The Assignment: or, On the Observing of the Observer of the Observers

Overview

In Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s experimental thriller The Assignment, the wife of a psychiatrist has been raped and killed near a desert ruin in North Africa. Her husband hires a woman named F. to reconstruct the unsolved crime in a documentary film. F. is soon unwittingly thrust into a paranoid world of international espionage where everyone is watched—including the watchers. After discovering a recent photograph of the supposed murder victim happily reunited with her husband, F. becomes trapped in an apocalyptic ...

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Overview

In Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s experimental thriller The Assignment, the wife of a psychiatrist has been raped and killed near a desert ruin in North Africa. Her husband hires a woman named F. to reconstruct the unsolved crime in a documentary film. F. is soon unwittingly thrust into a paranoid world of international espionage where everyone is watched—including the watchers. After discovering a recent photograph of the supposed murder victim happily reunited with her husband, F. becomes trapped in an apocalyptic landscape riddled with political intrigue, crimes of mistaken identity, and terrorism.

F.’s labyrinthine quest for the truth is Dürrenmatt’s fictionalized warning against the dangers of a technologically advanced society that turns everyday life into one of constant scrutiny. Joel Agee’s elegant translation will introduce a fresh generation of English-speaking readers to one of European literature’s masters of language, suspense, and dystopia.
 
“The narrative is accelerated from the start. . . . As the novella builds to its horripilating climax, we realize the extent to which all values have thereby been inverted. The Assignment is a parable of hell for an age consumed by images.”—New York Times Book Review
 
“His most ambitious book . . . dark and devious . . . almost obsessively drawn to mankind’s most fiendish crimes.”—Chicago Tribune
 
“A tour-de-force . . . mesmerizing.”—Village Voice
 

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Editorial Reviews

Spectator

“Reading Dürrenmatt’s work leaves us with the impression of having witnessed the creation and then the explosion of a small galaxy. The light continues to reach us long after closing his books.”

— Alberto Manguel

New York Times Book Review

“A parable of hell for an age consumed by images.”

Chicago Tribune

“His most ambitious book . . . dark and devious . . . almost obsessively drawn to mankind’s most fiendish crimes.”

Washington Post

“Mystery readers should be grateful to the University of Chicago Press for bringing these gems back to life.”

— Richard Lipez

Guardian

“[Dürrenmatt] doesn’t so much alter the rules as sweep all the figures to the floor.”

Village Voice

“A tour-de-force . . . mesmerizing.”

Boston Globe

"Intelligent, gripping fiction with sinister and uncomfortable implications."
New Republic

"Sui generis, a late-modernist legend that pushes past the usual conception
— Sven Birkerts

Spectator - Alberto Manguel

“Reading Dürrenmatt’s work leaves us with the impression of having witnessed the creation and then the explosion of a small galaxy. The light continues to reach us long after closing his books.”

Washington Post - Richard Lipez

“Mystery readers should be grateful to the University of Chicago Press for bringing these gems back to life.”

New Republic - Sven Birkerts

"Sui generis, a late-modernist legend that pushes past the usual conceptions of self and society and finds a whole new way of rendering disturbance."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226174464
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 152
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Friedrich Dürrenmatt was born in 1921 in the village of Konolfingen, near Berne, Switzerland. He wrote prolifically during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, taking particular interest in human rights and the preservation of Israel. He is the author of numerous books published by the University of Chicago Press, including The Pledge.
Joel Agee has translated numerous German authors into English, including Heinrich von Kleist, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Elias Canetti. In 2005 he received the Modern Language Association’s Lois Roth Award for his translation of Hans Erich Nossack’s The End: Hamburg 1943.
Theodore Ziolkowski is the Class of 1900 Professor Emeritus of German and Comparative Literature at Princeton University. He is the author of many books, including The Mirror of Justice: Literary Reflections of Legal Crises.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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