Dürrenmatt was born 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 to study 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 October 11 1946 he married actress Lotti Geissler. She died in 1983 and Dürrenmatt was married again to another actress, Charlotte Kerr, the following year.
He was a proponent of epic theater whose plays reflected the recent experiences of World War II. The politically active author gained fame largely due to his avant-garde dramas, philosophically deep crime novels, and often macabre satire. One of his leading sentences was: "A story is not finished, until it has taken the worst turn". Dürrenmatt was a member of the Gruppe Olten