Sunday, November 30, 2014

Two German Dramas: Anatol, and The Weavers

I conclude this year's German Literature Month with the reading of two nineteenth century plays: Anatol and The Weavers.



Anatol, written by Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler, and first published in 1893 is about a young man Anatol and his quest for the perfect love that would endure all. Divided into seven acts (the wikipedia informs me that there was another act which depicted Anatol as an old man, however it was never published only performed), each act concerned with Anatol and a young woman, the play depicts the immaturity of the eponymous hero and his fear of intimacy and commitment. Even in the last act, in which he is to get married, he is not really sure about the fact that he really wants to follow that path of action and it is only when there are obstacles to that path by a former lover that he becomes determined to get married at any cost.



This is a playful text that I enjoyed especially the dialogue between the romantic Anatol and his rational friend Max. And there was one dialogue in the last act, I could not stop laughing at:

Anatol: And that young man was there too - I feel certain that he was a school-girl love of my bride-to-be.

Max: Oh, yes - young Ralmen

Anatol: A poet of sorts, I believe. One of those men who seem destined to be the first love of so many women and never the last love of any. [720]



Very different in tone and purpose is the other play, The Weavers by Gerhard Hauptman. Based on the 1844 uprising of the Silesian weavers who were forced into dire straits by Prussia's free-trade policy and competition by the British weavers who had switched to machines. The weavers in the play are a hungry mob driven to violence by the greed of the manufacturers. Reminiscent of Dickens' novel about the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities, in this play too we have people dying of disease and poverty and reduced to eating dog's meat. The manufacturer Dreissiger even has a Marie Antoinette moment when he asks the people to eat grass. With no one protagonist, the play depicts a number of characters as they debate as to what is to be done. Not everybody is ready to restore to violence but as one character says sarcastically to another when the latter had suggested that things be put right peaceably:

Peaceably! How could it be done peaceably? Did they do it peaceably in France? Did Robespeer tickle the rich men's palms? No! It was: Away with them, every one! To the gilyoteen with them! Allongs onfong! You've got your work before you. The geese will not fly ready roasted into your mouths. [118]

But violence, of course, kills the innocent as well as the guilty and the play's open-ending leaves us still debating the issue.

An 1897 poster for a performance of the play @ Wikipedia



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First Dialogue: Max: Really Anatol, I envy you.

Title: Anatol
Original Title: Anatol
Original Language: German
Author: Arthur Schnitzler
Translator: Grace Isabel Colbron
Publication Detail: Sixteen Famous European Plays. NY: The Modern Library, 1943
First Published: 1893
Pages: 667-730
Source: CL [822 C32S]
Other books read of the same author: None

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First Dialogue: Neumann (counting out money), Comes to one and sevenpence half-penny.

Title: The Weavers
Original Title: Die Weber
Original Language: German
Author: Gerhart Hauptmann
Translator: Mary Morison
Publication Detail: Sixteen Famous European Plays. NY: The Modern Library, 1943
First Published: 1892
Pages: 85-146
Source: CL [822 C32S]
Other books read of the same author: None

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4 comments:

  1. Neeru - These sound like two very different kinds of plays; yet, each sounds absorbing. And The Weavers is about a historical reality that I don't know very well. Very interesting!

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    1. I had no idea about it myself, Margot. Thanks for your interest in the German texts.

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  2. Loving all this German literature - thanks Neeru.

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    1. Thanks Sergio. Glad you liked the posts on German texts. This time round it has been very fulfilling.

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