Critical Context

Max Frisch’s interest in the story of the Andorran Jew dates back to the immediate postwar years, when he wrote a sketch called “Der andorranische Jude,” (“The Andorran Jew”), published later in his Tagebuch, 1946-1949 (1950; Sketchbook, 1946-1949, 1977). That parable contains virtually all the key elements found in the play.

Andorra, which was to become Frisch’s greatest success on the stage, was originally destined for the twentieth anniversary celebration of the Schauspielhaus in Zurich during the 1958-1959 season. Frisch had just finished Biedermann und die Brandstifter (pr. 1953; The Firebugs, 1961) and was in Ibiza while working on Andorra; hence, the barren landscape and the white backdrop. Apparently, he encountered considerable difficulty as he worked with this material, rewrote the play several times, and was unable to complete it until 1961. It was staged in Zurich in 1962, by Kurt Hirschfeld, only a few months after the Eichmann trials started in Israel. For a few years, the play was quite successful in Switzerland and even more so in West Germany, but it soon disappeared from the stage and was relegated to the classroom, where it continues to be immensely popular. Although Frisch clearly intended to write a timeless play, his audiences have tended to view Andorra within the particular context of World War II anti-Semitism.