Born on January 5, 1921, in Konolfingen, Switzerland, Friedrich
Dürrenmatt already had writing in his blood. His grandfather--a
well-known satirist and political poet--encouraged in the young
boy a questioning spirit which would characterize his later works.
In fact, the memory of his grandfather inspired Dürrenmatt
throughout his career. He would later write, "My grandfather
was once sent to prison for ten days because of a poem he wrote.
I haven't been honored in that way yet. Maybe it's my fault,
or maybe the world has gone so far to the dogs that it doesn't
even feel insulted anymore if it's criticized severely."
As a young man, Dürrenmatt attended the University of
Bern where he studied literature, theology, philosophy, and science.
It was here that he first became interested in playwriting after
becoming a regular patron of the operettas. Among his favorite
playwrights were Aristophanes and Thornton
After transferring briefly to the University of Zurich, Dürrenmatt
decided to withdraw from school and try his hand at playwriting.
At the age of 22, he set about composing his first play, a lyrical
and apocalyptic comedy which was never produced. Over the course
of the next few years, he struggled to earn a living as a writer
and had to turn to the writing of short stories, mystery novels,
and radio plays to make ends meet, but he never gave up writing
for the stage. His breakthrough came in 1952 with the comedy
The Marriage of Mr. Mississippi in which he first began
to formulate his own unique style of theatre, a dark, dreamlike
world populated by characters who, though frighteningly real,
are often distorted into caricature. The playwright found that
dark comedy was a most effective medium through which to expose
the grotesque nature of the human condition. The Marriage
of Mr. Mississippi evoked strong reactions from Dürrenmatt's
audiences and established him as one of the finest European dramatists
of his day.
Dürrenmatt's most popular plays include Romulus the
Great (1949), The Visit (1956), The Physicists
(1962), and Play Strindberg (1969). His many awards include
the Drama Critics' Circle Award and the Schiller
Prize. He died in 1990.
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