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The Visit

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  11,439 ratings  ·  383 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
Paperback, 112 pages
Published January 7th 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1980)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  11,439 ratings  ·  383 reviews

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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
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.
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 ...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
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
Rebecca McNutt
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, classic
I wasn't sure whether or not I'd like this play at first, but the way the scenery is described and the realistic and deep characters really made it progress into something unforgettable as it went along.
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!
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: y2014, german, play
"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
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, about the future, perhaps never more so than in The Visit. Three things really stood out for me on this rereading:

Rüedi recalls a
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;
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
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.
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.
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?.
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”.
Oct 03, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I HATE HAVING TO READ BOOKS FOR SCHOOL but i sped thru this in an hour so it's not that bad (but the book is)
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 ...more
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. ...more
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
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 ...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
When I read Die Physiker, I decided German absurdist literature from the mid 1900's is strange and disturbing. Another Dürrenmatt later, and my opinion has not changed. Entertaining, sure, but mostly strange and disturbing.

Claire Zachsinassin comes back to the poor city where she grew up, now a cold-hearted billionaire. She offers millions to the people of Güllen, on one condition. Murder a Ill, a prominant, well-loved citizen, for a betrayal long past. Issues of morals and greed ensue.

A good
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I had too read this book for German class, and it seems like I was the only one who really enjoyed it. What a shame!
This book is funny, dramatic and can be so easily adapted to many situations especially today, in a time when people would do everything for money.
I read the novel in only a couple of days and found it not only dramatic, but also funny, due to the characters being so naive that its almost ridiculous.
Well, this was definitely a very interesting play. I suppose one can truly observe the extent of man's greed, and what they will do for money within this piece of work.

Adrian Colesberry
Love the female protagonist in this play and the hypocrisy of the little village and her mercy. Have never seen this play. Would love to.
Want to direct this. So much.
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved it even though I had to read it for school
Anne Slater
I read it in German as a sophomore in college. I was bowled over by the biting comedy, the sharp commentary. I gues I need to read it again. AND the correct title is The Old Lady's Visit
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
MAYOR: „Gentlemen, the millionairesse is our only hope.“
PRIEST: „Besides God.“
TEACHER: „But he isn’t paying us.“


When I graduated, The Visit was no longer compulsory reading at my school, but now I’ve finally gotten around to reading it. Fantastic! Perhaps all the more fantastic because I could take it in and enjoy it without a teacher telling me the reasons why I was supposed to enjoy it.

A wealthy woman returns to the town where she was born, a town that is falling apart and aching under
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Never too Late to...: 2019 December: The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt 9 11 Dec 06, 2019 05:25PM  

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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
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“Ich fühle, wie ich langsam zu einem Mörder werde. Mein Glaube an die Humanität ist machtlos. Und weil ich es weiß, bin ich ein Säufer geworden.” 8 likes
“Die Welten sind nach der Hauptstadt gerauscht in ihren Cadillacs. Zum Hochzeitsfest.” 0 likes
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