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3 - Germany and Austria

from PART I - PEOPLE AND PLACES

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2015

Peter Conolly-Smith
Affiliation:
CUNY-Queens College
Brad Kent
Affiliation:
Université Laval, Québec
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Summary

Given Bernard Shaw's oft-expressed reverence for German and Austrian culture, for ‘that extraordinary body of German art which began with Johann Sebastian Bach and is still alive in the hands of Richard Strauss’, and having, he claimed, been ‘steeped in German music, and consequently in German poetry, all my life ([and] having … learned more of my art as a writer for the stage from Mozart than from Shakespear)’, the commercial and critical success Shaw's plays enjoyed in Berlin, Vienna, and points in between was a source of great personal satisfaction. Yet in 1929, more than a quarter century into their professional relationship, Shaw confessed to Siegfried Trebitsch, his German translator, a suspicion ‘that my vogue in Germany, of which I have been so proud, has been all a mistake’.

Shaw had reached this uncomfortable insight after yet again taking issue with one of Austrian-born director Max Reinhardt's productions of his work. The play at stake was The Apple Cart; the issue was that Reinhardt had ‘jazzed up’ Shaw's political comedy, and had ‘served it to [Berlin] audiences as racy operetta’, according to Michael Holroyd. Worse still, the play's critique of parliamentarianism was presented by the Jewish Reinhardt, who might have known better, as a disavowal of democracy per se, and an embrace of dictatorship. Thus, ‘What had been intended by Shaw as a warning against dreaming the old dreams became [in Germany] the inducement to a new nightmare’. Trebitsch, himself an Austrian Jew, merely remarked that Reinhardt's Apple Cart (Der Kaiser von Amerika) was ‘one of [Shaw's] greatest successes’ in Germany, and stood as ‘the most progressive and modern play of [its] time’. Thus, if even his translator failed to grasp Shaw's true intention, or at least did not share his frustration over Reinhardt's misrepresentation thereof, the playwright may have been correct to fear that his success on German-language stages was indeed based on a widespread misunderstanding of his work.

Yet when it came, his success was immense: ‘[B]y the end of the 1920s Shaw had acquired the status of a German classic. His plays were studied and performed all over the provinces as well as in the capitals of German-speaking countries … [W]rote [German playwright] Leon Feuchtwanger, “… Bernard Shaw since the war reigns supreme”’.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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References

Conolly-Smith, Peter. ‘Shades of Local Color: Pygmalion and Its Translation and Reception in Central Europe, 1913-1914’, SHAW 29 (2009): 127–44.Google Scholar
Cuomo, Glenn R.“St. Joan before the Cannibals”: George Bernard Shaw in the Third Reich’, German Studies Review 16.3 (October 1993): 435–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Knoll, Elisabeth. Produktive Mißverständnisse: George Bernard Shaw und sein deutscher Übersetzer Siegfried Trebitsch. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Carl Winter, 1992.Google Scholar
London, John, ed. Theatre Under the Nazis. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000.Google Scholar
Trebistch, Siegfried. Chronicle of a Life. London: Heinemann, 1953.Google Scholar
Weiss, Samuel A., ed. Bernard Shaw's Letters to Siegfried Trebitsch. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1986.Google Scholar

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  • Germany and Austria
  • Edited by Brad Kent, Université Laval, Québec
  • Book: George Bernard Shaw in Context
  • Online publication: 05 October 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107239081.005
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  • Germany and Austria
  • Edited by Brad Kent, Université Laval, Québec
  • Book: George Bernard Shaw in Context
  • Online publication: 05 October 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107239081.005
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Germany and Austria
  • Edited by Brad Kent, Université Laval, Québec
  • Book: George Bernard Shaw in Context
  • Online publication: 05 October 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107239081.005
Available formats
×