the Arsonists and Andorra established his fame.

Almost all of the works mentioned are also part of the standard repertoire of German lessons. The central motif in Frisch’s work can be seen as the confrontation of his protagonists with themselves and their existence in postmodernity (cf. Epochs of Literature).

It is also characteristic that Frisch deliberately combines autobiographical experiences with fiction, thus creating his own individual style. His late work also includes a critical examination of his native country: Switzerland.

  • Curriculum vitae
  • Biography

Curriculum vitae

  • 1911: Max Rudolf Frisch, later known as Max Frisch, becomes on 15. May born in Zurich/Switzerland.
    He is the second son of the architect Franz Bruno Frisch and his wife Karolina Bettina Frisch (b. Wildermuth).
  • 1924 – 1930: Max Frisch visits the Gymnasium. He already wrote his first plays without further success.
  • 1930 – 1934: Frisch enrolls at the University of Zurich. He also attended lectures on forensic psychology.

Epochs of literature as a timeline


Max Rudolf Frisch (born. 15. May 1911 in Zurich; † 4. April 1991 in Zurich) was a Swiss journalist, writer as well as architect. Max Frisch was one of the most famous German-language authors of post-war literature and postmodernism (cf. epochs of literature).

Max Frisch had his breakthrough in the 1950s and 1960s. In German-speaking countries he became known mainly for his plays Andorra as well as Biedermann and the Arsonists known. But also his novels Homo faber, Silent or My name is Gantenbein are famous works of German-language literature and are causal for the fame of car.

Family and school

Max Frisch had his roots in Zurich where, as the second son of the architect Franz Bruno Frisch and his wife Karolina Bettina Frisch (b. Wildermuth) on 15. Mail born in 1911. The writer’s family included his half-sister Emma Elisabeth (1899-1972) and his brother Franz, eight years older (1903-1978).

Frisch grew up in rather simple circumstances. He had a good relationship with his mother, while he had no emotional access to his father. His parents sent him to grammar school from 1924 to 1930, where Frisch already began to write plays, which, however, were not performed. His school friend Werner Coninx gave him his first knowledge of literature and philosophy.


After graduating from high school, Max Frisch first studied German at the University of Zurich. He enrolled there for the winter semester 1930/1931. His studies gave him access to well-known lecturers, who opened the first doors to publishing houses and newspapers for him. Among them were well-known names such as Theophil Spoerri and Robert Faesi.

The young Frisch, who had set his mind on also being taught the necessary tools of the writer’s trade at university, was rather disappointed by the pure theory and academic knowledge that his studies offered him. He passed the time additionally with lectures to the forensic psychology, in order to become acquainted with the human origin as well as the drive of humans in its daily existence more near and to fathom to be able.

At the newspaper

In addition to his studies, Frisch was active as a writer for the Neue Zurcher Zeitung (NZZ for short), in which his first article appeared in May 1931. In the spring of 1932, his father died and Max Frisch took on the role of breadwinner for the family.

He worked regularly as a journalist at this time, but also continued to attend lectures at the university. Out of his situation as a family breadwinner, Frisch wrote the 1932 essay What am I? Max Frisch wrote about 100 articles during this time, in which he mainly processed his own experiences.

Early travels and first novel

In 1934 Max Frisch wrote his first novel with the title Jurg Reinhardt. Jurg Reinhardt was written after Frisch’s early travels, which took him to the Balkans, among other places. He traveled through Europe for almost 9 months (from February 1933 to October 1933).

In the process, the writer first visited Prague and then Rome, Istanbul, Bari, Athens, as well as Zagreb, Belgrade, Dubrovnik, Budapest and Sarajevo. Frisch was able to publish his non-political first novel even in Nazi Germany.

Max Frisch traveled to the neighboring German country for the first time in 1935 and wrote down his impressions in his diary. Shortly before (1934) he met the German Jewess Kate Rubensohn, with whom he had a love affair for several years.

In the 1930s, the writer did not yet have a clear picture of National Socialism, which was spinning its web in Germany and ominously threatening the Second World War towards.

Architectural studies and military service

Max Frisch did not begin to write novels until the 1940s, when the Second World War was already raging, to increase his political interest. He was briefly said to be under the influence of the conservative members of the University of Zurich.

