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The Visit

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  15,259 ratings  ·  539 reviews
This is the first complete English translation of the play that many critics consider to be Durrenmatt's finest work. Unlike an earlier version adapted for the English-language stage, this translation adheres faithfully to the author's original play as it was published and performed in German.

The action of The Visit takes place in the small town of Guellen, "somewhere in C
Paperback, 112 pages
Published January 7th 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1956)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  15,259 ratings  ·  539 reviews

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Ahmad Sharabiani
Der Besuch der Alten Dame = The Visit, Friedrich Dürrenmatt

The Visit is a 1956 tragicomic play by Swiss dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt. The story opens with the town of Güllen preparing for the arrival of famed billionaire Claire Zachanassian, who grew up there. Güllen has fallen on hard times, and the townspeople hope that Claire will provide them with much-needed funds.

Anton Schill is the owner of Güllen's general store and the most popular man in town. He was Claire's lover when they were yo
Apr 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Dürrenmatt is simply hilarious. I had to read this for school and I'm telling you, in my 12 years of school there are not many books that I enjoyed but I definitely enjoyed the Visit.
On one hand this play is witty and philosophical, it criticizes our society. On the other hand it is smart and funny, as Dürrenmatt sets his characters in a light, which doesn't let us take them and the whole deadly situation too serious.
Thumbs up for the Visit.
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Friedrich Durrenmatt is a wonderful Swiss writer who wrote some of the sparest and most compelling words I have ever read. Words which challenge, confound and cause you to happily ponder away for hours while never preaching. The play takes on utilitarianism with a broadside aimed at the famous Bentham quote "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong".

In a small Central European city which bears a marked resemblance to an entire number of german sp
Sep 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Visit
A Drama in Three Acts
By Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990)

Dürrenmatt is a Swiss author of the early twentieth century. He wrote novels and plays in Swiss-German language.
“The Visit” in the original name called “The Visit of the Old Lady” is a play the author often emphasized that was intended first and foremost as a comedy.
However, it is difficult to ignore the dramatic, even cruel background and strive for revenge and death for the accused Anton, the wrongdoer.
The Old Lady is coming back
Apr 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant! I've compared this book to fine German engineering... every perfected detail has a purpose and nothing is superfluous. Swiss born Durrenmatt was a minister's son who lived through WW2, and spent his life working and re-working (and re-re-working!) these plots while figuring out his own standings on faith and human nature. He's an intellectual but not an idealist, believing in the goodness of human nature while knowing full well its limits. The book is rich with insights into the hypoc ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
There’s a lurid whisper of dread in The Visit. Elements of Bergman’s Summer With Monika find themselves in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. We only need the onion choppers from Die Blechtrommel.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this play but was pleasantly surprised. The author has a measured grasp of a simple proud populace concealing an atrocity. The hypocrisy of station exculpates but only to a degree.
Dec 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: swiss, plays, 1950s
Really loved this tragicomedy. Dürrenmatt's works are timeless, but they are also the product of a Swiss vantage during cold war. In "The Visit" or in German "Der Besuch der alten Dame" an old lady who becomes the wealthiest person in the world returns to the village that cast her out as a young woman and offers riches to the town in exchange for the life of Alfred Ill, who once disgraced her. It’s all about an immoral deal: if the town wants her financial support, she wants something in return. ...more
Greg Brozeit
Dec 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Updated review/commentary:

Timing, it is said, is everything. As I reached the section on The Visit (Der Besuch der Alten Dame) in Peter Rüedi's interminable biography of Friedrich Dürrenmatt, it coincided with the last Sunday before the presidential election. Dürrenmatt’s writing always seems to be girded by a strong intuition, perhaps clairvoyance is more accurate, perhaps never more so than in The Visit. Three things really stood out for me on this rereading:

Rüedi recalls a quote a commentator
i do hope this is the very last time i have to read this for school.. or else i will sue.

2nd read: 2020
1st read: 2015 (?)
Josh Caporale
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

I have wanted to read more plays for a few months and am hoping to incorporate them a bit more into the Literary Gladiators agenda. The combination of my interest in plays, the theatre of the absurd (though Durrenmatt would not have identified as such), and Swiss culture led me to Friedrich Durrenmatt and what has been deemed his most recognizable play in The Visit. Whew, this was incredibly absurd, incredibly off the wall, but incredibly raw, honest, and amazing! The Visit takes the in
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Final read for our Postal Book Club Round #5
Go us!

