I'm Not Stiller (1954)
by Max Frisch
This 1954 German language novel was not published verbatim in the United States until 1994. The U.K. edition was published in 1982, so that may account for its inclusion on the 1001 Books list. I'm Not Stiller is somewhere between the French existentialists of the same decade and Albert Cohen's Belle du Seignuer, written by a Swiss Jew in French and published in 1968. The Stiller of the title is a Swiss artist of some repute. The man being held in a jail cell on his behalf claims to be, "James White, American citizen." Thus, we get the title of the book, repeated by the most untrustworthy narrator at various intervals over the first 200 pages of the books.
What seems to be a premise as limited as a Samuel Beckett set-up expands as the reader "learns" about the complicated history between Stiller/White, the woman who claims to be his wife, Rolf, the public prosecutor, and the wife of the public prosecutor. Several interludes in the opening stages of the book, which consists of seven notebooks allegedly written by Stiller/White while in custody, concern quasi-fantastical tails about White's life in the New World. These are balanced by the back story of Stiller and his involvement in the marriage of the public prosecutor and his wife.