Sketchbook, 1946-1949/Sketchbook, 1966-1971 Analysis

Max Frisch

Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Although the English word “sketchbook” in many ways describes the seemingly random and tentative jottings in these volumes, Max Frisch employed the German term Tagebuch, or diary, to hint at its spontaneous and private nature, with the further implication that he would discuss issues of the day, that is, contemporary political topics, social problems, and world events. In a preface to the first volume, Frisch insists that his authority to write such a book derives not from his person but from his qualification as a contemporary. Though a citizen of a neutral country spared the destruction of World War II, Frisch does not consider himself an isolationist, or even a Swiss nationalist, but a thoughtful, politically engaged citizen of Europe. Significantly, Frisch has published sketchbooks which encompass the two most challenging periods in the second half of the twentieth century. His first volume covers the period directly following World War II, when Europeans had a unique opportunity to confront the mistakes and crimes of their immediate past and, more important, to reconstruct Europe along new designs. The second volume covers the six years of political and social upheaval surrounding the conflict in Vietnam, the Israeli-Egyptian war, the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops, the imposition of a military dictatorship in Greece, as well as the attendant student revolts in Europe and the United States.

These so-called diaries are seldom presented in strict chronological order. In Sketchbook, 1946-1949, dated entries of his many travels are frequently interrupted for long stretches by essays, reports on the construction of an architectural project, discussions with acquaintances, or literary...

(The entire section is 708 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Butler, Michael. Frisch: Andorra, 1985.

Peterson, Carol. Max Frisch, 1987. Translated by Charlotte La Rue.

Publishers Weekly. “Max Frisch Wins Twenty-Five-Thousand-Dollar Neustadt Prize.” CCXIX (April 11, 1986), p. 23.

Steinmetz, Horst. “Frisch as a Diarist,” in Perspectives on Max Frisch, 1982. Edited by Gerhard F. Probst and Jay F. Bodine.

World Literature Today. LX (Autumn, 1986). Special Frisch issue.