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54 posts categorized "Theatre"

15 May 2020

Fairytales across borders

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As part of its 15th anniversary celebrations and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Belarus Free Theatre (BFT) has launched a fairytale-inspired campaign called #LoveOverVirus. Members of the theatre company, as well as a number of famous figures including Stephen Fry and Juliet Stevenson, are reading extracts from their favourite fairytales and short stories every evening at 6pm until the end of May. In addition, BFT has opened up its archive to stream 24 productions between April and June. Each show can be accessed for 24 hours and English subtitles are available for performances in Russian and Belarusian. The theatre company is banned in Belarus; its co-founding artistic directors, Natalia Kaliada and Nikolai Khalezin, came to the UK as political refugees in 2010, and rehearse its underground performances in Minsk via Skype.

Stephen Fry鈥檚 contribution to the Love Over Virus project is a reading of The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde. First published in 1888, the tale is part of Wilde鈥檚 collection of short stories for children and adults, The Happy Prince and Other Tales (a free digitised copy is available to download from Project Gutenburg). Influenced by traditional fairytales, the seemingly whimsical stories offer an astute social commentary on Victorian society, depicting poverty, suffering and cruelty, but also love, kindness and sacrifice.

Cover of Shchas使livy Prynts with a drawing of the swallow and Egyptian pyramids

Cover of Shchas使livy Prynts (The Happy Prince) translated by L. Khval使ko (Watenstadt, 1947) 12256.dd.8.

The title-story from the collection, The Happy Prince, similarly aimed to bring solace to children and adults when it was translated into Belarusian as part of Displaced Persons (DP) camp publishing activities in 1947. At the end of the Second World War, approximately 11 million people had been displaced from their home countries, with seven million in Allied-occupied Germany. They included concentration camp survivors, and former forced labourers and prisoners of war. DP camps were set up in Western Germany, Austria and Italy, and largely organised by nationality.

Double page from Shchas使livy Prynts with a drawing of the statue of the Happy Prince

Final pages from Shchas使livy Prynts with drawings of an angel and the swallow

Pages from Shchas使 livy Prynts with illustrations

During the German occupation of Belarus between 1941 and 1944, approximately 380,000 Belarusians were deported to Germany as labourers. Thousands more subsequently fled the returning Soviet regime in 1944 (Silitski and Zaprudnik, pp. 135鈥136). Following the end of the war, Belarusian refugees lived in DP camps throughout Western Germany before they were resettled.

This translation of The Happy Prince (Shchas使 livy Prynts in Belarusian) was reproduced from a typewritten copy and translated from the English by L. Khval使ko. The text is accompanied by simple yet powerful pen and ink illustrations throughout. It was published in a camp in Watenstedt in the British zone (now incorporated into the city of Salzgitter) in Lower Saxony, Germany, by the Belarusian Relief Committee (Belaruski dapamahovy Kamit臈t).

Photograph of a series of buildings at the A1 Heerte displaced persons camp in the Salzgitter region of Germany, 1946

Photograph of a series of buildings at the A1 Heerte displaced persons camp in the Salzgitter region of Germany, 1946. Museums Victoria Collections [Accessed 11 May 2020]

Salzgitter had been the site of Reichswerke Hermann G枚ring, a state-owned iron and steel complex that used slave labour during the war. Prisoners were housed in concentration camps in the area. After the war, DP camps were established for the some 37,000 (mostly Polish) displaced persons in the city (Neumann, p. 28). Many DP camps were set up on the sites of former German concentration camps and conditions were extremely difficult. Nevertheless, political, educational, religious and cultural activities, including publishing, flourished.

The British Library holds a handful of other Belarusian publications produced in Watenstedt between 1946 and 1948. These include a collection of poems by Maksim Bahdanovich, considered to be one of the founders of modern Belarusian literature (011586.pp.27.); a religious book 鈥榝or the Belarusian family and school鈥 (4385.c.13.); and copies of the periodical Shliakham zhyts使tsia (P.P.7615.yh.). To find more items published in Watenstedt, search by place of publication in our online catalogue in Cyrillic and using transliteration. The Library also has a growing collection of other DP camp publications in Belarusian and a number of other languages, including Russian, Yiddish, Latvian, Ukrainian and Polish.

