Synopsis

The Lulu Plays & Other Sex Tragedies

The Lulu Plays & Other Sex Tragedies $22.99

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Frank Wedekind trans Stephen Spender

Published by John Calder Publications

The importance of Frank Wedekind (1864-1918) to the history of literature and the development of drama in particular, is enormous

The influence of Strindberg on his work is conspicuous, but he filled the legacy of realism with a new content - the grotesque

With his highly individual vision and aphoristic, almost abrupt - yet always poetic - language, he hastened the transition to Expressionism

Wedekind's vision of what constituted perfect theatre was a combination of colour, music, word and gesture, forever mingling the sublime with the ridiculous

Life among the circus artistes in Paris confirmed his dictum that to bring about a rebirth of a genuine, vigorous art it was essential to portray people whose actions are dictated by the simplest animal instincts

It was the pantomime "Lulu" by Felicien Camsaur, which he first saw in Paris, that gave him the idea for his most important work, the "Lulu" plays - "Earth Spirit" and "Pandora's Box"

When the former was first performed in Leipzig in 1898 the effect was devastating

His method of advocating unfeigned sexual pleasure by ruthlessly highlighting sex and making his heroine a heartless whore caused Wedekind to be violently attacked and persecuted

His hatred of hypocracy where sexual matters are concerned drove the play-wright to employ the most daring expedients in order to shake the complacency of the bourgeoisie

He was among the very first to portray a lesbian on stage - the Countess Geschwitz, whom he perceived as the central tragic figure

But it is Lulu who remains the eternal symbol - possessed at once of subtle sensuality and waif-like innocence

As a dramatist, Wedekind drew his characters with absolute clarity; he compressed scenes and wasted no time in establishing motivation

As a poet, he delved into ballad and folklore, his plays a fascinating mixture of Morality Plays and Grand Guignol

"Death and Devil" and "Castle Wetterstein", the other two plays that make up this volume, are essentially extensions of and complimentary to the "Lulu" tragedies

Earth Spirit & Pandora's Box & Death and Devil & Castle Wetterstein - translated from the German by Stephen Spender

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