Dürrenmatt and a Rantette


Friedrich Dürrenmatt
1921 – 1990

It seems I have been revisiting old favourites quite a bit recently. Here is another. Friedrich Dürrenmatt was Swiss and probably best known as a playwright, but he also wrote fiction, including a few detective novels. The best of these are, in my opinion, (1) Der Richter und Sein Henker (The Judge and his Hangman), (2) Der Verdacht (Suspicion) and (3) Das Versprechen: Requiem auf den Kriminalroman (The Pledge: Requiem for the Detective Novel)

These novels are not your usual, run-of-the-mill whodunnit. For instance, the protagonist of (1) and (2), Inspector Hans Barlach is seriously ill and has been given only a year to live. In (2) he manages to track down the bad guy from his sick bed. In (3) the policeman involved resigns his post so that he can continue his investigation into the murders of three young girls. All three novels are dark, moody and peopled by grotesque characters.

Now for my little rant. I have a Penguin book containing English translations of these three and a couple of other of Dürrenmatt’s novels. I have nothing against the translation, but the blurb on the back of the book presents very brief summaries of the plot of the novels. One of the characters in (2) is called Dr Nehle. The blurb calls him Neble. The protagonist in (3) is called Matthäi. The blurb calls him Matthias. Why? Don’t people check things any more? I don’t know why I am so irritated about this, but I am.


Photo credit: Elke Wetzig. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

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