Assignment: Or on the Observing of the Observer of Observers

Friedrich Durrenmatt, Author Random House (NY) $14.95 (129p) ISBN 978-0-394-56010-6
In the Swiss playwright's wracking, brilliantly conceived new novel (published in German in 1986 and resourcefully translated by Agee), nothing is what it seems. Otto von Lambert, a well-known psychiatrist, gives F., a filmmaker, the ""assignment'' to follow the trail of his late wife, Tina, and learn why and how she was murdered in an unidentified Middle Eastern country, her raped body thrown to the jackals at the base of a mysterious Shi'ite shrine. F. accepts because she is mesmerized by Tina's journal, which is filled with hatred for her husband and intensified by a charged note: ``I am being watched.'' In Durrenmatt's blasted, menacing landscape everyone is being observed by everyone elseliterally, by field glasses, telescope, camera's eye; and figuratively, by the stealthy, obsessive scrutiny of each by each for purposes shrouded in ambiguity. The closer F. approaches some answer, the more it eludes her as mysteries are further coiled and compounded with false leads and shifting or mistaken identities. Out of these mazes within mazes the author extrapolates an arresting metaphysical mystery in 24 brief chapters, each cast as a single, spinning, convoluted sentence, each leading to further enigmas in the jagged, highly pictorial tale. Kierkegaard, who is cited repeatedly, is a presiding spirit; and philosophical, theological, mythic elements, instead of distracting, add depth and resonance to this remarkable tale. (March)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1988
Release date: 03/01/1988
Paperback - 152 pages - 978-0-226-17446-4
Paperback - 978-0-679-72233-5
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