At the University of Zurich, the teaching staff is said to have included professors who were positive about the actions of Hitler and Mussolini. Frisch was together with the Jewish woman Kate Rubensohn until 1939. She rejected his marriage proposal, after which the couple separated.

Two years earlier, in 1937, Max Frisch’s second novel was published Answer from the silence, which he disliked so much that he decided to give up writing and pursue his studies in architecture.

Frisch had begun studying architecture in 1936 after receiving a scholarship from Werner Coninx. However, Frisch was made to reconsider his decision already in 1938. In this year he also won the Conrad Ferdinand Meyer Prize, a cultural promotion prize, which brought him 3000 Swiss francs.

With the beginning of the Second World War Max Frisch was drafted into military service and he spent his service with the Swiss Army until 1945. Here he also began to write again. In 1939 Frisch published his war experiences in the journal Atlantis under the title From the Diary of a Soldier. Somewhat later (1940) his notes were also published as a book with the title Leaves from the bread bag. Until 1974, the writer was rather uncritical of soldiering and of the position of his homeland during the time of the Third Reich. He changed his mind in both cases in 1974.

Work as an architect

Max Frisch became a successful architect after completing his second degree (from 1936 to 1941). He took a job in William Dunkel’s office and moved into his first apartment of his own toward the end of the same year. On 30. July 1942 he married the architect Gertrude Anna Constanze von Meyenburg. The couple had three children (Ursula, nee. 1943, and Charlotte, nee. 1949 as well as Hans Peter geb. 1944).

Frisch’s active time as an architect was relatively short. During this time he could only be found part-time in his office, which he opened in 1942. As an architect, he only put about a dozen drafts on paper, of which, among others, the Letzigraben open-air swimming pool was implemented. In 1943 Frisch won the architectural competition of the city of Zurich for the open-air swimming pool, which is now a listed building. Even during his time as an architect Frisch spent many hours writing.

Theater and meeting Bertolt Brecht

Max Frisch was already interested in the theater during his studies and often attended performances at the Schauspielhaus in Zurich. In 1944, the then theater director Kurt Hirschfeld motivated the writer to write for the theater.

He offered himself as a mentor and also introduced him to well-known personalities of the literary world. Among them were Carl Zuckmayer, whom Frisch met in 1946, and Friedrich Durrenmatt, who was still young at the time.

Bertolt Brecht also got to know Frisch in 1947 and from then on exchanged ideas with him on numerous artistic issues. Max Frisch wrote his first play Santa Cruz already in 1944. It premiered in 1946 and dealt with the question of whether individual desire, dreams, and longings can be taken into account in the daily routine of married life.

Frisch also dealt with this trauma in his novel J’adore ce qui me brûle or The Difficult Ones with this theme, letting his main character, the painter Jurg Reinhart, live through a difficult love affair. Somewhat later, the theme of the incompatibility of bourgeois everyday life and artistic life reappeared in his works and was translated by Frisch, among other things, in the prose text Bin or The Journey to Peking (1945) manifests.

Frisch also included the years of the war in his plays. For example, it was about the personal guilt of the soldier who had to carry out cruel orders and had little choice but to resist.

Nun singen sie wieder from 1945 was one of Frisch’s plays written under the trauma of World War II. Then in 1946 The Great Wall of China, which focused on the threat of the atomic bomb being developed at the time.

Brecht’s influence was evident in some of Max Frisch’s practical work and in some of his views on art. Frisch, however, was not at any time a student of the German fellow writer. Frisch remained independent in his positioning and was rather critical of the typical political categorization, which for him always had to do with demarcation from the differently minded.

A trip to Warsaw in 1948, which Frisch undertook following a visit to the International Peace Congress in Wroclaw, gave the NZZ (Neue Zurcher Zeitung) Reason to declare him a supporter of the communists.

The NZZ had written Frisch for his play Now they sing again already wanted to put him in the camp of the National Socialists and in both cases did not publish the writer’s counterstatements. Thereupon Max Frisch ended his collaboration with the NZZ.

Postwar work and beginning breakthrough

During the postwar period, Max Frisch compiled a total of 130 notebooks. The publisher Peter Suhrkamp liked the idea of diary writing that Frisch pursued with the writing of his notebooks.

