Telling Life or Manliness and Truth; A Thread Concerning Max Frisch

Julien Zigan



The starting point of the article is Max Frisch’s desire to examine his life as a man in Montauk by the means of narration. For Frisch man’s life is characterized by certain recurring problems in his works, like history, home, or marriage. The characters in Frisch’s prose explore approaches to these problems by their trials of telling modified stories of their life. In the autobiographic narration Montauk Frisch exposes himself as a character who renounces any fiction in his search for truth. Thus, the question for the possibility of telling truth in literature emerges which is in Frisch’s case a question of the possibility of literary self-exploration. Frisch’s trial as Montauk’s narrator faces the tension between experience and memory as well as between experience and narration. The article points out that every experience gains richness in narration through the contrast to the earlier experiences which are memorized. Narration as comparison and distinction between different experiences thus becomes an instrument for Frisch’s self-exploration. But the findings still don’t suffice Frisch’s concept of truth as positions to key problems integrated in active life. Eventually the article shows that no such positions are given, but instead varied answers are given to the same questions and provide a continued approximation to what truth is according to Frisch’s concept. As those many answers to the same questions eventually provide no answer at all, the truth in Frisch’s narration is rather to be found in the untold but sketched aspects of his life as a man. Only in this game with exhibition and veiling Frisch can use literature to examine his experiences without destroying their dynamic content with their fixation in a narration. So, truth in Montauk is rather presented in the abstract form of an ongoing process of recurring questions and incessantly adjusted answers, than in the tangible form of the exposed facts about the Author’s controversial love affairs.


Max Frisch; Montauk; truth; narration; autobiography

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