Dürrenmatt was born in Konolfingen, in the Emmental (canton of Bern), the son of a Protestant pastor. His grandfather, Ulrich Dürrenmatt, was a conservative politician. The family moved to Bern in 1935. Dürrenmatt began studies in philosophy and German language and literature at the University of Zurich in 1941, but moved to the University of Bern after one semester. In 1943, he decided to become an author and dramatist and dropped his academic career. In 1945–46, he wrote his first play It is Written. On 11 October 1946, he married the actress Lotti Geissler. She died on 16 January 1983, and Dürrenmatt married again in 1984 to another actress, Charlotte Kerr.
Dürrenmatt also enjoyed painting. Some of his own works and his drawings were exhibited in Neuchâtel in 1976 and 1985, as well as in Zurich in 1978.
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