He published in 1950 in his newly founded Suhrkamp Verlag the diary 1946-1949 which contained impressions of Frisch’s travels, autobiographical descriptions, essays on political and literary-political topics, as well as sketches and concepts that even then pointed to Frisch’s upcoming literary output.

Critics praised the work, but commercial success was a long time coming until a new edition appeared in 1958. Frisch’s work Count oderland, which the author had already outlined in his diary, also became a failure.

In 1951, Max Frisch received a scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation and spent a year traveling through the USA and Mexico (from April 1951 to May 1952). During his trip to America, the writer worked on the works What do you do with love and Don Juan or The Love of Geometry.

His play Don Juan or The Love of Geometry was performed in Berlin and Zurich less than a year after his return (1952). Frisch’s work What do you do with love was already a predecessor version of his successful novel Silent.

Silent and Homo faber

Silent appeared in 1954. In it, Frisch’s main protagonist initially pretended not to be Silent to be, but someone else. Later, a court case forces him to reassume his original identity and return to his wife.

The novel brought the final breakthrough for Max Frisch. The general public was full of appreciation for his work, which was based on the author’s autobiographical experiences, but also on insights and findings that Frisch had reached by the middle of his life. In his novel Frisch Silent the theme of the difficult coexistence of family and art.

Max Frisch triggered at this time (1954) also gave up his architectural practice and separated from Constanze von Meyenburg. Frisch cultivated several affairs during his marriage and drew the consequences from his behavior at this time. At the same time, his time as a freelance writer began (1954) and he moved to Mannedorf. Frequent changes of place and a need for transformation ran through Frisch’s entire life.

Towards the end of 1955, Max Frisch began work on another major novel: Homo faber. In Homo faber Frisch tells the story of the life of an engineer who, in relation to his technical profession and his identification with the rational scientific world, gets lost in the Dasein. In the novel, Frisch’s protagonist is completely broken by real life. The work became one of the author’s best-known and most widely read books and is now standard literature in many schools.

Biedermann and the Arsonists and Andorra

Biedermann and the Arsonists made Max Frisch known as a playwright. He achieved world fame with the play, which was already broadcast as a radio play version on Bavarian radio (1953). Frisch also wrote about this work in Diary 1946-1949 wrote down his first drafts and ideas.

Just as in his subsequent play Andorra, The first performance of this work took place in 1961 Biedermann and the Arsonists the dramaturgical effect of his encounter with Brecht became noticeable. Both plays became compulsory reading for German schoolchildren.

The premiere of his play Biedermann and the Arsonists took place in 1958. It was about Biedermann, a petit bourgeois who opened his house to peddlers, offered them lodging and, despite clearly discernible intentions, could not resist the unusual guests setting fire to his house toward the end of the story.

Frisch’s play was about awareness of self-inflicted dangers that could be avoided through special care. His Swiss audience, however, initially interpreted the play’s message as a warning against the spread of communism. Max Frisch felt misunderstood in his homeland at the time.

Andorra on the other hand, deals with the formation of opinions of people who do not discard their preconceived, always the same images of fellow human beings of different origin. They even make sure that their behavior has a formative effect on the person in question. In the novel Andorra the same thing happens with the protagonist. Frisch was particularly interested in this subject.

He wrote five different versions of the play before it was premiered. The play was a success in Germany and in the U.S. The premiere took place in the USA in 1963. Frisch, however, also had to put up with the reproach that in Andorra prejudiced treatment of other people as a general human flaw. According to some of his German critics, this would be an attenuation of his own guilt, at the time of the Third Reich.

My name is Gantenbein

For five years, from 1960 to 1965, Max Frisch lived in Rome. He followed the writer Ingeborg Bachmann to the Italian city after she rejected his marriage proposal.

Ingeborg Bachmann got to know Frisch as early as 1958. An intense love affair developed, marked by his jealousy, for just as he openly professed his sexual infidelity, Ingeborg Bachmann demanded the same right for herself.

The relationship of the two was reflected both in Max Frisch’s novel My name is Gantenbein (1964) as well as in Bachmann’s novel publication Malina. In the winter of 1962/1963, their relationship broke up. Frisch’s novel My name is Gantenbein seems like a reappraisal of his first marriage.

