BLUEBEARD by Max Friseh
Kirkus Star


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Like Beckett, one of Frisch's few rivals as a master of European literature, this Swiss storyteller grows ever terser: in the 100-odd pages here he conducts a fragmented, chilling journey into the responsibility of identity. Felix Schaad, 54, a Zurich doctor, stands accused of having strangled to death one of his six ex-wives, Rosalinde, who was--at the time of her murder--a discreet and successful call girl. As Schaad later drinks, saunas, and plays billiards, he mentally relives the trial: the testimony of his many ex-spouses (all of whom declared him too weak to be guilty); that of his present wife Jutta (with whom he has had an open marriage); and, ultimately, his acquittal. But Frisch doesn't serve this up in a linear fashion. Though Schaad at a certain point is referred to by the prosecutor and defender as ""the acquitted"" rather than ""the accused,"" the interrogation continues on: Schaad's dreams are cross-examined; so are the murdered Rosalinde and Schaad's dead parents (""Dead people can also make mistakes""). And thus the courtroom is transformed into an interiorization of Schaad's own deadly skepticism about himself: detained for ten months, his practice as a doctor blasted, dumped by Jutta, Schaad finds guilt the only possible succor. . . and is led so far as to confess the murder (a confession that's not accepted). Like I'm Not Stiller and Man in the Holocene, this is a remarkably unobtrusive pursuit of the mechanics of honesty, with unique exploration of the discrepancy between honesty and truth: another brilliant echo-chamber of literary invention and spare, charged material--by one of the few living greats, surely overdue for the Nobel Prize.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1983
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich