PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
PN Review Prize winners announced
Carcanet Press and PN Review are delighted to announce the winners of the first ever PN Review Prize. read more
Most Read... Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing
‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing

(PN Review 236)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Alejandro Fernandez-OsorioPomace (trans. James Womack)
(PN Review 236)
Kei MillerIn the Shadow of Derek Walcott
1930–2017

(PN Review 235)
Kate BinghamPuddle
(PN Review 236)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Gratis Ad 2
Next Issue CELEBRATING JOHN ASHBERY Contributors include Mark Ford, Marina Warner, Jeremy Over, Theophilus Kwek, Sam Riviere, Luke Kennard, Philip Terry,Agnes Lehoczky, Emily Critchley, Oli Hazard and others Miles Champion The Gold Standard Rebecca Watts The Cult of the Noble Amateur Marina Tsvetaeva ‘My desire has the features of a woman’: Two Letters translated by Christopher Whyte Iain Bamforth Black and White

This review is taken from PN Review 73, Volume 16 Number 5, May - June 1990.

ROMPING GROTESQUERY Friedrich Dürrenmatt, The Execution of Justice, translated from the German by John E. Woods (Cape) £12.95.
Yuz Aleshkovsky, Kangaroo, translated from the Russian by Tamara Glenny (Faber) £10.99.

Justice and the perversion of justice is one of the great subjects. At the heart of Greek and Shakespearean tragedy, it points up the relations of Man and his gods. With the Enlightenment the emphasis shifts to Man and his society. And in our own century, as Durrenmatt and Aleshkovsky make amply plain, the very concept has become an excuse for romping grotesquery. In a world of relativism and absurdity, who shall establish right and wrong, and who shall judge? The century's major interpretations of justice, in fact or in fiction, are notable for their perversity, from Stalin's show trials to Durrenmatt's play The Visit.

The origins of The Execution of Justice lie in Durrenmatt's 1950's, when he wrote detective entertainments between plays. The novel remained un-finished, and subsequent attempts to complete it came to nothing until in 1985 he revised the existing text, added a thirty-page third part written in his own (albeit fictionalized) person, and published the book along with a confession that he had no longer had any idea how he'd originally wanted it to end. Critics who revel in the contingency of the fictional construct will have a field day with the rather higgledy-piggledy novel that resulted.

"Murder is negative creation," wrote Auden in his essay on the detective novel in The Dyer's Hand, "and every murderer is therefore the rebel who claims the right to be omnipotent." Dr. Isaak Kohler of Zurich casually shoots a professor friend at dinner, and ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image