In it, he tried to depict the most diverse situations that could have influenced the outcome of his marriage in very different ways. He varied the identities of his protagonists and thus also the possible scenarios that could have occurred. However, none of the variants corresponded to his ideal image. Already in his Diary 1946-1949 he was of the opinion that the essential remains unspeakable for language.

Travels with Marianne Oellers

A new love entered Frisch’s life in 1962. At that time, he met the 23-year-old Marianne Oellers. Frisch was already 51 years old at this time. In 1964 they moved into an apartment in Rome and in the fall of 1965 they moved to a small house in Berzona (Ticino). Frisch married the young Marianne Oellers at the end of 1968 and moved with her to Kusnacht on Lake Zurich.

Marianne Oellers accompanied Frisch on numerous trips to. Both attended the premiere of Biedermann and the Arsonists and Andorra 1963 in the USA. In 1965 they traveled together to Jerusalem, where Frisch delivered the first German-language speech after the Second World War held. Frisch also received the Man’s Freedom Prize.

In 1966 followed a first trip to the Soviet Union. They returned there only two years later and met the GDR writers Christa and Gerhard Wolf (1968). From then on, she had a close friendship with Christa and Gerhard Wolf. In the following year (1969), the Frisch couple traveled to Japan and then to the USA for almost two years.

Frisch recorded many impressions of these trips in his Diary 1966-1971 firmly. Even before he met his second wife Marianne Oellers, Max Frisch received the Charles Veillon Prize for Homo faber (1957) and the Georg Buchner Prize (1958). Frisch received numerous prizes during his life and was nominated for the Nobel Prize almost every year, but he never received it.

Berlin, Montauk and reading tours in the USA

In 1972, the Frisch couple took a second home in Berlin and from there maintained numerous contacts with intellectuals living in Berlin. During his years in Berlin, the writer gradually developed a more critical attitude towards his homeland.

His work William Tell for school from 1970 and his Service booklet from 1974 provide information about this. Also in 1974, he was awarded the Great Schiller Prize awarded by the Swiss Schiller Foundation.

Throughout his life, Max Frisch had little ambition for active politics, but he was interested in social democracy. He was close to Helmut Schmidt and accompanied the latter to China in 1975. Two years later he gave a speech at the SPD party congress.

Montauk is the title of his autobiographical story, which he named after a village on Long Island. The story appeared in 1975 and was an insight into Frisch’s love life, mentioning both his marriages and his love affairs. In the spring of 1974, he had met Alice Locke-Carey, an American 32 years his junior, in the USA.

The affair to it and its narration Montauk led to a quarrel with his wife, from whom he became more and more distant. In 1979 Frisch’s second marriage was divorced. As early as 1978, Max Frisch was struggling with health problems, whereupon the Max Frisch Foundation was established in 1979 to take over the administration of his estate.

Recognition in the USA and illness from colon cancer

In 1980, Max Frisch received an honorary doctorate from the University of Zurich Bard College and in 1982 the City University of New York. He was a recognized and appreciated writer in North America.

The New York Times Also in 1980, he published his translation of Man appears in the Holocene as the best story of the year from. In 1982 his story Bluebeard. In 1980 Frisch had renewed contact with Alice Locke-Carey in the USA, with whom he lived for four years (until 1984) in New York and occasionally in Berzona.

In 1984, the writer then returned to Zurich completely. His last love affair began as early as 1983. Until his death Max Frisch lived together with Karin Pilliod, with whom he visited the Moscow Forum for a Nuclear Weapons Free World in 1987. In March 1989 Max Frisch was diagnosed with colon cancer. The disease was already incurable at that stage.

Death at home

Despite his illness, Max Frisch continued to be active in his homeland and took part in the discussion about the abolition of the Swiss army. He wrote the prose text Switzerland without an army? A palaver.

Max Frisch died on April 4, 1991 from the consequences of his colon cancer, after he had made all the arrangements for his burial. He was about to complete his 80th year. After the age of 18. The ceremonies for his funeral took place on 9. April 1991 in St. Peter instead of.

The ashes of the famous writer were later scattered in a fire in Ticino at a memorial service organized by his friends. Today, among other things, a plaque on the cemetery wall in Berzona commemorates the famous writer.

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