© Andreas Karlaganis

In our house, the "new Dürrenmatt" was always something we bought right away. The Execution of Justice is a late novel by the Swiss poet. It appeared in 1985, five years before his death. It's a detective story that is even more enigmatic and philosophical than those of his early crime novels.

It begins with a heinous murder, but what happens next seemed much more outrageous to me as I read it: a respected politician shoots a university professor in front of high society, in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Afterwards, the perpetrator hires a young lawyer and instructs him to plead for acquittal. The lawyer gets more and more entangled in an opaque web of entanglements and plans for revenge and finally perishes.

I remember how the plot fascinated me at the time. A murder that everyone saw should not have taken place? And much more egregiously, justice fails to protect justice? Expressions like "fake news" and "alternative facts" still didn't exist in 1985. But Dürrenmatt knew how fragile language and truth are, how far we are from safe civilisation, how monstrous human coexistence is.

I reach for the novel again and again and read the last sentences spellbound: 

We perish from the freedom we allow and allow ourselves. I leave my study, now empty, freed from my creatures. Half past four. In the sky I see Orion for the first time. Who is he chasing Friedrich Dürrenmatt

Andreas Karlaganis Berlin, 7 July 2022