Non-Individuation and Wedding with Death in the Works of Friedrich Dürrenmat

by Brigitte Boothe

April 24, 2001


"Der Rebell," one of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's later sketches in prose, has the structure of a story of becoming oneself and finding oneself that ends with the protagonist's uniting with a loved person. But by citing the prototypic pattern of a dramaturgy of individuation the author creates something else: the dramaturgy of radical non-individuation, which ends with self-destruction. The dramaturgy of non-individuation, which is presented in an exemplary manner in the narrative sketch "Der Rebell" is typical for the prose and drama writings of Dürrenmatt. Friedrich Dürrenmatt's protagonists do not become persons. They remain forever the same and perish in the end. Individuation doesn't happen; the characters don't become complex human beings. And yet, they transcend their existence; they surrender themselves to death, they get married to Death. How this comes about will be illustrated through an examination of "Der Rebell." This text contains essential elements of the narrative construction that is characteristic of Dürrenmatt's later works Labyrinth and Turmbau, which contain his Stoffe ("materials"), as well as of other writings. Dürrenmatt presents with his dramaturgy of non-individuation and surrender to death a central theme of religious experience in the 20th century: the subconscious culture of religiousness as dramaturgy of a sacred death.


The title of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Romanentwurf, Der Rebell (Draft of a Novel, The Rebel, in Stoffe III, 1998, p. 281), is taken from the realm of the overthrowing of societies. That does not, however, determine the content of the narrative work. Instead, the author develops religious, New Testament themes of deliverance, salvation, and redemption. The "rebel" is initially an abandoned and needy child who embarks upon a search for his father. On a distant shore he eventually meets up with a saintly father figure who holds the office of high priest. In this alien and barren land, an oppressed and enslaved people yearns for deliverance through a promised Redeemer. The "rebel" is taken for the prophesied Messiah.

And the result? The story ends in catastrophe. A story is conceived in its entirety when it has taken its worst possible turn, writes Dürrenmatt in point three of his "21 Punkte zu den Physikern ("21 Points to The Physicists", Dürrenmatt 1962, p. 82). The story of the rebel turns from the abandonment of the son to the bottomless abandonment he experiences as a prisoner; the search for the father fails miserably; the people remain enslaved; religion is a farce. This is the story of a son who is radically betrayed who, in contrast to the Prodigal Son of the New Testament (Parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15, 1-32), does not meet with a warm reception from his father. He goes out into the world and could achieve manhood, but instead he remains nameless. As he moves through the world, his existence is featureless, and he perishes in a prison of mirrors. This story of ruin, marginalization, and isolation builds upon an erotic subtext as a basis: the hidden sexual relation between mother and son, that develops in a exclusive niche, outside of social order. This narrative foundation is a significant principle in the construction of Der Rebell, which Dürrenmatt uses in Labyrinth for a literary representation of the Urlächerlichkeit ("fundamental ridiculousness") of human existence. This can be shown by means of text analysis.

The analysis takes off from Dürrenmatt's second point of his "21 Points to The Physicists": When you start out with a story, it must be thought through to its conclusion"(ibid.). The point is to think the story through, systematically, to possible endings of Der Rebell, the draft of a novel, to investigate methodically the best and worst possible turn of events.

It is of no consequence whether or not the author personally has a special liking for the idea of sons' erotic attachments to powerful mothers. The issue is to see how the narrative construction of the text builds the starting constellation for the truth of the ridiculousness of man's existence in Labyrinth. This can be found by means of a dramaturgical reading of the text, an examination of the techniques of dramatic composition and theatrical representation. This dramaturgical reading aims to discover the "wordless pact" (von Matt 1995, p. 37) between author and reader that obligates them to together dynamically create and develop, stringently and with logical consistency, the basic constellations staged--those human "experiences of horror and happiness" (von Matt, 1989 , p. 27).

Der Rebell illustrates Friedrich Dürrenmatt's literary model of man in his essential, fundamental ridiculousness, or Urlächerlichkeit (Turmbau, Stoffe V, 1998a, p. 116). This, Dürrenmatt's literary "counter world," presents a universe peopled with childish characters that are splendid in their self-condemnation. They celebrate their own extinction as sacred surrender to death.

In detail, the following three issues are at stake:

1. How does Dürrenmatt present the narrative dynamics of Der Rebell?
2. How does Dürrenmatt explain the self-condemnation and the hero's wedding with Death in the narrative dynamics of Der Rebell?
3. How do self-condemnation and wedding with Death in Dürrenmatt's works become dimensions of self-transcendence?

Concerning (1): How does Dürrenmatt present the narrative dynamics of Der Rebell?
I shall examine the presentation of dramaturgical dynamics that organizes the building of the narrative. It bases upon religious images and motives, creates a search for the lost father, makes a connection to the parable of the Prodigal Son, and takes up the topic of messianic ideas of salvation and deliverance from deepest despair.

Concerning (2): How does Dürrenmatt explain the self-condemnation and the hero's wedding with Death in the narrative dynamics of Der Rebell? I shall discuss the particular, anthropological conflict dynamics that Dürrenmatt brings to literary expression. This takes place against the background of search for the father, intimate relationship with the mother, and the anxiety and pleasure bound to this love constellation. Dürrenmatt uses a dramaturgical construction of text and subtext. He tells us about the search of a young man for his father and his deadly failure to establish himself in the land of the ruler, who could be his father. The subtext tells the story of the sexual relationship between the son and his mother outside of social order. The non-individuation of the son and his deadly marginalization become only through the subtext the existential character of the fundamentally ridiculous or "urlächerliche" man.

In the tragedy of Oedipus Rex by Sophocles (Steinmann 1989) Freud analyzed love and power as a central paradigm. On that basis he formulated the dramaturgical hypothesis of the strong son's love demands on his mother, the wish to eliminate his father, and the terrible consequence of putting himself at the mercy of the punishing superego. In contrast, Dürrenmatt enacts the themes of the development of the self and confrontation with the other, self-determination and determination by others, self-recognition and recognition from others. Here Dürrenmatt moves within a field of themes that are prominent in the art and literature of the twentieth century. These themes were and are still present in varied forms: as the topics of fatherlessness, inadequate and failing parents, the fatherless society, the search for the self and the search for the father, narcissism, and the struggle for identity. This narcissistic crisis, or crisis of becoming the self (von Matt 1999, p. 369), stands as a paradigm of the needy and abandoned child (Kohut 1968) in contrast to the paradigm of the strong, yet guilty, son. The Oedipal paradigm points to the guilty son, while the narcissistic paradigm points to the guilty parents. Condemnation of parents' guilt is currently prominent in literature, journalism, and psychotherapy, and Dürrenmatt also seems to follow this pattern conscientiously--although in the form of a tragicomedy--in his Der Rebell. He is insistent in portraying to the reader the proverbial cold mother, proverbial withdrawing father, and the poor child that is destroyed by the guilty parents. But it is not as simple as that. And Dürrenmatt does not make it as easy as that for himself. Der Rebell is a tough text! For here there is something beyond parental fault. To the seemingly one-dimensional and so familiar schema of the futile search for identity in this godless and fatherless world there is a hidden background. Only when this background is uncovered and illuminated does the search for identity obtain its conclusive place in the dramatics of the dramaturgy and does its futility become mandatory. A powerful erotic-sexual dramaturgy in Dürrenmatt's Der Rebell has to be laid bare. It denies itself, and through this denial it determines the course of events.

Concerning (3): How do self-condemnation and wedding with death in Dürrenmatt's works become dimensions of self-transcendence?In Dürrenmatt's literary world being itself has no reason or sense. The rational mind recognizes the fact of our captivity. If there is a gospel of faith, it is death. Existence consists in blind being-at-the-mercy-of. There are natural laws of life that no one understands. The many single beings run around as long as they can and as long as no meteors knock them down. They are equipped with the bodies of animals, but they have a thinking apparatus as well. For this mental state, Friedrich Dürrenmatt designs an aesthetic model: the Labyrinth. The Labyrinth is the dramaturgical location of human existence.

Intelligence is no help in finding the way to freedom. Religious humility will not allow the Labyrinth to feel like the homeland. Artists, however, can draft a map of the dead ends of the Labyrinth upon which human figures, made a laughingstock, walk through their lives, with no view to the outside, with no standpoint. The artist alone possesses another world, albeit a fabricated, merely artificially constructed world.

This dramaturgy of an eclipse of love takes the shape of a Labyrinth of coldness and infertility. In this program, ratio appears as the courage to look directly into the Medusa head of the "worst possible outcome", while religion is the revelation of the holy, death-bringing cosmos.

Wilting children and giants doomed to die as protagonists in a primal comedy

For Friedrich Dürrenmatt the perspective on existence as a Labyrinth becomes the program and project of a "primal comedy" (Urkomödie) (Dürrenmatt 1998a, p.116). It is there that man is to be portrayed in all his ridiculousness (ibid.). Man, that ridiculous figure, is a splendid monster. He accepts death with foolish pride; dumb as a cow in lonely captivity, he stares at the starry heavens in their supremely indifferent march across the skies: this is the "dramaturgy of the Labyrinth: the Minotaur" (Dürrenmatt 1998, p. 69).

Colossal actors, as uninhibited as the Greek gods in their instinctual natures, act in some way or other, beyond pity, honor, and law. But in contrast to the gods, they perish, crushed in bloody plots. Reading Stoffe I-III and IV-IX in volumes 28 and 29 of Dürrenmatt's complete works, (1998 and 1998a), the reader--imagining, calculating, combining --gets involved in the rules of the dramaturgy and takes part in creating them. This playing along triggers emotional involvement, but not pity or satisfaction. At most the reader takes pleasure in the extremes, the figures falling over themselves like marionettes or cartoon characters. The draft and sketch character of the narrative texts reinforces this calculated, marionette-like quality.

The reader takes part in a process of distancing, shares the perspective from the heights of playful calculation: the dramaturgy of the Labyrinth, the Minotaur. Dürrenmatt writes that in representing the world that he sees himself at the mercy of, he attempts to gain distance from it, to withdraw from it, to meet its eye as an animal trainer his wild animal. He confronts the world, as he experiences it, with a counter world that he envisions (Dürrenmatt 1998, p. 69). The reader participates in drafting this counter world that Dürrenmatt opposes to the world seen and experienced. Dürrenmatt calls it a technique of his, a technique of hatching a story by mentally spinning out and thinking oneself into the material, immersing oneself in a story that is the product of inner imagination and that develops itself and puts off the outer world (Dürrenmatt 1998, p. 67). The author projects himself into the material and mentally concocts the continuation of the story. The figures in these stories have no personalities; they undergo a process of depersonalization. Their movements are mechanical, and despite the maze of chaos that is evoked, they move guided as if on tracks. They serve as game pieces for the mental spinning out of the play or story. Behind the puppet stage, the reader joins the all-knowing theater director, who always lets us know that he is the puppeteer. We watch as he manipulates the strings of the flat and pithy wooden figures, which perform rather than portray and recite rather than speak. These figures are meant to trigger thinking, not compassion. This dramaturgical pattern of ideas takes on an intensive issue with regard to life--its success and failure.

Dynamics of wish fulfillment--dynamics of disaster

We read dramaturgically, in that we grasp and help shape a picture of the world according to the narrator's instructions, and in this way, we form expectations. Our starting point is the particular conditions and constellations that form the beginning of the story; they lead us to hope for certain forms of fulfillment and to fear certain catastrophic developments (Boothe 1994 ; Boothe, von Wyl & Wepfer 1998). Dramaturgical is a word that Dürrenmatt himself uses to characterize a particular kind of literary thinking.

Dramaturgical thinking is also familiar in psychoanalysis. Admittedly, Dürrenmatt himself rejects psychoanalysis (in the following rough translation into English):

Why do I not interpret the Labyrinth psychoanalytically? As the wish to crawl back into the womb, and as regret that one ever even crawled out of the womb? It is because I doubt that that method of thinking, that diving into in the unconscious, can reach my essential being, my 'center'…Motives, psychoanalytically interpreted, dissolve into abstractions and trivialities that, the further one thinks, mean less and less, until they actually have no meaning at all. This is not to deny the dark machinery of the instincts; on the contrary, I take them for granted, as self-understood things that keep us going. Not self-understood is the frequently adventurous journey that, put into gear by the drives, a person may undertake. It is in this not-self-understood area that I sense a choice, a personal decision that I have made and make over and over again: to write. Whatever meaning this choice may have, whether it is only seeming or real, whether it is made inevitably or freely, it is the result of a primal drama, that of the ego's grappling with the world, that can be explained neither by the environment nor by the ego alone, and that as a course of events, a primal drama, is always unique…(translation of Dürrenmatt 1998, pp. 82-83; his original German text may be found in [1] in the Appendix).

When we draw conclusions about an author's personal motives on the basis of his creative work, psychoanalytical wish interpretations are trivial and illuminate neither the secret of the work nor the unique personality that has authored it. This does not, however, dismiss the dramaturgical potential of the splendid image of the womb as a Labyrinth, of the sheltering body that is at the same time a dungeon, for the construction of stories.

Freud disclosed the dramaturgical potential of patterns of human experience for the aesthetic process in his analysis of the Oedipus tragedy (Freud 1900). Freud drafted a structural formula for the images of success and catastrophe evoked, here the now proverbial Oedipal dynamics that "keep the drama going."

As a dramaturgical thinker, Freud looked in particular at how what "keeps us going" and what lames us appear in artistic presentation. They make us--in an Aristotelian sense--act and think along, hope, and fear (Freud 1908). Readers and listeners are not merely, as understanding "native speakers," sufficiently competent to read literary works and not only as "native narrators," who have had early experience in the everyday practice of narrating. Rather, as "native experts," they are original art critics capable of tracking down the dramaturgical logics of a play or other narration. They can get the hang of narrative works and set something against them.

