The Beauty of Complexity

Max Frisch turned 100Max Frisch turned 100 (Source:

Bob Dylan just turned 70. And Max Frisch turned 100. Well, at least he would have. Both artists are very important to me. The way both Dylan and Frisch express (or expressed) themselves somehow speaks to me. Why is that so? I think it’s the same reason why I like the paintings of Edward Hopper. Everything these people create has some kind of beauty.

„The retreat of the human being to an artistic figure is the aesthetic sign of this book. It helped the author to develop a new kind of sovereignty”, Guenter Bloecker once said about Frisch’s Mein Name sei Gantenbein. I think it is exactly this sentence, which defines Dylan, Frisch and Hopper for me.

In their music, in their paintings and their writing, the human being is an artwork in itself. While a lot of their fictional characters are complicated and broken people (actually, most of them are), everything they do shows some kind of aesthetic behavior. They spend their time thinking about things they either lost or they will never reach. Yet, the language they chose to express these failures appeals to the audience. These characters are unsolved puzzles, which are are beautiful because of the way they try to solve themselves – and not because of a nice and complete picture that comes up at the end. After all, this is the reason why one reads Frisch’s novels or listens to Dylan’s music. It’s because their characters are beautiful.

I am well aware of the fact that Dylan and Frisch (and Hopper) are old – i.e. they are artists from yesterday. One could argue that they are no longer able to express the problems of today’s society and that the work of newer artists is therefore much more interesting.

Yet, I don’t think this is true. Their central topic is individuality and the question how human beings try to cope with the fact that they sometimes fall in love and that they have to die someday. Besides the fact that these topics will always be of relevance to us, I still find their work especially important today because I think that the aesthetic handling of life’s circumstances is something that can provide meaning for our times as well.

Sure – the heyday of individualism is over. Today, we are more than ever aware of the fact that there hardly is such a thing as the “perfect hero”. We also know that the biggest challenges today require a joint approach to answering them – be it climate change or poverty. Somehow, it has become objectionable to be the “lone wolf” as the facebook universe wants you to link up with everybody.

Yet, from my point of view, the beauty of silence and of the lonely thinker is more valuable to today’s noisy 24/7 society than ever. While everyone has to get back to his or her busy smartphone life the next morning, an evening with Max Frisch or Bob Dylan provides you with something that gives you strength. It’s the beauty of life, the beauty of individuality – the beauty of complexity.


2 responses to “The Beauty of Complexity”

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  1. SWOOSH says:

    Great writing. Especially interesting:

    “While everyone has to get back to his or her busy smartphone life the next morning, an evening with Max Frisch or Bob Dylan provides you with something that gives you strength.”

    Fortunately the author doesn’t share the necessity to answer his ringing smartphone.

    Call me

    Munich needs you

  2. Christoph says:

    Shame on me, Sir. Will do!