I enjoy reading drama. And our Swiss member picked a Swiss author, so this is very appropriate.
This is titled "A Tragicomedy". Perfect for a very dark play that had some humour. The moral of the story? Money corrupts! A universal truth.
The stage directions were fantastic. I will keep my eyes out for a live performance.

My favourite quote: "Congrats on your brats"
Thank you Kats!
Nov 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
"The Visit" stands as a small masterpiece of misanthropy, a play whose cynicism is so thickly layered that the greed driving the plot at its surface seems almost the least of its characters' sins. For Durrenmatt, people, not money, are the root of all evil.

Unlike Miller's "The Crucible", a contemporary play, this is not an exercise in puritanical hand-wringing but a black and grotesque Grimm fairy story. At the centre of this fairy story is the witch to end all witches - Claire Zachanassian; th
John_Dishwasher John_Dishwasher
Human morality exists on a pivot point between privation and pleasure. The greater a person’s need, the easier it is to tempt them away from their morality with some promise of pleasure. This is the more generous reading of this play. The less generous reading is simply that humans are bribeable and quite willing to abandon their values for the right price. Durrenmatt’s most interesting observation, I think, is that the abandonment of values happens all at once. We seem to go through a ‘process’ ...more
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: play, y2014, german
"Ich beschreibe Menschen, nicht Marionetten, eine Handlung, nicht eine Allegorie, stelle eine Welt auf, keine Moral".
- Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Anmerkung I, p. 141

The quotation cited above is useful information, because I came up with some weird and rather nasty interpretations of this play while reading it. Dürrenmatt's emphasis on taking this text at face value is reassuring in this case. It may perhaps also be the most useful and accurate interpretation, in that it comes closest to the unexplain
Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
Featured in my Jan 2021 Wrap Up

This is a fantastic play as it explores a fundamental mechanic of theatre — what would happen if all but one of the characters turned evil. It's paranoia on stage, and refreshingly, one of few plays that doesn't hinge action on the shock-value of sex and drug use. It appears trite and contrived at first but it's not aiming for realism, it's attacking an ideal — that even the most pleasant community can be run into the ground by bribery and vendetta. It misses 5* on
Aug 31, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
This is another play about how absolutism, no matter what the purpose or just cause, is dangerous and savage and only brings about brutality.

In this play a small backwater economically failing little German town gets a visit from a millionairess who grew up there. The town, knowing of her generosity elsewhere hopes she will put them back on track and depends on her high school sweetheart to get her to agree to give the money. She does, but only in exchange for the death of her high school sweeth
Conni Wayne
Sep 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this play. It was so excellent. It richly describes the going-ons of a disfunctional town, and I love that. And the ending, it was perfect, and I really would have been disapointed in anything different (though some of my classmates state the opposite). The absurdist level was fun for the comedy and the tragedy, and I am glad I read it.
Giulia Teufel
Enjoyed reading "der Besuch der alten Dame" in my German class. It's the first time I'm reading a book in this genre and that's why I won't be rating it. I don't consider myself well informed enough to be able to compare it with other books.
I hope I'll be able to read more books by Dürrenmatt and maybe once see this play live.
L'Anna Phréatique
I read it as a book for school and it was ok. The plot was interesting and I thought it was cool to see it as a screenplaybook, but I already knew what was going to happen because of the ?blurb?.
Nathan Black
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is an odd play, the kind you have to read several times before you really get it. While reading it I was wondering if the action would have played out differently in my mind if I were reading it in the original language. It seems that language would flow more smoothly and the ideas would be better presented that way. Not that the translation was poor because it certainly was not, and the story itself comes through lucidly, I just usually wonder what it would be like to read a play in its o ...more
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german-books
It’s been a long time since I have read Dürrenmatt and I forgot about his subtle wit. The play is a social commentary on how to handle an immoral offer from the first gut rejection over denial to acceptance. I tremendously enjoyed the over the top character of the “old lady”.
Sarah Dorothea
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 out of 5 stars! ⭐️ This is one of my all time favourite plays EVER! I really really love it. Seeing it being performed on stage was even more amazing than reading it. 😍👌🏻❤️
Robert Beveridge
Jan 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Friedrich Durrenmatt, The Visit (Grove, 1956)