We put ourselves into the material in that we think along, dramaturgically, in this 'artificial' world (Schiller 1970, p.13). When we view a text dramaturgically, we ask how it is that the text invites us to enter into a relationship to the narrative. How do we recipients get the gist of the story? We become active, involved, and enjoying readers by allowing ourselves to participate in a game that opens up horizons of expectation (von Matt 1995, p. 36).

Enjoyment of a text is participation in the tension that aims toward a climax of fulfillment that will be wonderful or catastrophic. This presupposes that the dramaturgy of the text gives us the opportunity at the opening to form expectations and to imagine the conditions of fulfillment or failure (Boothe 1999). Without this involvement of the reader there is no enjoyment of the text and, to use Schiller's words, no awakening of our feelings.

The Exodus dramaturgy

Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Romanentwurf, Der Rebell is the story of a son who leaves his homeland and goes out into the world to find his father. Here the author unfolds a narrative dynamic that forms an exodus--a departure away from the home base. The exodus of the child--his opportunity for freedom and finding a place in the world--is a touchstone of power and love. All stories that take this existential situation as their theme can be arranged within a coordinate system that groups the related experiences. The home base, for example, mother or father in their surrounds, represents a resource base. It may be rich or meager. The barren home base or cruel parents can force the exodus, making it a flight or emergency emigration, as is frequently the case in fairy tales. The rich home base, in contrast, can produce insatiable homesickness, but also foster self-reliance, because the parents have equipped the child richly for the journey-- as a representative of a dynasty, so to speak--and because the child goes out not as a beggar, but rather serves as ambassador of a good world to a foreign land. This material or mental or emotional wealth can turn parents into invincible monumental figures, to whom one is loyal in childlike submission like the Prodigal Son.

The exodus can take place with parental credit or discredit, the child blessed or cursed. Once abroad, the child can be an honor to his parents or may bring them shame. The exodus shapes the generational tension of fall or flourish. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the son goes to rack and ruin; he fails utterly in his attempt to become autonomous. All that flourishes is at home with his father, all the resources of life are with his father, and the price of being rescued by his father is the renunciation of autonomy. Father is the source of life and life's order. A different pattern is found in the story of Joseph and his brothers. Here the son commands resources of power, strength, and wealth. On the basis of the power reversal, he who had formerly been threatened by his brothers can now celebrate in his superior willingness to reconciliation. Generational tension can also, however, unfold in the shadow of survivor guilt: if sons and daughters survive, but parents die, are murdered --as in the tragic stories of survivors of the concentration camps; as in Grimmelhausen's seventeenth-century novel Simplicius Simplicissimus; and as with children of parents that have brought dishonor upon themselves. The generational tension of ruin and success provides a background for the history of authority; the father in decline--or more generally the father in his weakness, or the mother in her weakness--creates a tremendous field of conflict for the literary protagonist in the role of son or daughter. This is especially prominent as a theme in the literature of the twentieth century.

Parents beyond the realm of authority--parents' potential for violence--parents as abdicated keepers of order--all these are found in Dürrenmatt. Long before Dürrenmatt and long before the autobiographical "revenge" literature of the 1970s, Kafka created a patriarchal giant in bizarre arbitrariness in the proverbial "The Judgment." In that story, Gregor's father does not allow his son to become man and husband, but mocks him as an "old child" and drives him to his death.

Dürrenmatt's Romanentwurf, Der Rebell portrays a terrible and absurd, unfathomable and death-bringing father in the garb of a church dignitary who betrays his son and delivers him to this enemies, and it tells of a lonely and abandoned son, who, ridiculously, has been plastered with a messianic mask. He can no more than Kafka's Gregor become a man or husband and, as an old child, is left to die in a dungeon.

But the story of the futile and deadly search for the father is only one of the stories. It is particularly interesting to examine what it is that binds mother and son. The death of the son, the putative "rebel" in the prison of mirrors, bases upon a mother-son dramaturgy that stands in exemplary contrast to the Oedipal development as analyzed by Freud and that relates to existential success and catastrophe experiences. In Sophocles' tragedy, the strong son is foiled by his strength and finds the route to transformation through an equivalent to self-castration, seen from a psychoanalytical point of view. In Dürrenmatt's comedy, a nameless one celebrates the dissolution of the self in the maternal Labyrinth.

The narrative dynamics of Der Rebell

How the exemplary pattern arises can be made evident by an examination of the initial constellation, the dynamics of the starting point of the text. Dürrenmatt begins his Romanentwurf as follows):

The story of the main figure should begin in his youth. "A" (I have forgotten his name) grows up in some larger town, let's say in a city with a population of a hundred thousand; a mainly middle class milieu, rural surroundings, Central European, although that is not important --the beginning of the story is uncertain, vague, as if the narrator had only sketchy information on A's youth. A is the only child of a wealthy businessman. He never knew his father. His father left on a journey to foreign lands during his mother's pregnancy and never returned. The son lives with his mother and an old servant in a spacious house in the center of the city. The servant is a deaf-mute; only his mother can communicate with her using signs. The mother is a beautiful woman. She is indifferent towards her son; throughout the day she remains in her room, she shares only the evening meal with him, served by the old servant, in silence, at most she inquires about his lessons, which the boy is taught by a humpbacked male tutor. Of her vanished husband his mother never speaks. When A asks about his father, he receives no answer; just once did his mother mention, as something apparently completely insignificant, that his father had already been seventy years old when she married him. After dinner, his mother withdraws, to leave the house later in sumptuous attire and to return only towards morning (translation of Dürrenmatt 1998, p. 305; the original German may be found in [2] in the appendix).

This is the start of the narrative sketch of Der Rebell. Initially, Friedrich Dürrenmatt introduces himself rather casually using autobiographic elements: the story should start with life-period x. Dürrenmatt can't remember a name once chosen for the main character. A true beginning; an exposition in the explicit sense. Dürrenmatt positions himself quickly, but almost imperceptibly, as the implicit author and makes himself known to the reader as the unmistakable arranger, the adapter, the master of his characters. He gives the reader an explicit description of the model situation that should be taken as the starting point. This engages our combinatory, deductive faculties, our thinking in terms of the moves of the game--in short, our dramaturgical intelligence.

If we ask, along with author Peter von Matt, what it is that we should be hoping for and fearing, we see that Dürrenmatt, the implicit author, acting as producer and dramaturg, is directing our attention to A as the main character, a son who has been abandoned by his father and who is neglected by his mother. In identifying with this main character, we protest the hero's marginalized existence, whose claims to be loved tenderly by his mother, to be led into the world, and to gain his father's recognition are criminally disregarded. The reader wants to see the A's deprivation, in his isolation and marginalization, turn into a celebration of love and welcoming and integration, but there should also be revenge for the wrongs he has suffered. In our worst fears produced by this start to the story, we imagine a catastrophic scenario in which A's marginalization increases radically, parental disregard turns into cynicism, and the world becomes completely inaccessible to the son. Consequently, it is no surprise that Dürrenmatt is consistent and carries out his dramaturgical program of the worst possible outcome and allows the catastrophe to occur. A's mother ultimately abandons him totally, he goes off to look for his father, he suffers financial and physical ruin, and he encounters a male authority in a foreign land who could be his father. This latter point remains unclear, however, and the stranger abandons the son, who becomes the ridiculous and helpless pawn of local politics, to certain death. A vegetates in a subterranean prison, a prison full of mirrors, goes mad, and dies.

"The beginning of the story is uncertain, . . . as if the narrator had only sketchy information," it says. Dürrenmatt introduces a narrator. He does not release the recipient from his role as co-producer, co-arranger, and co-observer who looks at the situation from a certain distance. The characters are instruments, tools in the hands of the omnipotent dramaturge. This effect is reinforced by the author's use of the present tense, which strengthens the constructing, modeling, and reflecting character of the text and fosters the impression of revision and audit. The introduction of a narrator into the text doubles the effect of the distance produced. A has no voice of his own; the case, rather, is that his fate is entrusted to an artificial mouthpiece, that of the narrator. The narrator is a chronicler who, in a preparatory role, so to speak, is simply put into place and not developed further.

The entire, distancing construction technique deliberately ensures that the tragic contents of the narrative have no novel character, no freshness. The aim is not to produce emotional shock, but rather us to lead to the recognition that there is something "ridiculous" in this father-son constellation that has been negatively modeled from a stance of great emotional distance. In this way, the tragic victim, the son, becomes an idiot. An autobiographical note by Dürrenmatt is of interest here:

On the terrace in front of the casino there are several rows of plane trees, a gardener was at work in trimming the branches, he stood on a ladder right at the edge of the terrace by the sidewalk; I watched him as I passed by, and he looked at me, I slipped, there was a pile of dog's muck on the street, I landed on my bottom, fortunately not soiled, I got up as if nothing had happened, the gardener did not bat an eye, simply looked at me, I went on to the university, returned an hour and a half later, again the gardener was on his ladder, only this time he was at the first tree of another of the rows, again he looked at me, again I slipped and fell, again on the same dog's muck, again without soiling my clothes, again I got up as if nothing had happened, again the gardener did not bat an eye, just stared at me, but I will never forget that look: there was infinite amazement in that look, the overwhelming recognition of an encounter with a celestial idiot . . . To the gardener on the ladder had appeared man in his fundamental ridiculousness, as the primal comedy; seeing me, seeing me fall down twice, this repetition of the absurd, he had experienced something metaphysical, the thought hit me like lightning . . . precisely because this repetition happened involuntarily and not as the result of a clown's trick, as the result of the dramaturgical technique of multiple repetitions of the comical. In that I appeared to the gardener as that which I am, I appeared to myself (translation of Dürrenmatt 1998a, pp. 115-116; the original German text can be found in [3] in the appendix).

The "rebel," being harnessed into a kind of story mechanics, is not a pitiful victim, but instead is an idiot in a metaphysical sense--one who falls down without the capability to develop falling down into an art. There is nothing comical about this, but it does lighten the situation; it becomes free-floating. Seriousness is no longer possible, but neither is frivolity --for that the fall is too awkward.

The narrative, or narrative sketch, is called Der Rebell. What is the purpose of the title? There is in fact talk of a rebel early in the course of the narrative. The son, having grown into a youth--educated, mathematically talented, busy with plans to study mathematics--is finally left in complete isolation at home, for his mother and the servant have disappeared without saying goodbye. So he embarks on a journey to find his father, equipped and ready to travel. He does not take off into purposelessness, but indeed into chance, for despite intensive efforts, he has not been able to find out anything about where his father may be. He has taught himself a language that he discovered in books that had belonged to his father and lay covered in dust in the attic of his parental home. The long journey into the unknown consumes all his resources and brings him to ruin. Finally he stands ragged at the border to a barren, inhospitable country, and gains entry. Miraculously, it is the country in which his father's language is spoken. He is welcomed by the country's people, as becomes increasingly clear, as the fervently yearned for Messiah/Rebel. They compel him, who shakes it off with a laugh, to accept the stature of the person on whom their hopes are pinned; he is led into high politics and into a group of politicians who plan to overthrow the government. At the same time, he meets the highest dignitary of the church, a powerful, non-transparent figure, who seems friendly and paternal. This dignitary appears to be concerned about his people's suffering and to stand close to the revolutionary movement. However, it is possible that this very figure is himself the cruel lord of the reign of terror who has never shown himself to his folk. Those allied to overthrow the reign publicly declare the "rebel" as the Messiah--and they lead him away to prison. This is a tactical measure, for soon he is to be set free to present himself to the public in triumph. But he is not released, the political camps become divided again, the political situation can not be resolved, the mysterious old man has disappeared, and the people are once again subjected to arbitrary rule and bloody terror. In the isolation of the prison, the "rebel" increasingly comes to believe himself to be the Messiah, and he perishes, trapped in a hall of a complicated arrangement of mirrors (p. 320), perhaps watched silently through a hole in the wall by an eye--the eye of the ruler? the church dignitary? his father?--that has never acknowledged itself to him. For long ago, at the time of the birth of the son, an old man had ridden a donkey into the city in a triumphal procession. He was cheered as a liberator, but he had only gone on to seize power for himself.

Up to this point, we have by no means sufficiently worked out the dramaturgy of the "rebel" who is not a rebel at all, who is merely held up as a rebel and messiah by the outside world and who finally, in his delusion in isolation, merely parrots that which had been forced upon him in the mistaking of his identity. We do not yet know what makes this particular course of events stringent and compelling and what the binding principle is. But there is a second horizon of expectations opened up by the starting dynamics--the constellation of the relationship between mother and son. Mother is a beautiful woman. At the same time, she is indifferent towards her son. Mother and son meet only at table for their evening meal, which is served by the deaf-mute servant, the only servant in the household, with whom mother communicates through signs. Mother never leaves her room in the house that lies at the center of the city except to go out at night, in sumptuous attire, and return towards the morning. She ignores or side steps her son's questions about his father, only letting him know that his father had already been seventy years old when she married him. Once the boy trails her secretly and sees her disappear into a small palace with blazing windows set in a dark and lonely park. A gargantuan servant shoos him away; he never finds the way to his mother, the way to love, again. He now attempts to attain manhood through tackling the problem of his father, but his father does not make himself available to him. All that is left to the young man is to imitate the substitute identities thrust upon him, and his own possibilities of initiative run aground. Finally, insanity brings total disintegration of self and the world. This is a dramaturgy of total regression--from the impossibility of the erotic conflict all the way to the impossibility of taking one's place in the world.

