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The Execution of Justice

The Execution of Justice

by Friedrich Durrenmatt

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When Zurich multimillionaire and local politician Isaak Kohler shoots a professor to death in broad daylight for no apparent reason, he cheerfully accepts his 20-year prison sentence. Yet, despite the fact that there were witnesses aplenty, he enlists Spat, a down-and-out lawyer, to investigate the crime, ordering him to pretend that someone else, now at large, committed it. Through luck and happenstance, the greenhorn attorney pulls off the impossible: an acquittal. In the process, Spat falls in love with Kohler's daughter Helene, whom he suspects is an accomplice. He also meets a femme fatale whose auto racer boyfriend beats her, a dwarfish heiress surrounded by wee, bald bodyguards and sundry small-time crooks. Did Kohler shoot the professor as an abstract, fiendish mental game, or was Swiss pistol expert Benno the real culprit, as the newspapers rashly proclaim? Narrated by Spat, whose obsession with the case nearly drives him over the edge, this quirky tale by Swiss playwright-novelist Durrenmatt ( The Assignment ) is a dark, wicked satire on the legal system and a disturbing, if ambivalent, allegory on guilt, justice, violence and morality. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Begun 30 years ago, abandoned, and rewritten a few years ago, this novel opens with taut, Kafkaesque precision: a distinguished politician murders (without apparent cause) before a host of onlookers and accepts imprisonment cheerfully. The analysis of his possible motives by the narrator--an impoverished and generally ineffectual lawyer to pimps and prostitutes--is a witty, ironic probe of the madness, cruelty, and injustice of society, and of distinguished politicians. Unfortunately, the subsequent narrative (the narrator, as lawyer, helps exonerate and free the indisputably guilty man, then plans to murder him and commit suicide) descends to theatrical parody (with a roster of cartoonlike grotesques failing to help) and didactic sentimentality. What set out to be an ``intellectual thriller'' finally neither chills the spine nor excites the mind.-- Arthur Waldhorn, City Coll., CUNY

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Random House Publishing Group
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1st American ed

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