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The Pledge
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About the Author

Friedrich D rrenmatt (1921-1990) was a prolific Swiss dramatist, novelist, and essayist. His Selected Writings, in three volumes, is also published by the University of Chicago Press. Joel Agee has translated numerous German authors into English. Sven Birkerts is the author of six books, including The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age and My Sky Blue Trades: Growing Up Counter in a Contrary Time. He is editor of the journal AGNI and teaches writing at Harvard University.

Reviews

"Friedrich D rrenmatt (1921-1990) was best known as the author of clever, morally inquisitive plays such as 'The Visit' and 'The Physicists.' In the early 1950s he also wrote three short, spellbinding mystery novels, which the University of Chicago Press has reissued in paperback with new translations from the German by Joel Agee: The Pledge and The Inspector Barlach Mysteries: The Judge and His Hangman &Suspicion. The latter includes a thoughtful foreword by Sven Birkerts, who praises D rrenmatt's talent as a captivating entertainer who could also 'play through complex moral issues with a speed-chess decisiveness and inexorability.' . . . These are slender tales. But they have the weight and texture of classics. Mystery readers should be grateful to the University of Chicago Press for bringing these gems back to life."-- (02/04/2007)

"The Swiss essayist Friedrich D rrenmatt (1921-90) was a prolific writer of detective novels with a low regard for detective fiction. 'You set up your stories logically, like a chess game: all the detective needs to know is the rules, he replays the moves of the game, and checkmate, the criminal is caught and justice has triumphed. This fantasy drives me crazy.' D rrenmatt's tale doesn't so much alter the rules as sweep all the figures to the floor. Three young girls, each with blond braids and red dresses, are found dismembered in the woods. A pattern seems to emerge, yet the attempt to catch the killer develops into a fruitless obsession which drives the head of the investigation insane. D rrenmatt incorporates fairy-tale archetypes to distort the typical conventions of a psychological thriller--when little girls in red dresses skip off into the woods, should the investigation team focus their enquiries on a big, bad wolf? Not a book for anyone who likes a tidy conclusion, but as D rrenmatt says: 'The only way to avoid getting crushed by absurdity, is to humbly include the absurd in our calculations.'"

-- (11/25/2006)

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