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Assignment: On Observing the Observer of the Observers

Assignment: On Observing the Observer of the Observers

by Friedrich Durrenmatt, Joel Agee (Translator)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the Swiss playwright's wracking, brilliantly conceived new novel (published in German in 1986 and resourcefully translated by Agee), nothing is what it seems. Otto von Lambert, a well-known psychiatrist, gives F., a filmmaker, the ``assignment'' to follow the trail of his late wife, Tina, and learn why and how she was murdered in an unidentified Middle Eastern country, her raped body thrown to the jackals at the base of a mysterious Shi'ite shrine. F. accepts because she is mesmerized by Tina's journal, which is filled with hatred for her husband and intensified by a charged note: ``I am being watched.'' In Durrenmatt's blasted, menacing landscape everyone is being observed by everyone elseliterally, by field glasses, telescope, camera's eye; and figuratively, by the stealthy, obsessive scrutiny of each by each for purposes shrouded in ambiguity. The closer F. approaches some answer, the more it eludes her as mysteries are further coiled and compounded with false leads and shifting or mistaken identities. Out of these mazes within mazes the author extrapolates an arresting metaphysical mystery in 24 brief chapters, each cast as a single, spinning, convoluted sentence, each leading to further enigmas in the jagged, highly pictorial tale. Kierkegaard, who is cited repeatedly, is a presiding spirit; and philosophical, theological, mythic elements, instead of distracting, add depth and resonance to this remarkable tale. (March)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Tina von Lambert lies violated and dead at the foot of the Al-Hakim ruin. Her husband feels he drove her to this sordid end, and in guilty recompense hires F's film crew to document the mysterious circumstances surrounding Tina's death. Against her better judgment, F pursues the trail to a desert hotel where appearances begin to crumble, testing her ability to distinguish reality from perception. In this tightly crafted thriller, his first American publication in nearly 20 years, Durrenmatt demonstrates considerable virtuosity: each of 24 chapters is a single sentence. We may all be ``under observation,'' but the question is, Whose observation? The answer informs this novel's puzzle. Highly recommended. Paul E. Hutchison, Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park

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Random House Publishing Group
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1st American ed

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