Another excellent piece of work from Friedrich Durrenmatt, the story of The Visit takes place in a in central Europe somewhere; the country is not given (the reasons should be obvious). As the town is on the verge of bankruptcy, with almost total unemployment and a pervasive sense of despair, one of the town's local folk made good comes back, hinting that she will give the town enough money to bail it out: get the factory working again, allow t
Julian Rombach
Feb 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Among the many explorations of the notion and the phenomena of evil this is on the top of my list of darkness, ranked even higher than the experiments of Milgram and Zimbardo. But don't look for Mengele in this play for he is in another book by Dürrenmatt (Der Verdacht). Here you will find Eichmann, the spanish inquisition, the malleus maleficarum, in a way even aspects of 1984 by reading closely. The Crucible by Arthur Miller? Yes, but from a point of view slightly different. Mad Emperors like ...more
Cymru Roberts
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other-plays
Sifting this play like a wine the first notes I pick up are Kurt Vonnegut, a pleasant surprise, followed by faint hints of Faulkner in the backwoods setting and the filial relations of the Ill family; and if I were to guess what kind of wine it is exactly I would say it comes from Greece, either a new varietal or a young crop of an ancient vintage. Decent legs (even if one is artificial), with opulent flavour.

My first foray into Dürrenmatt was a success. Granted, this is meant to be his best pla
Melanie Fritz
This tragicomic play ("The Visit" in English) was a huge success for Dürrenmatt and is still performed, as well as taught in schools, today. I think the main reason for this lies in the play's simplicity. It tells the straightforward story of a wronged woman who returns to her dilapidated hometown Güllen in order to propose a deal: A billion dollars for the town and its inhabitans in exchange for the execution of the man who had wronged her when she was young. The promise of an affluent, easy li ...more
Sep 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book!

I am a huge fan of Mr. Dürrenmatt, even acted as Mr. Möbius in "Die Physiker" in a schooltheater group.
But "Der Besuch der alten Dame" was one of those I had in my shelve for too long but never found time to read it. SUCH A SHAME!
This is funny, dramatic and it can be adapted to many situations, especially today, in a time when people would do everything for money.
I read this novel in 2 days, and couldn'T stop giggling while reading. The characters are portrayed really really we
Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If this is a good translation, as it claims to be, this is my favorite German language work. I taught it for years and LOVE it. So many themes: love, greed, betrayal, revenge, morality. It is a play about a small town that is in financial ruin. The townsfolk are awaiting the arrival of Claire Zachanassian, a former inhabitant of the town, who is a billionaire. She left the town 60 years (?) prior due to a scandal and the townsfolk hope she will come save the town with a sizeable donation. They p ...more
Greg Kerestan
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Is this the grimmest, darkest comedy ever written? It may well be. When a woman scorned returns to the community that rejected her after decades away, with an entourage of freaks and cripples and a hideous, inhuman demand, the impoverished community must decide whether to appease the monster they created or stand up for their principles and suffer. Either way, they win- either way, they lose. Durrenmatt's play revels in its moral darkness, and some may find it disturbing. That is, after all, the ...more
Nov 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
A fantastic play at turns grotesque, comic, and austere. The classically tragic vein is more apparent here than in other works by this author, and yet any claims to moral certainty seems forced. A play to make you think. Durrenmatt destabilizes the meanings of words like Justice, Integrity, and Progress, so that any way of looking at the conflict reveals a moral code. Notably, these possible moralities only appear as strong as their adherents, all of whom have realistically limited agency. Excep ...more
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Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921 – 1990) was a Swiss author and dramatist.

Dürrenmatt was born in the Emmental (canton of Bern), the son of a Protestant pastor. His grandfather Ulrich Dürrenmatt was a conservative politician. The family moved to Bern in 1935. Dürrenmatt began to study philosophy and German language and literature at the University of Zurich in 1941, but moved to the University of Bern af

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