The erotic conflict is important to the logic of the events. We have not yet spoken of the existential experience of happiness that this "Draft of a Novel" sets up and allows to affect the logic of the narrative. This experience of happiness is the erotic, intimate relationship between mother and son in the seclusion of the home, which, outside the realm of laws valid in public life, has the potential to house all possible pleasures of love. This remains a secret, for mother and son's only servant is a deaf-mute who can betray nothing. The happiness of the couple remains undisturbed, as father has deserted the scene and is old, lost without a trace, and probably long buried.

Anarchical love between mother and son takes effect in the dramaturgy of the narrative as anarchy from the underground, and not as anarchy that shows itself, as is the case in Schlink's bestseller Der Vorleser (1995), with its love nest of "Stute" ("mare") and "Jungchen" ("young").

The implications of an erotic pair constellation determine the staging of events of the narrative. This becomes clear when the implications are worked out and put into words: Beyond the realm of laws and the powers of order, mother and son's erotic intimacy becomes unbound and unrestrained in an everything-is-possible setting, in the bliss of a pleasure- and pain-filled realm of the polymorphous-perverse, as Freud called it. At the same time, the relationship of this pair is asymmetrical; there is necessarily a superior and an inferior position. The son takes a subordinate position to mother. She is the one who gave him his life; she is the master of love; she introduces him to love; she is the one who has organized and protected his life; she is the nourisher and the holder of resources. The happiness of love between mother and son in the love nest has the following meaning: She nourishes, protects, and idolizes him. He turns himself over to her. There is no future perspective, no opening to the outside world. All there is, is complete satisfaction through one another, total abandonment to the here-and-now, and the willingness to live for the moment and then to fade away. It is to the powerful mother, the great mother who envelops the son, incorporates him, that the son gives himself. It is to her that the son gives pleasure with his erotic means. The son's surrender to the great mother is absolute self-abandonment; there are no limits and no holds, no protection and no safeguards. At any time his mother may seize hold of his sexuality, his phallic being, appropriate it, or make it disappear. He is completely exposed and vulnerable to her. Even though she idolizes, cares for, and protects him, he is in the weak position. He is not secure in his masculinity, and he can not take it over as his own.

Dürrenmatt employs mother-son intimacy as a dramaturgical possibility, but he plays with this possibility in a reversal mode. He does not compose a celebration of wild sexuality between mother and son on the grave of the absent, aging father, so to speak. No, where there could be closeness, in the secrecy of the secluded household, there instead reign indifference and the strictest of boundaries. There is here no longing and no sensual pleasure, none of the moments of personal and sensuous togetherness that Proust described fervently, protected by the framework of a clearly Oedipal scene in which the father controls the whole thing with his disapproval:

My sole consolation when I went upstairs for the night was that Mamma would come in and kiss me after I was in bed, But this good night lasted for so short a time: she went down again so soon that the moment in which I heard her climb the stairs, and then caught the sound of her garden dress of blue muslin, from which hung little tassels of plaited straw, rustling along the double-doored corridor, was for me a moment of the keenest sorrow" (Proust 1956 /1913, pp. 13-14).

Proust evokes the happiness of mother and son against the background of failure and separation; Dürrenmatt constructs isolation and separation precisely at the juncture that constitutes a basis for intimacy, attachment, familiarity, and physical closeness. The dynamics take effect, but they themselves remain mute. The son's role is merely that of a mute dwarf in the face of a silent but effective taboo against contact.

Gottfried Keller, who also had an understanding of the dramaturgy of happiness between mother and son, took the starting dynamics of the weak position of the son in mother's realm of power to a happy ending through the intervention of a holy miracle. In one of Keller's Sieben Legenden (Seven Legends, Keller 1889), a knight named Zendelwald lives in a secluded castle in the forest alone with his energetic, though impoverished, mother. She was widowed, fortunately, after a brief marriage to a ridiculous, good-for-nothing idiot. Knight Zendelwald goes through a multitude of various forms of idleness, weakness, passivity, and daydreaming, but through a miracle, he one day meets a wonderful woman, and from then on, he is a man with a good head on his shoulders who knows what to do and when to do it--or to put it better and more consistently: a polite, well-behaved, and grateful fellow (Keller 1889, p. 36).

For this delightful story, Keller chose to play humorously with the legend form, and the story is entitled "Jungfrau als Ritter" (The Maiden as Knight). In fact, it is very similar to the fairy tale of Puss in Boots: One character alone is industrious--in the fairy tale, Puss; in Keller's legend, the Mother of God--and this character reaches the goal through cleverness, trickery, and strength. The other character, the figure of the son, is a totally passive hero, merely a beneficiary: the clever Puss, or the powerful Virgin Mary, simply lays the fruits of victory in the hero's lap. We do not know why this is so. It is, after all, a miracle. And without a miracle, "Jungfrau als Ritter" would be an unpalatable story.

In the intimate relationship with his mother, the son cannot become a man; there he is condemned to weakness. Only a miracle will make him a man--the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God, can do so. That is the dream; that is the wish fulfillment dream. Being the apple of the maternal eye leads the youth to feel he is magnificent, but that remains narcissistic fantasy, even though it is a theme, as in Keller's little legend, that can be drawn out in a playful manner. Keller's story of the miracle is totally lacking in crassness and cliché. Even though the son turns from a naïve and dutiful dreamer into a dutiful man with whom we can be quite "satisfied," he still remains under the tender but powerful management of womanly hands. So Zendelwald also--and here Keller is consistent when it comes to the logic of the dramaturgy--does not undergo transformation.

Zendenwald is happy, because he has embraced his instrumentalization, but he is actually just as much a prisoner as "Spiegel, das Kätzchen" ("Mirror, the Cat"), which in another of Keller's stories (Keller 1856) makes himself comfortable in a snug dungeon. Spiegel has every reason to apply his cunning in order to free himself, for it is battle of life and death, and it comes to a battle of strengths. In contrast, Zendelwald experiences loving attention, tenderness, and care. He actually lives quite well in a happily united matriarchy that has the antique characteristics of the world of goddesses. Thus there is not even a wedding couple, but instead a wedding trinity:

But Zendelwald's mother arrived at the wedding mounted upon a horse and as proud as if she had sat in a bed of roses her life long. She oversaw her wealth and possessions and hunted in the wide forests into a ripe old age, while Bertrade insisted on having Zendelwald take her to his lonely family castle once a year, where she nested with her beloved in the gray tower as tenderly as the wild doves in the surrounding trees. But never did they fail to stop on their way and enter that little church to offer their prayers before the Virgin, who stood as still and holy on her altar as if from it she had never once descended (translation of Keller 1889, p. 36. the original text can be found in [4] in the appendix).

Here it is not the father who prepares a place in the paternal home, extending honor and recognition to his son, whom the world has defeated, It is a maternal community with wealth and possessions and yet also within a wild forest, with a tenderly cared for creature in their midst.

