18.3.10

Friedrich Dürrenmatt - Das Versprechen (The Pledge)


Rating 8.2

This is the best crime fiction novel I read so far.
The written proof how literary genres and labels should not mean a thing.

In fact, calling Dürrenmatt a crime fiction novelist would be a crime by itself. And yet, this book must be read from all those who are idolizing and idealising the "Scandinavian crime fiction golden vein".
As for me, what Dürrenmatt wrote here has very much to do with the success later gained by, say, Stig Larsson, Joe Nesbø and Henning Mankell.
Still he did it almost 50 years in advance.

The Pledge is masterfully written, has a rare psychological insight and works even better because of the contrast and counterposition between a brutal crime and the neatness of a well-fed social welfare country: Switzerland. A country where people want a peaceful life, but may not hesitate to lynch the suspicious, and then automatically guilty, foreigner in order to have their own summary justice.
Does it ring any bell?

Dürrenmatt loved and hated that Switzerland, his own Switzerland.
Therefore his best characters are the ones who can not stand its outward appearance, feeling oppressed, winning their battle for thinking out of the mass, but quite often losing the war.
Matthäi, the protagonist of The Pledge is a winner who loses or maybe a loser who wins. The right definition of him is up to the reader.

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