The Assignment


Der Auftrag (English: The Assignment, subtitled Or, on the Observing of the Observer of the Observers) is a 1986 novella by the Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt. The first English publication appeared in 1988, translated by Joel Agee. The experimental narrative is divided into twenty-four parts, each one a single sentence spanning many pages. In his foreword to the 2008 English language edition, Theodore Ziolkowski notes that the inspiration for the twenty-four sentence structure came after listening to a recording of Glenn Gould performing the first half of Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier I, itself a work in twenty-four movements. Inspiration for the plot came from the Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann's unfinished novel The Franza Case, which Dürrenmatt's second wife, documentary filmmaker Charlotte Kerr, was attempting to turn into a film at the time of their meeting.
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original title: Der Auftrag
date of publication: 1986
genre: detective fiction, political thriller, novella, novel

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