What happens, however, if the son is not dutiful? Does he suffer the fate of the wolf in the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood? Away with him! Finish him off! And grandmother, mother, and child laugh at his undoing. The happiness in the feminine love nest is great; the tender nesting is wonderful. The three women, however, nonetheless remain the Three Fates, goddesses who determine the course of human life, mistresses of life and death, sufficient unto themselves--father is far away.

Fathers preach love, give us death to drink

In the Oedipal dramaturgy as developed by Freud using the model of Sophocles' tragedy, the situation is as follows: Whoever has intercourse with his mother and strikes his father dead brings damage and harm and must be banished from society. He has the option, though, to transform himself through self-punishment (Sophocles' image of self-blinding), and he goes through life knowingly as one branded.

In the mother-son dramaturgy as composed by Dürrenmatt, the situation is different: Father withdraws from the close mother-son companionship and turns over the field of love to the mother-son pair. Mother and son are sufficient unto themselves and establish, beyond the realm of social order, a closed niche, relinquishing autonomy, future, and fertility. The niche becomes a Labyrinth with no exit. The individuation of the son and his positioning and recognition in the social world do not take place. His existence culminates in self-renunciation and abandonment to death.

These are the dynamics Dürrenmatt creates in a number of his texts. A powerfully superior, sexual mother figure appears in the role of usurper, temptress, and threat as early as in "Grieche sucht Griechin" (Dürrenmatt 1955 ; trans. "Once a Greek" 1965); in the guise of a goddess of revenge in Besuch der Alten Dame (Dürrenmatt 1956 ; trans.The Visit: A Tragi-Comedy 1983); not as temptress, but as usurper, exploiter, and imprisoner in the power-mad directress of the lunatic asylum in Die Physiker (Dürrenmatt 1962 ; trans. The Physicists, 1964). In "Vinter"®LDÿ?õ¯.. (Dürrenmatt 1998a) she appears twice as a terrible vision--as an extraditing mother and as a seductive daughter.

In the autobiographical text set before his Romanentwurf, Der Rebell, Dürrenmatt describes the external personal situation that his conception tied into: At the time, Dürrenmatt lay ill and feverish alone in his student lodgings. Only a thin partition separated his room from that of his neighbor, an impressive woman who received numerous nightly male visitors, among them an old man, whose clearly audible efforts at pleasure suggested that the doings and experience were intensive and powerful. Taking leave of his benefactress, the old man was happy, blissful, and grateful. The neighbor showed herself once to Dürrenmatt the patient, as motherly, reassuring, and helpful in a practical way. She was a powerful, sexual mother figure, of unlimited open-handedness, if paid, beyond the realm of social propriety, beyond personal attachments.

Man in his fundamental ridiculousness does not, according to Dürrenmatt, know religiosity other than as a lie, a travesty. Reason allows us to put the ridiculousness into words. Edgar, in Dürrenmatt's Play Strindberg. Totentanz nach August Strindberg (Dürrenmatt 1969 ; trans. Play Strindberg: The Dance of Death Choreographed, 1978), puts it this way: "Certainly the machinery will one day break down, and nothing will remain of us but a cartload of manure for the garden, but for as long as the machinery clatters on, you should flail your arms and feet about wildly for as long as you can. That's my philosophy" (translation of Dürrenmatt 1969, p. 22. original text can be found in [5] in the appendix).

However, Dürrenmatt does indeed know the Holy. It is the transformed mother: the indifferent, eternal cosmos, indifferent Nature that can bring death whenever it wishes. And the ridiculousness, the fundamental ridiculousness, is that move in the game that brands the nameless son-figure, who cannot take a place in the social order and become a person, with the pride of wild self-abandonment.

Intimidation is programed into the script. Holy fear is in command--holy terror. The female wears the head of Medusa (Freud 1940 ; Devereux 1981). The female is big and powerful and terrible for the man who gets a frontal and unobstructed glimpse of it. And big and terrible is the female, moreover, when it approaches the son/man, coveting and demanding love. The only thing to do is to run for your life when you can, for otherwise you will have to give up and hand over everything, if necessary your life, like all the husbands and renegade lovers in Der Besuch der alten Dame, like the wayward youth in Das Haus (Dürrenmatt 1998a, pp. 113-130), like the horrified Vinter in the story of the same name (Dürrenmatt 1998a, pp. 189-232), like the physicists (in the play of that name) who, in the lunatic asylum controlled by a woman, are just as absolutely convinced as is Modes Melker in Durcheinandertal (Dürrenmatt 1989), whose bedridden gluttonous wife knows all, controls all.

Thus, entreaties of love can only remain sterile and ceremonial, perhaps hasty, as were the words from the mouth of the president in his nightly conversation with his hired, Greek would-be-murderer in Once a Greek (Dürrenmatt, 1955)--ceremonial, but empty declamations. They are as weak and wan and doomed as the encounter between the two lovers in Romulus der Grosse (Dürrenmatt 1964 ; trans. Romulus the Great 1965) or in Der Mitmacher (Dürrenmatt 1986). Not even the two lovers in Once a Greek have a happy and fertile love life: In "Ending I," the hero ends up standing around alone as a god of war; in "Ending II," "for lending libraries," they find their way to each other, but as soon as they do, everything falls apart --the entire country, even the silence and rigor mortis of corpses. Not even flight to the stony image of the love goddess in Greece brings relief.

The religious transposition of the female to prehistory, as it were, or to the realm of the indifferent/faraway/infinite, to the cold starry heavens, to the Weltallkälte ("cold of the cosmos") (Dürrenmatt 1989, Mondfinsternis, p. 253) thus reveals itself to be a ceremonial process of neutralizing. It is thoroughly better that the female remain afar, cold and uninterested. Intimidation creates this necessity for distance. Distance is linked to foolishness. Man, in his fundamental ridiculousness, goes on the offensive and exhibits his endangered, threatened, impaired, broken prosthetic body, marked by ugliness and deformation, in order to nip love and desire in the bud, to prevent physical union. This unapproachability does not, however, do away with the existential dependency of the living creature, and for this reason the destructive desire to dissect binds itself to a celebration of delivery--the celebration of death.

Here is a translation of an example taken from Mondfinsternis:

Up in the Flötenbach forest, much later, he comes to his senses abruptly, the windows are still open, there is snow in the car, on his coat . . . , for a moment he thinks it is dreadfully cold, something warm, sweet, black pours out of his mouth, but he feels no pain, a deep calm comes over him. Mechanically he bangs around on the instrument panel, the motor gives a roar, he grabs the automatic clutch without knowing that he is doing so, the car shoots backwards, then forwards, then down the street, crashes through the snow drift, drops to the pine trees, silent in the deep snow, the car crosswise in the thicket. A strange holiness shimmers through the dark snow around him. From the street he hears singing, "The moon has risen, the tiny golden stars shine in the heavens bright and clear." Amazed, he grasps the idea that someone is going by on the street up there and that it is night, and he remembers that is was morning before and that someone was with him, he no longer knows who. "How still is the world, and in the veil of twilight, so cosy and so sweet!" sings a female voice, and for him it is as if the song, far and farther away, then closer once more and then very distant, fades away in endless verses (trans. Dürrenmatt 1989, Mondfinsternis, pp. 265-266. The original text can be found in [6] in the appendix).

