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ALS from the German Author of “Spring Awakening”

Item: 22682
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WEDEKIND, FRANK. (1864-1918). German playwright best known for his “Lulu” plays and Spring Awakening. ALS. (“Frank Wedekind”). 2pp. 8vo. (Munich), N.d. (To playwright JACOB SCHEREK, 1870-1927). In German with translation.

“I have known about your drama ‘Wahn’ for a full year now and believe that it would come across as original on stage and, above all, very dramatic, provided that the portrayal is not realistic but a little stylized. I also expressed my interest to Director Stollberg a year ago. If I can do anything more for the play, it would always be done with consultation. Perhaps we will see each other occasionally here at the Café Stephanie…”

Wedekind’s first major work, the 1891 Frühlings Erwachen (Spring Awakening) was considered scandalous with its realistic treatment of sexuality, homosexuality, rape, suicide, abortion, and sadomasochism, and led to its banning in Germany. However, the play was eclipsed by Wedekind’s “Lulu” duology, the 1895 Erdgeist (Earth Spirit) and 1904’s Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box), both of which also critique bourgeois German society and deal with themes of sexuality, homosexuality and violence.

Simultaneously, Wedekind wrote for the left-wing journal Simplicissimus, whose contributors included Thomas T. Heine, Thomas Mann and Rainer Maria Rilke. An article he authored for the magazine criticizing Kaiser Wilhelm II landed him in prison in 1898, after which he was hired as the dramaturg for Munich’s theater in charge of recommending and adapting plays for its stage. In that role and as the principal member of the satirical cabaret Die elf Scharfrichter (The Eleven Executioners), Wedekind exerted considerable influence over the development of German theater.

Book coverWedekind’s works inspired the 1929 silent film Pandora’s Box starring Louise Brooks as well as Alban Berg’s masterful 1937 opera Lulu. A popular 2006 Broadway revival of Spring Awakenings led to renewed interest in Wedekind in the English-speaking world, including the 2011 album Lulu on which Loud Reed collaborated with Metallica.

In 1907, Scherek, a Jewish playwright and contemporary of Wedekind, wrote a four-act play entitled Wahn (Madness), which dealt with the subject of antisemitism. In addition to expressing his interest in Scherek’s play, Wedekind hoped that the two playwrights could meet at Munich’s well-known bohemian Café Stefanie. Of the hangout, one of three Munich cafes nicknamed “Café Megalomania,” painter and illustrator Richard Seewald stated, “I did not make my entry into the Bohème until I had pushed back the thick baize curtain behind the glass door of the Café Stefanie, seated myself at one of the little marble-topped tables and ordered an absinthe,” (“In the Café Stefanie,” The Era of German Expressionism, Raabe). Wedekind was a known habitué of the café as was Heinrich Mann, chess players, communists, anarchists, prostitutes, Dadaists, and other young, leftwing radicals. Der Blaue Reiter artist Albert Bloch portrayed it in his cartoon “The Lazy Artist in the Café Stefanie” (Der Komet, 1910/1911) and Austrian author Gustav Meyrink (best known for his novel The Golem) set his short story “Wie Dr. Hiob Paupersum seiner Tochter rote Rosen schenkte” at the Café Stefanie (Simplicissimus, 1915). 

Georg Stollberg (1853-1926) directed Munich’s Schauspielhaus and, during the 1920s, the theater staged many world premieres including works by Bertolt Brecht and Wedekind. Munich’s Stollbergstraße is named in his honor.

Penned on the first and third pages of a folded sheet, bearing several horizontal and vertical closed tears; with a minor paper clip stain at the top margin; otherwise in very good condition.  Uncommon.

ALS from the German Author of “Spring Awakening”

$500 • item #22682

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