Peter Weiss and the Aesthetics of Resistance
June 28, 2005 3:54 AM   Subscribe

The Aesthetics of Resistance. The first part of Peter Weiss's 3-volume novel Die Ästhetik des Widerstands (1975-81) has, after many delays, finally been published in a Joachim Neugroschel’s English translation: a major, though largely-unheralded literary event. The book ‘stands as the most significant German novel published after The Tin Drum.’ [more inside]
posted by misteraitch (7 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
So, Who the fuck was Peter Weiss? He was a painter, poet, dramatist, activist and novelist who, while he wrote almost exclusively in German, lived for most of his life in Sweden. He is best remembered in the English-speaking world (when he is remembered at all) as the author of the play the Marat/Sade (full title: The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of Monsieur de Sade), an over-the-top exercise in enacting Artaud’s ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ that was famously staged by Peter Brook in 1964, (a movie version was released in 1967). Also notable: The Investigation, a powerful but controversial dramatisation of testimony presented at the 1963-5 Frankfurt trials of Auschwitz functionaries.

Weiss was a committed old-school socialist, and the Aesthetics of Resistance is motivated by a political viewpoint that was already becoming marginalised as the book was first being published in German. Even so, its ‘exhortations to resistance and activity,’ might yet strike a chord with contemporary readers. Sadly, there has been no announcement yet of the book’s second and third parts being translated.

A few more links to German-language sites: Internationale Peter Weiss Gesellschaft; Das Peter Weiss Jahrbuch; and a Swiss Weiss site, which includes a page listing some of the artworks discussed at length in Die Ästhetik des Widerstands.
posted by misteraitch at 3:56 AM on June 28, 2005 [2 favorites]

Complete Review:
"Passive Americans (and their now hardly less passive European brethren) are unlikely to be able to do much with Weiss' exhortation to resistance and activity, but the book is so accomplished that even those that can do nothing with its underlying message should enjoy it. Of course, few people enjoy the true literary tour de force any longer, and Die Ästhetik des Widerstands is as forceful as fiction comes, but not to have read it is to have missed one of the great artistic visions of recent times."
It's like they've got this hyperenthusiasm about the book's qualities tinged with a sullen presumption of anachronism. I hope the author of that review is not a strategist in the Democratic Party. Perhaps it's realism.
I'd vaguely heard of the Marat/Sade play but knew not of Weiss or the Aesthetics of Resistance.

Thanks very much for the post misteraitch - a fine linkset and outline. And I want the book.
posted by peacay at 4:49 AM on June 28, 2005

Thanks for the post--the book looks interesting. I'm reluctant to pony up the cash until I have assurance that volumes two and three will be released, but maybe I'll just buy volume 1 and take a chance.
posted by Prospero at 5:13 AM on June 28, 2005

Thanks from me too. I'd be curious to know where you came across this bit of news.
posted by callicles at 7:07 AM on June 28, 2005

callicles—I only realised the book had been published when I received—yesterday—the copy of it I’d pre-ordered from Duke University Press. I should have added to the foregoing that I’ve not read the book yet…

I first heard of it through reading W.G. Sebald’s essay on Weiss in the book On The Natural History of Destruction a couple of years back. I had previously seen (years ago) the Marat/Sade movie, but had never thought to wonder about its author. More recently, I was browsing through the list of ‘top-rated’ titles at the Complete Review site & found their review of Die Ästhetik… at the head of it. From there I learned of the then forthcoming translation & in due course placed my order.

One more thing: since posting this I received the following message, via e-mail—

I was looking at Metafilter, and the Peter Weiss FPP caught my eye, as did your comment. I'm not a Mefite, otherwise I'd have posted this myself, but I just had to let someone know that the theatre group I am involved in, based in Wimbledon, London, UK, recently performed an adaptation of Marat/Sade. It was adapted and directed by a chap by the name of Mehmet C Izbudak, and featured me as the Marquis de Sade. It was a great production, albeit small-scale and low budget (the only set was the bath centre stage for Marat).

I know that other productions have been staged, but I like to think ours avoided some of the traps of dealing with theatrical asylums - to that end we didn't have too much gurning and makeup, and the costumes were simple white tshirts and trousers.

Of course, my overriding memory is of being whipped by two attractive young ladie live on stage, every night for a week - that's the kind of thing that stays with you.

Here's a link to the poster (we went for a sort of futurism/bauhaus/deco look).

posted by misteraitch at 9:50 AM on June 28, 2005

I read about it in the complete review a while ago, but didn't know about this translation. Has anyone here read it?

Also: should I read Marat/Sade? I think it's in my garage, but I haven't read Artaud or The Cenci
posted by kensanway at 3:49 PM on June 28, 2005

Thanks for the links to this.
posted by OmieWise at 11:25 AM on June 30, 2005

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