This is the way Lotcher dies, alone, in Mondfinsternis, amidst the silence, though not at all in the solemn composure of nirvana, but naturally--the ridiculous frenzied actions are typical--while grasping and grabbing at the controls and sliding around stupidly in the car; cocooned in a Labyrinthine, holy world of snow; a woman's voice, far away and finally fading into the distance, sings of the moon.

A god, who because he was thought up as eternal, would also live along with the world that Moses Melker imagined and along with all the other worlds and gods imagined by others. As this thought occurred to Moses Melker he began to laugh. And then he too caught on fire, and beside him the manuscript "Preis der Gnade," dedicated to Cäcilie Melker-Räuchlin, was in flames, and the clock melted, and the rocking chair burned and the coffee, and everything crashed down into the depths (trans. Dürrenmatt 1989, p. 175. The original text can be found in [7] in the appendix).

Moses Melker, the main character in Durcheinandertal, may be a bizarre and distinctive figure, but his uniqueness or individuality is unimportant and just as insignificant as with Vinter (in "Vinter") or Lotcher (in ondfinsternis).

This episode is a magnificent and splendid signal--as magnificent, splendid, and bizarre as Lotcher's destruction in the snow and the solemn loss of self of the "rebel" in the cabinet of mirrors, the loss of self in the Labyrinth in Winterkrieg (Dürrenmatt 1998), and bizarre and gruesome like Vinter being consumed by rats in the Labyrinth of the house. Superficially, the signal demonstrates the heros' destruction, but cryptically it also produces the triumph of a peak fulfillment: a death wedding. The physical body of the male protagonist is consumed by fire, eaten by rats, dries up in the underground Labyrinth prisons, dies in snow, rots in the forest, and dies of the coldness of the cosmos (Dürrenmatt 1998, p. 253); and a strange holiness emanates from the union of the body with the space into which it dissolves.

Here it is as if Dürrenmatt, who firmly rejects stereotypical psychoanalytic interpretations, is staging the idea of the death wish (Freud 1920) in literary form as a dramaturgy of non-individuation. It is as if he is constructing, with the wedding of cosmos and "ridiculous" human specimen, the dramaturgical basis for scenic developments that are carried out by protagonists and antagonists who embody non-personal, non-individuated specimens of Homo erectus. Non-individuation does not mean inadequacy or baseness here, however. This is not about a tragedy of human depravity. The drama is not the drama of the dispossessed, banished, or damned. Dürrenmatt's monsters are magnificent. Their actions are carried out in proud renunciation of self-determination and self-preservation in the jungle of city and forest and village and land and house and cave, right in the middle of the coldness of the cosmos, where they are exposed to the devastating blows of cosmic meteors. All these monsters are magnificent not in their moral or social existences, but rather in their bold surrender to annihilation.

The dramaturgy of non-individuation is not meant to be any sort of playing around with characters and narrative patterns. What it transmits is a sort of superhuman ignorance of fear, and it shines in "strange holiness" as a vision of animal people with the spark of the divine in their "brains."

How does the dramaturgy accomplish this? It has to have a basis; it must set the starting determinants of the dramaturgical development that make that mythical world of the absurd necessary and vital. As the starting basis of his dramaturgy of the ridiculous, Dürrenmatt constructs the intimate attachment of the son figure to the maternal figure--the imprisonment in the maternal Labyrinth of love. On this basis, the non-individuation and non-personalization of the male protagonists in the mythical space of the "old child" become existentially manifest. Obvious, too, becomes the staging of fulfillment as the magnificent courage to throw oneself towards the death wedding and the staging of physical existence in its surrender as a celebration of death. Bärlach, who in Der Richter und Sein Henker (Dürrenmatt 1952 ; trans. The Judge and His Hangman 2001) is also doomed to die, celebrates by dining on a specialty of Bern ("Berner Platte") as a signal at the end of his existence as a policeman: that which nourishes as a banquet--that which nourishes is that which kills.

Fundamental ridiculousness and the courage to dissolve the self.


1. Excerpt from Dürrenmatt, Labyrinth, Stoffe I-III

Warum deute ich das Labyrinth nicht psychoanalytisch? Als Wunsch, wieder in den Mutterbauch zurückzukriechen, und als Trauer, je herausgekrochen zu sein? Weil ich bezweifle, mit dieser Denkmethode, mit diesem Eintauchen ins Unbewusste, mein eigentliches Wesen, meinen ‚Mittelpunkt', zu erreichen . . . Die Motive, psychoanalytisch gedeutet, lösen sich in Abstraktionen und Trivialitäten auf, die, denkt man weiter, immer weniger bedeuten, bis sie eigentlich nichts mehr bedeuten. Die dunkle Maschinerie der Triebe sei nicht geleugnet, im Gegenteil, ich setze sie als etwas Selbstverständliches voraus, das uns in Schwung hält. Nicht selbstverständlich ist die oft abenteuerliche Reise, die, von solchen Trieben in Gang gesetzt, ein Mensch zu unternehmen vermag; in diesem Nicht-Selbstverständlichen wittere ich eine Wahl, eine Entscheidung, die ich persönlich getroffen habe und immer wieder treffe: zu schreiben. Was auch immer diese Wahl bedeutet, ob sie nun scheinbar oder wirklich sei, zwangsläufig oder frei erfolgte, sie ist das Ergebnis eines Urdramas, jenes der Auseinandersetzung eines Ichs mit seiner Umwelt, weder allein von der Umwelt noch allein vom Ich aus zu erklären, und als Vorgang, als Urdrama, immer einzigartig . . . (Dürrenmatt 1998, pp. 82-83).

