Max Frisch

Swiss playwrighter and novelist (1911–1991)

Max Rudolf Frisch (15 May 19114 April 1991) was a Swiss architect, playwright and novelist, who is regarded as one of the most influential Swiss writers of the 20th century.

Frisch (circa 1974)



I'm not Stiller (1955)

  • Nothing is harder than to accept oneself.
  • The renunciation of recognition will never become possible without a certitude that our life is directed by a suprahuman authority.
  • The horror of uncreative solitude.....
  • How much self-knowledge is limited to presenting other people with a more precise and exact description of our weaknesses.
  • You merely had an affair with me, to be exact, and therefore no right to prevent me from another affair.'
  • Cause and effect are never divided between two people
  • You can't make the incomprehensible comprehensible without losing it completely.
  • It is a sign of non love that is to say a sin, to form a finished image of ones neighbors.
  • My reality doesn't lie in the part I play, but in the unconscious decision as to what kind of part I assign to myself.

Homo Faber (1957)

  • Technology [is] the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it.

Gantenbein (1964)

  • Carrying on with the conversation like a woman when the bill comes...
  • They wanted what is possible only once: the now.
  • Not to know one another to a degree that went beyond all possibility of knowing one another was beautiful.
  • I know that I'm the happiest of lovers...
    • Gantenbein faking to his lover he is blind
  • It is the secret that a man and a woman keep from each other that makes them a couple
  • He knows that every piece of selfknowledge which one cannot keep to oneself makes one smaller and smaller, he knows that he who cannot keep silent his wishes to be recognized in the greatness of his selfknowledge which is no selfknowledge if it cannot be kept silent, and one becomes hypersensitive one feels betrayed because one wants to be recognized by people, one becomes ridiculous ambitious in inverse ratio to ones selfknowledge

Sketchbook 1946-1949

  • The monstruous paradox that people come closer to one another without words
  • We nest in an accident whose precarious balance, when we happen to become conscious of it, oppresses yet at the same time inspires us
  • To a certain degree we are really the person others have seen in us
  • Time does not change us it just unfolds us
  • Even silence becomes whether we want it or not a statement that is in fact astoundingly presumptuous
  • How can we ever judge a human being when he is and he will always be another person
  • Uniforms ruin every character
  • 'Everything that is human looks like a special case'
  • Overcoming prejudice: the only possible way through love, which creates no graven images.
  • The sort of misery that brings no moral reward, misery that is of no value to the mind and soul, that is the true misery, it is hopeless, bestial and nothing else.
  • To write is to read one's own self
  • You hold the pen like a needle in a seismic observatory, and in fact it is not we who write, but rather we are written. Writing means to read oneself
  • A poem, a genuine one, does not need to fear the world; it stands up to it, even when a bell rings and an unexpected guest arrives to tell us, while the same coffee is still in our cups, of his fourteen years in captivity...
  • What we call unfaithfuless: our attempt for once to get out from behind our own face, our desperate hope of eluding the definitive.
  • Does not everyone who describes something he has experienced believe basically that whatever happens to him has some sort of relevance.
  • Half a lifetime is spent with the unspoken question: Will it happen will it not?
  • Finished things cease to be a shelter for the spirit; but work in progress is a delight
  • Wer sich nicht mit Politik befaßt, hat die politische Parteinahme, die er sich sparen möchte, bereits vollzogen: er dient der herrschenden Partei.
    • A person who does not concern himself with politics has already made the political choice he was so anxious to spare himself: he is serving the ruling party.
  • (Present) it is a culture that strictly ignores present obligations and places itself entirely at the service of eternity
  • Why there are so many great actresses, so few great woman writers? The erotic urge that lies at the bottom of all art has a feminine and a masculine character. Feminine is the urge to be; masculine the urge to do. Interpretative art always has more of the feminine about it
  • People with the same education as my own, speaking the same words that I do, loving the same books, the same music, the same paintings, are by no means immune from the danger of turning into monsters and doing things we would not have thought possible among the people of our own day, apart from a few pathological exceptions. If they are not immune, Why should I be so confident of my own immunity?
  • One can be resolved to promote good, or one can be resolved to be a good person- Two separate things that are mutually exclusive
  • Your virtuous living is your enemy's best and cheapest weapon
  • What makes Shakespeare so overwhelming is the way in which the situation (who is confronting whom) is usually itself part of the composition, meaningful already as a situation
  • Theatrical effectiveness, I believe, lies in it's rarity its uniqueness
  • Plots- it seems there are thousands of them, all one's acquaintances known some, strangers make a present of them in letters, each the basis for a play or a novel...
  • That a plot has no real life of its own; it exists only in it's precipitates. It cannot be distilled but only crystallized- in which form it is then immutable, whether successful or unsuccessful: once and for all
  • Where the works gives scope for individuality, one sees a blossoming of self respect

Sketchbook 1966-1977

  • How much frankness can we stand in a friend?
  • The older you get the simpler you want to make it.
  • I feel fairly certain that my hatred harms me more than the people whom I hate.
  • What hope have you know given up ?
  • Are you friend with yourself ?
  • Do you know what you need?
  • ...for no rational reason.

Montauk (1975)

  • A society needs famous people; the question is whom it chooses for that role. Any criticism of its choice is by implication a criticism of that society.
  • Our guilt has its uses. It justifies much in the lives of others.
  • Life is boring. I have experiences now only when I am writing.
  • There are moments when her voice is all he needs.
  • If on some occasion I happen to read something in it — because, for instance, I need to know a date — I am always disconcerted to find that two or five years ago I came to exactly the same conclusion, only to forget it because I had not succeeded in living up to it; in fact, I had tenaciously been doing the very opposite.
  • You can lose a woman when you have won her.
  • The self knowledge that gradually or abruptly alienates a person from his previous life.

Drafts for a Third Sketchbook (2013)

    the American for that is:
  • The dead are difficult because they´ve never known the people I´m involved with today
  • Basically America (the USA) is not a warmongering but simply a commercial society: war as the continuation of business by other means.


  • Man hat Arbeitskräfte gerufen, und es kamen Menschen.
    • Translation: We were calling for manpower and people came.
Wikipedia has an article about: