‘Christian Dietrich Grabbe
His Life and His Works’
Author: Maurice Edwards
By Eve Berliner
The erudite Maurice Edwards.
Christian Dietrich Grabbe
By Eve Berliner
Maurice Edwards, a scholar of literature, language, drama and civilizations, has embarked on a monumental excursion into the life and work of Christian Dietrich Grabbe, an unknown German genius madman dramatist with a poisonous pen.
Born in 1801 in
Grabbe died in 1836 at age 34, a misfit, an alcoholic, stricken by syphilis of the spinal cord and bitterness of the soul. He fell into obscurity.
In his lifetime, he was a hated figure and a failure. But his work seeped into later German culture, echoed in German Expressionist theatre and Realism, and reflected in the existential Theatre of the Absurd. Grabbe himself was deeply influenced by his great predecessor, William Shakespeare.
He was a man ahead of his time.
first play, a tragedy, Herzog Theodor von Gothland was performed in
Among his greatest works:
Scherzm Satire, Ironie und Tiefere Bedeutung [Jest, Satire, Irony and
Marius und Sulla;
Uber die Shakespearo-Manie [Essay: On the Shakespeare Mania];
Don Juan and Faust [the only play that was to be performed while he was, in fact, alive, with only one performance.]
Kaiser Heinrich VI;
Napoloeon or the Hundred Days; and
Grabbe’s resurrection as a major German historical dramatist came with his rediscovery by the Naturalist and Expressionist artists of the first half of the twentieth century.
In 1936, Grabbe was honored by the Nazis as a “Great poet and dramatist” citing his intense nationalism, virulent anti-Semitism and idolatry of the Germanic master race prevalent in Nazi ideology.
To be noted, it was sixty years ago that author Maurice Edwards, a student of classical history, culture, philosophy, art, theatre et al, became fascinated with the 19th century Biederweier playwright, Christian Dietrich Grabbe.
Edwards was the first to translate into English Grabbe’s provocative comedy Jest, Satire, Irony and Deeper Significance and his bold tragi-comedy, Don Juan and Faust. This book of Grabbe’s life is thus a culmination of a lifelong fascination with this strange, brilliant and demonic man.