The Flight into Abstraction: Don Juan or The Love of Geometry

  • Michael Butler


The story of Don Juan had an obvious attraction for a dramatist with Max Frisch’s preoccupations. For despite the myriad and conflicting interpretations the myth has spawned in German Literature since the Romantics, the traditional image of the ‘cold seducer’ and ‘inveterate blasphemer’ has remained stubbornly fixed in bourgeois consciousness.1 By subjecting a popular legend to a renewed critical examination Frisch hoped to achieve a double aim: to castigate the deformation of contemporary society and to reveal the fateful effects this has on the development of the individual. Thus against the conditioned cultural expectations of his audience he sets a Don Juan who is desperately striving to escape his literary image and, in defiance of society, locate his true identity.


Bourgeois Society Personal Crisis Conflicting Interpretation Romantic Concept Moral Turpitude 
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  1. 5.
    As do, for example, Peter Gontrum, ‘Max Frisch’s Don Juan oder Die Liebe zur Geometrie: a New Look at a Traditional Hero’, Comparative Literature Studies, II (1965) p. 118Google Scholar
  2. Robert Matthews, ‘Theatricality and Deconstruction in Max Frisch’s Don Juan’, Modern Language Notes 87 (1972) p. 744.Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    In: Brigitte Wittmann (ed.), Don Juan. Darstellung und Deutung (Darmstadt, 1976) p. 12f. Frisch sees his Don Juan as an intellectual in Ortega y Gasset’s sense: ‘Die Welt, die der Intellektuelle antrifft, scheint ihm nur dazu sein, damit sie in Frage gestellt werde. Die Dinge an sich genügen ihm nicht. Er macht ein Problem aus ihnen’ (‘The world which the intellectual encounters seems to him to be there merely so that it can be brought into question. Things in themselves do not satisfy him. He makes a problem out of them’). Quoted in Nachträgliches, III, 168.Google Scholar

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© Michael Butler 1985

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  • Michael Butler

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