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A: Friedrich Dürrenmatt Pf: 1956, Zurich Pb: 1956 Tr: 1958 G: Drama in 3 acts; German prose S: Imaginary Swiss town of Güllen, 1950s C: 29m, 8f, extras Güllen has become such a backwater that express trains no longer stop there, but on this occasion the townspeople are at the station to welcome the return of a local girl Claire Zachanassian. She has become the richest woman in the world and, after an air crash, is put together entirely with artificial body parts. The Gülleners are hoping for a sizeable donation to help their economic problems, but she is willing to give money on only one condition. Many years previously she became pregnant by Alfred Ill (sometimes translated as Anton Schill), now a prosperous shopowner and mayor-elect of Güllen. He got two witnesses to lie on his behalf, and they are now Claire's castrated companions. Claire had to leave Güllen in disgrace, and her child died. She will hand over $1 billion if the townspeople murder Ill on her behalf. At first, they all reject this preposterous proposal. However, Ill notices that more and more people are buying goods on credit, notably yellow shoes, certain of soon becoming wealthy. When even his own family have acquired new outfits, Ill resigns himself to his fate. Facing death serenely, he goes to a town meeting, where there is unanimous acceptance of Claire's offer. Surrounded by his executioners, Ill drops to the ground. The Mayor proclaims: ‘He died of joy,’ and the happy Gülleners, now assured of future prosperity, process with Claire and Ill's coffin to the station.

A: Friedrich Dürrenmatt Pf: 1956, Zurich Pb: 1956 Tr: 1958 G: Drama in 3 acts; German prose S: Imaginary Swiss town of Güllen, 1950s C: 29m, 8f, extras

This was for some years the most frequently performed post-war German-language play. Using forcefully grotesque images and sparse dialogue, Dürrenmatt not only reflected on Switzerland's ambiguous relationship with Nazi Germany and on the wealth it acquired through the war, but also addresses the universal theme of people's willingness to compromise and deceive themselves while doing so.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921—1990)


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