Review: Dürrenmatt, The Pledge and The Inspector Barlach Mysteries
Book publishing is globalized; it has never been easier to obtain any book that has been published anywhere. As well, more and more English-language books are being translated in the non-English speaking world. The reverse is not so true, however. There is a trickle of foreign titles translated into the only language most of us in this country can read compared to the flood flowing in the opposite direction.
So it is noteworthy that last Sunday’s Washington Post featured an article reviewing a sampling of some international voices currently hitting the U.S. mystery scene, including our translations of Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Pledge and The Inspector Barlach Mysteries. Richard Lipez writes for the Post:
Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990) was best known as the author of clever, morally inquisitive plays such as The Visit and The Physicists. In the early 1950s he also wrote three short, spellbinding mystery novels, which the University of Chicago Press has reissued in paperback with new translations from the German by Joel Agee: The Pledge and The Inspector Barlach Mysteries: The Judge and His Hangman & Suspicion. The latter includes a thoughtful foreword by Sven Birkerts, who praises Dürrenmatt’s talent as a captivating entertainer who could also “play through complex moral issues with a speed-chess decisiveness and inexorability.” Dürrenmatt was Swiss and sounds it. He is sober, formal, precise and, when it suits him, to the point.… These are slender tales. But they have the weight and texture of classics. Mystery readers should be grateful to the University of Chicago Press for bringing these gems back to life.