The Chinese Wall: (Die Chinesische Mauer)

The Chinese Wall: (Die Chinesische Mauer)

The Chinese Wall: (Die Chinesische Mauer)

The Chinese Wall: (Die Chinesische Mauer)

Excerpt

When I was in Germany in 1958 I was told by a lady busy with the translation, distribution, and production of American plays in various cities there that though the theatre in that country was most active very few new German plays of distinction were being written. The exceptions were the plays of two Swiss writers, Friedrich Duerrenmatt and Max Frisch. We know Duerrenmatt as a dramatist through The Visit in which Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne starred. Max Frisch, who was born in 1911, makes his English-language bow here as a playwright with The Chinese Wall, which he wrote in 1946 and revised in 1955.

I know of no play which is more universally contemporary than The Chinese Wall. And it may be significant that such a play comes from a traditionally noncombatant country surrounded on all sides by nations whose histories may be read as a long series of wars with their aftermaths and the continued anticipation or fear of further wars.

The reason for this anomaly may be that neutrality no longer has the sound of safety which characterized the term up to 1945. And the reason I refer to the play's contemporaneity before anything else which distinguishes it is that the central question of our time is not the struggle between East and West or between two ideologies but rather the survival of man. "Europe" says one of the characters in the play "is death," but he is a character out of the past. The "eternal" lovers of history (hence contemporary) realize that "The world's become a single grave."

The subject of the play then is this all-embracing preoccupation of our day, the problem transcending all parties or national issues. Yet the author calls his play--and this too is utterly characteristic--a "farce." It is a farce because of its theatrical form--a morality play in terms of a masquerade . . .

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