Tankred Dorst currently lives and works in Munich. His farces, parables, one-act-plays and adaptations are inspired by the theatre of the absurd and the works of Ionesco, Giraudoux and Beckett. His monumental drama Merlin oder das wüste Land, which was premiered in 1981 in Düsseldorf, has been compared to Goethe's Faust. Some critics see it as the first major drama of the 1980s. In his tribute to Tankred Dorst on the occasion of the conferment of the Georg Büchner Prize in 1990, Georg Hensel remarked, that Dorst's plays all have a direct connection to the present:
For 30 years Dorst's plays have responded to the great transformations. He has always been a companion to the times.
Conscripted into the German army as a pupil at the age of 17, he was soon captured and incacerated as a prisoner of war. Until 1947 he remained in British and American hands. By the time he was released from war captivity his birthplace had become part of the Soviet sector of Germany. He met his family in West Germany and completed his schooling. In 1950 he was going to study German literature, art history and theatre in Bamberg and Munich. Together with composer Wilhelm Killmayer he founded the marionette theatreDas kleine Spiel, for which he wrote his first plays. After breaking off his studies, he worked in various capacities in film, radio and publishing houses. His first major plays were performed in 1960 in Lübeck, Mannheim and Heidelberg. From this time on till today his plays have been performed in the whole world. Tankred Dorst's work has been recognized with many prizes and distinctions, including the Gerhart Hauptmann Prize (1964), Prize of the City of Florence (1970), Literature Prize of the Bayerische Akademie der Künste (1983), Mülheimer Dramatikerpreis (1989), Georg Büchner Prize (1990), E.T.A. Hoffmann Prize (1996) and the city of Zurich's Max Frisch Prize (1998). In 2006, he was awarded the Samuel Bogumil Linde Prize. He was awarded the European Prize for Literature (2008). Tankred Dorst held resp. holds visiting professorships at universities in Germany, Australia and New Zealand.