Museum for Music Automatons

This version is for browsers with a low level of support for CSS, and is des

Home Language Selection

Home Content Area

Home Navigator

End Navigator



Chronology (cf. detailed portrait) Friedrich Dürrenmatt: His Life and Oeuvre



1921January 5th: birth of Friedrich Dürrenmatt in Konolfingen (canton of Berne, Emmental region). Son of a minister.
1935The family moves to Berne.
1937Bicycle trip to Munich. In Munich, FD discovers Expressionist art at the «degenerate» art exhibition presented at the Haus der Kunst museum.
1941Baccalaureate. Begins studies in literature in Berne. First literary essays. In parallel, FD draws and paints.
1942/43Pursues studies in Zurich for two semesters. Keeps company with the painter Walter Jonas's circle, thanks to which he discovers modern literature (a.o. Kafka).
1943-46Pursues studies, mainly in philosophy, in Berne. Deeply marked by Kant and Kierkegaard.
1946Cuts his studies short, and decides to become a writer. Marries the actress Lotti Geissler. Moves to Basel.
1947A first play - As It Is Written - is produced at Zurich's Schauspielhaus and provokes a scandal, earning him the recognition and friendship of Max Frisch. Birth of his son Peter.
1948/49Moves to Ligerz, on the Lake of Bienne. FD burns his unfinished Tower of Babel play and, within weeks, writes the entire script of the play Romulus the Great. Birth of his daughter Barbara.
1951/52Birth of his daughter Ruth. The detective stories that FD writes for the magazine Der Schweizerische Beobachter (The Judge and His Hangman / Suspicion), and his radio plays for German-language radio represent his main source of income during the first half of the 1950s.
1952

Settles in Neuchâtel. Acquires the house at the Pertuis-du-Sault address, today's Centre Dürrenmatt. The Marriage of Mr. Mississippi is produced at the Munich Kammerspiele, spreading FD's renown to Germany. The subject of his unfinished The Tower of Babel is transformed into the play An Angel Comes to Babylon (premiered in 1953), inspiring the his first Tower of Babel drawing.

1956The Visit is produced at Zurich's Schauspielhaus, earning the playwright international acclaim: the play would go on to be staged, amongst others, in New York (Broadway) under the direction of Peter Brook in 1958, and in Milan under the direction of Giorgio Strehler in 1960.
1957/58Screenplay for It Happened in Broad Daylight (on a theme he would develop in his novel The Pledge).
1959Staging of Frank the Fifth. Works on The Execution of Justice for a film adaptation.
1962Staging of The Physicists. FD has become the contemporary playwright the most staged in German-language theatres.
1963His play Hercules and the Augean Stables is poorly received, inspiring FD to draw a series of caricatures of critics, which would remain one of his favourite themes henceforth.
1966Staging of The Meteor. Revisions on Frank the Fifth, inspiring the painting Letzte Generalversammlung der Eidgenössischen Bankanstalt  (the federal banking establishment's last general assembly)
1968/69Co-directs the Basel Theatre with Werner Düggelin. Dramatic adaptations of Shakespeare and Strindberg.
1969In the wake of various differences of opinion and a first heart attack, Dürrenmatt takes leave of the Basel Theatre. While convalescing at Vulpera, he begins working on his autobiography, Stoffe. Named co-editor of the newly founded Sonntags-Journal, he engages ever more actively in the journalistic political debates of the day.
1973The production of his comedy The Collaborator is a flop. FD writes a long postscript analyzing the play's failure, thus triggering a work-intensive period of prose writings.
1974/75Travels to Israel upon the invitation of the Israeli government. The lecture he gives there on Judaism and Christianity would serve as the basis of his major essay, On Israel.
1975Second heart attack. Starts working on the play The Deadline (staged in 1977). Creates a series of India ink washes on the begetting, birth and death of the Minotaur, Atlas drawings.
1976First exhibition of Dürrenmatt's artworks at the Hôtel du Rocher belonging to Hans Liechti in Neuchâtel. Followed by exhibitions in Zurich (Galerie Daniel Keel, 1978), Berne (Loeb-Galerie, 1981) and Neuchâtel (Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, 1985).
1978Publication by Diogenes of Dürrenmatt - Bilder und Zeichnungen (Dürrenmatt-Paintings and Drawings). For the first time, the general public becomes acquainted with Dürrenmatt's visual art.
1980The Complete Literary  Works (29 volumes ) published in collaboration with the playwright. Revisions made to most of the plays. Changes from the publishing firm Arche Verlag over to Diogenes Verlag.
1981Publication of Stoffe I-III (Labyrinth).
1983Death of his wife Lotti. Staging of his comedy Achterloo.
1984The film director and actress Charlotte Kerr shoots a film on Dürrenmatt, Portrait of a Planet. FD marries Charlotte Kerr. A new, revised version of Achterloo is staged in Schwetzingen in 1988. Henceforth, Dürrenmatt would devote himself exclusively to writing prose.
1985Publication of the short story The Minotaur. A Ballad, accompanied by a series of wash drawings on the same theme. Finishes writing the detective story Justice.
1986The Mission, short story.
1989

FD bequeaths his literary archives to the Swiss Confederation.
Publication of his novel Valley of Confusion.

1990The second volume of Stoffe, Turmbau - on which the author worked all through the 1980s - is published. Takes his last stand with Switzerland - A Prison: A Speech for Václav Havel. December 14th: death of Dürrenmatt in his home in Neuchâtel.
1991Posthumous publication of Midas oder die schwarze Leinwand (Midas or the Black Canvas). Opening of the Swiss literary archives.
2000Inauguration of the Centre Dürrenmatt Neuchâtel, architecturally conceived to integrate Dürrenmatt's former home.
  
 Dürrenmatt's literary works have been translated into over forty languages. In addition to the seven Honoris Causa doctorates conferred upon him, Dürrenmatt was the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Swiss Schiller Foundation Grand Prix (1960), the State of Austria Award for European literature (1983) and the Georg Büchner Prize (Germany, 1986).
Back to Portrait

End Content Area

Further information



Federal Department of Home Affairs FDHA - Swiss National Library NL
http://www.bundesmuseen.ch/cdn/00126/00163/00170/00250/index.html?lang=en