He was born in Konolfingen near Bern. The politically active author gained fame largely due to his avant-garde dramas, philosophically deep crime novels, and often macabre satire.
The Visit (Der Besuch der alten Dame, 1956) which tells of a rich benefactor visiting her beneficiaries, is the work best known in the United States. The Physicists (Die Physiker, 1962) has also been presented in translation.
He died in Neuchâtel.