2. Excerpt from Dürrenmatt, Labyrinth, Stoffe I-III, Der Rebell

Die Geschichte der Hauptperson sollte schon in deren Jugend beginnen. A (sein Name ist mir entfallen) wächst in irgendeiner grösseren Ortschaft auf, nehmen wir an in einer Stadt von hunderttausend Einwohnern; vorwiegend bürgerliches Milieu, ländliche Umgebung, mitteleuropäisch, doch das ist unwichtig--der Anfang der Erzählung ist unbestimmt, vage, als habe der Erzähler nur unvollständige Nachrichten über A's Jugend. A ist das einzige Kind eines wohlhabenden Kaufmanns. Er hat seinen Vater nie kennengelernt. Dieser trat während der Schwangerschaft seiner Frau eine Reise in ferne Länder an und kehrte nicht mehr zurück. Der Sohn wohnt mit seiner Mutter und einer alten Magd in einem weiträumigen Haus in der Innenstadt. Die Magd ist taubstumm, nur die Mutter kann sich ihr mit Zeichen verständlich machen. Die Mutter ist eine schöne Frau. Sie ist gleichgültig gegenüber ihrem Sohn, tagsüber bleibt sie auf ihrem Zimmer, nur das Abendessen nimmt sie gemeinsam mit A ein, von der alten Magd bedient, schweigend, höchstens dass sie sich manchmal nach seinem Unterricht erkundigt, den der Knabe von seinem buckligen Hauslehrer erhält. Von ihrem verschollenen Mann spricht die Mutter nie. Wenn A nach seinem Vater fragt, bekommt er keine Antwort; nur einmal erwähnt sie, als etwas offenbar völlig Unwichtiges, sein Vater sei schon siebzig gewesen, als sie ihn geheiratet habe. Nach dem Abendessen zieht sich die Mutter zurück, um später in kostbarer Kleidung das Haus zu verlassen und erst gegen Morgen zurückzukehren." (Dürrenmatt 1998, p. 305)

3. Excerpt from Dürrenmatt, Turmbau, Stoffe IV-IX

Auf der Terrasse vor dem Casino sind in mehreren Reihen Platanen gepflanzt, ein Gärtner war beschäftigt, die Äste zurückzustutzen, er stand auf einer Leiter unmittelbar am Rande der Terrasse gegen das Trottoir; ich betrachtete ihn, als ich an ihm vorbeiging, und er betrachtet mich, ich glitt aus, ein Hundedreck lag auf der Strasse, ich sass auf dem Hintern, glücklicherweise unbeschmutzt, ich erhob mich, als ob nichts geschehen wäre, der Gärtner verzog keine Miene, sah mir einfach zu, ich ging zur Universität, kam nach anderthalb Stunden zurück, wieder stand der Gärtner auf seiner Leiter, bloss an einem anderen ersten Baum einer anderen Reihe, wieder betrachtete ich ihn, wieder betrachtete er mich, wieder glitt ich aus, wieder auf dem gleichen Hundedreck, wieder ohne mich zu beschmutzen, wieder erhob ich mich, als ob nichts geschehen wäre, wieder verzog der Gärtner keine Miene, sah mir einfach zu, doch vergesse ich seinen Blick nicht mehr: Es lag ein unendliches Erstaunen darin, die überwältigende Erkenntnis, einem überirdischen Trottel begegnet zu sein . . . Dem Mann auf der Leiter war der Mensch in seiner Lächerlichkeit an sich erschienen, als die Urkomödie, er hatte an mir, an meinem zweimaligen Hinfallen, an dieser Wiederholung des Lächerlichen etwas Metaphysisches erlebt, stellte ich mir blitzschnell vor . . . . ,gerade weil diese Wiederholung unfreiwillig geschah und nicht auf dem Kunstgriff des Clowns beruhte, auf dem dramaturgischen Trick, das Komische mehrfach zu wiederholen. Indem ich dem Gärtner als das erschien, was ich war, erschien ich mir selber (Dürrenmatt 1998a, pp. 115-116).

4. Excerpt from Keller, Die Jungfrau als Ritter

Zendelwalds Mutter aber erschien bei der Hochzeit hoch zu Ross und so stolz, als ob sie zeitlebens im Glück gesessen hätte. Sie verwaltete Geld und Gut und jagte bis in ihr hohes Alter in den weitläufigen Forsten, während Bertrade es sich nicht nehmen liess, sich alljährlich einmal von Zendelwald in dessen einsames Heimatschlösschen bringen zu lassen, wo sie auf dem grauen Turme mit ihrem Liebsten so zärtlich horstete wie die wilden Tauben auf den Bäumen umher. Aber niemals unterliessen sie, unterwegs in jenes Kirchlein zu treten und ihr Gebet zu verrichten vor der Jungfrau, die auf ihrem Altar so still und heilig stand, als ob sie nie von demselben heruntergestiegen wäre (Keller 1889, p. 36).

5. Excerpt from Dürrenmatt, Play Strindberg:

Gewiss, einmal setzt die Maschinerie aus, und nichts bleibt von uns als ein Schiebkarren voll Mist für ein Gartenbeet, aber so lange die Maschinerie noch klappert, soll man mit Händen und Füssen um sich schlagen, was das Zeug hält. Das ist meine Philosophie." (Dürrenmatt 1969, p. 22)

6. Excerpt from Dürrenmatt, Labyrinth, Stoffe I-III

Oben, im Flötenbachwald, viel später, kommt er jäh zu sich, die Fenster sind immer noch offen, Schnee liegt im Wagen, auf seinem Mantel . . . , einen Augenblick lang glaubt er, es sei entsetzlich kalt, etwas Warmes, Süsses, Schwarzes quillt aus seinem Mund, aber er fühlt keinen Schmerz, eine grosse Ruhe ist über ihn gekommen. Mechanisch hantiert er am Instrumentenbrett, der Motor heult auf, er hantiert an der automatischen Kupplung, ohne dass er sein Hantieren wahrnimmt, der Wagen schnellt nach hinten, dann nach vorn, dann die Strasse hinab, durchbricht die Schneeböschung, fällt in die Tannen, lautlos im tiefen Schnee, liegt quer im Dickicht. Eine seltsame Heiligkeit schimmert durch den dunklen Schnee um ihn. Von der Strasse hört er singen ‚Der Mond ist aufgegangen, die goldnen Sternlein prangen am Himmel hell und klar'. Er begreift verwundert, dass jemand oben auf der Strasse vorübergeht und dass es Nacht ist, und er erinnert sich, dass es vorher Morgen gewesen ist und irgend jemand bei ihm war, er weiss nicht mehr, wer. ‚Wie ist die Welt so stille und in der Dämmrung Hülle so traulich und so hold!' singt die Frauenstimme, und dann ist ihm noch, als ob das Lied fern und ferner, dann wieder näher und dann ganz fernein endlosen Strophen verklinge (Dürrenmatt 1998, Mondfinsternis, pp. 265-266).

7. Excerpt from Dürrenmatt, Durcheinandertal:

Ein Gott, der, weil er als ewig erdacht war, auch leben würde samt der Welt, die sich Moses Melker dachte und samt all den anderen Welten und Göttern, die andere dachten. Als Moses Melker solches noch dachte, fing er an zu lachen. Dann brannte auch er, und neben ihm brannte das Manuskript ‚Preis der Gnade', gewidmet Cäcilie Melker-Räuchlin, und schmolz die Uhr, und der Schaukelstuhl brannte und der Kaffee, und alles brach in die Tiefe hinunter(Dürrenmatt 1989, p. 175).

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To cite this article, use this bibliographical entry: Brigitte Boothe "Non-Individuation and Wedding with Death in the Works of Friedrich Dürrenmat". PSYART: A Hyperlink Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts. Available October 1, 2023 [or whatever date you accessed the article].
Received: April 24, 2001, Published: April 24, 2001. Copyright © 2001 Brigitte Boothe