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article imageHollywood And Zurich Salute Swiss Playwright Duerrenmatt

By Anne-Beatrice Clasmann     Dec 21, 2000 in Lifestyle
GENEVA (dpa) - For many Swiss citizens playwright Friedrich Duerrenmatt was more of a notable denigrator of his own country than an internationally-respected author.
In November 1990, not long before he died, Duerrenmatt shocked bourgeois Switzerland again by declaring in a speech that the Alpine state was a prison "in which every inmate is his own jailer".
Ten years later the row seems to have been forgotten.
To mark the 10th anniversary of Duerrenmatt's death, literary circles in Zurich are pulling out all the stops to mark the writer's ouevre. Swiss state-run television will carry a film portrait of the man from Berne and even Hollywood seems to have been infected by enthusiasm for his works.
"The Pledge", a remake of the harrowing Duerrenmatt classic about a child murderer, is due for U.S. release in January 2001. Directed by Sean Penn it stars Jack Nicholson and Helen Mirren.
The Diogenes publishing houses in Zurich plans a series of new releases from the rich Duerrenmatt literary legacy and more visitors will no doubt flock to the Duerrenmatt Centre opened in Neuchatel last September by the writer's widow Charlotte Kerr. Durrenmatt's pantings and drawings are also on display at the museum.
Since 1980 Diogenes has sold a total of 5.5 million copies of Duerrenmatt's works.
The 1962 drama "The Physicists" and the disturbing parable "The Visit" (1956) later filmed with Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Quinn, are among the most enduringly popular. The latter has been studied in literature classes by countless German-speaking school pupils.
Germany's best-known literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki said of Duerrenmatt not long after his death: "You can't love him but you can admire and cherish him". Swiss author Urs Widmer sighed: "I wish he could have lived for ever."
Despite the laurels the relationship of several leading Swiss writers to Duerrenmatt, including the equally celebrated Max Frisch, was tense. The next generation of Swiss writers certainly needed time to emerge from the shadows of the two literary leviathans.
Friedrich Duerrenmatt was born the son of a Protestant minister on January 5 at Konolfingen in Bern canton. After extensive studies in literature, theology, philosophy and science he came to prominence in Switzerland with several well-received dramas in the late 1940s.
Durrenmatt's international breakthrough was during the early 1950s with novels like "The Judge and the Executioner", "Suspicion" and "Greek Man Seeks Greek Woman."
The author died of a heart attack at his house in Neuchatel on December 14, 1990, just a few weeks before his 70th birthday.
Editor Anna von Planta, who has been in charge of the Duerrenmatt list at the Diogenes publishing house since 1985, looks back fondly on the "marvellous cooperation" with Duerrenmatt: "He was never difficult but amusing and thoughtful."
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