Matteo Pericoli at The Paris Review:
Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s mystery novel The Judge and His Hangman revolves around a sudden nighttime encounter between chief detective Bärlach, an inspector with the Bern police, and his eternal rival, Gastmann.
During the encounter, we learn that the two men had met forty years earlier at a dive bar in the Bosporus where, inebriated, they made a bet that will bind them for the rest of their lives. Bärlach maintained that committing a crime is an “act of stupidity”: human imperfection, the unpredictable actions of others, and the inability of taking chance into account are the reasons why most crimes are inevitably solved. His rival, “more for the sake of argument than out of conviction,” instead maintained that it was exactly becauseof “the entanglement of human relationships” that he could commit unsolvable crimes, crimes that Bärlach would never be able to prove. From that day on, the detective vowed to spend his life trying to nail his rival.