Katie McElvanney, Curator Slavonic and East European Collections

Further reading and references:

Jan-Hinnerk Antons, 鈥淒isplaced Persons in Postwar Germany: Parallel Societies in a Hostile Environment.鈥 Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 49, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 92鈥114

Marc Buggeln, Slave Labour in Nazi Concentration Camps, translated by Paul Cohen (Oxford, 2014). YC.2016.a.2083

Klaus Neumann, Shifting Memories: the Nazi past in the new Germany (Ann Arbor, 2000). YC.2001.a.17690

Vitali Silitski and Jan Zaprudnik, The A to Z of Belarus (Lanham, MD., 2010).

19 June 2019

Translating Ibsen: monstrous rare of attainment

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The Duke of York鈥檚 Theatre is currently playing Henrik Ibsen鈥檚 Rosmersholm, a play that Michael Meyer suggests 鈥榤arks Ibsen鈥檚 final withdrawal as a playwright from the polemical field鈥. It is marked everywhere by a curious sense of withdrawal, as the protagonist John Rosmer, heir to the Rosmersholm legacy and former clergyman, stirs himself towards a revolutionary popular politics, before abruptly asserting its futility. Likewise, the complex love affair between Rosmer and Rebecca West reaches the possibility of marriage, before that becomes impossible because of Rebecca鈥檚 guilt over her complicity in the suicide of Rosmer鈥檚 first wife and her manipulation of Rosmer towards her radicalism. Hints of idealism amidst the angst-ridden interactions dissolve into a resignation to unchangeable political, psychological and moral realities. This kind of thematic disappointment works also on the level of language, and Toril Moi suggests it depicts a dark modernity 鈥榳here language has come to seem untrustworthy鈥. This makes you wonder: if the play is about the impossibility of communication, what does it mean to read and experience it at one remove, in translation?

Title page of the first edition of Rosmersholm

First edition of Rosmersholm (Copenhagen, 1896) BL 11755.bbb.34.

Ibsen is notoriously difficult to translate, hence the many translations and adaptations of his plays over the last century. This includes the new four-volume Penguin Ibsen, the third volume of which contains a new translation and critical apparatus for Rosmersholm and will be released in December this year. Mark Lawson reminds us of one of the problems of translating Ibsen: that he wrote in Danish in Norway at a time of linguistic transition, when Danish remained in use but was being superseded by Norwegian. 鈥楾his means that the translator 鈥 needs two different sets of dictionaries and thesauri and a strong sense of the historical evolution of Scandinavian languages.鈥

Portrait of Louis Napoleon Parker

Portrait of Louis Napoleon Parker, National Portrait Gallery 1917

This combination of disappointed ideals and the thankless task of the translator emerge in the preface to the first English translation of Rosmersholm (London, 1889; 11755.e.13.) by the playwright, poet and musician, Louis Napoleon Parker. Parker writes how Ibsen was slowly becoming known to English audiences and, regarding his translation, 鈥業t claims only one merit: it is done from the original, and it is done as literally as my limited skill in juggling words would permit. An ideal translation is, like other ideals, monstrous rare of attainment. This is not an ideal translation; but that it is faithful I will pledge the word of one who has hitherto been considered indifferent honest.鈥 In his autobiography, Parker mentions an 鈥榦bsession鈥 with Rosmersholm, 鈥榯he only useful lesson in playwriting I ever had鈥. After first translating from an early German version, probably Marie von Borch鈥檚 (Berlin, 1887; 11755.c.2.), he returned to the original, feeling 鈥榠nstinctively that there were slips and lacun忙鈥 in the German.

Title Page of Louis N. Parker鈥檚 translation alongside his dedication to H. Rowland Brown

Title Page of Louis N. Parker鈥檚 translation alongside his dedication to H. Rowland Brown Cup.403.m.4.(7.)

The Ibsen Society of America see the first translations, including presumably Parker鈥檚 Rosmersholm, as being particularly faithful but also outdated: 鈥榦lder literary translations can impede meaning as much as they preserve it, as one soon discovers when struggling through any of the arch British-Victorian translations鈥. A couple of the tricky motifs to transmit into English, according to Toril Moi, are the verbs sv忙lge (鈥榮wallow鈥) and kv忙le (鈥榮trangle鈥). For Moi, these verbs 鈥榚voke ideas of forced or silenced expression鈥 in a play about the struggle to connect through language and the actual abyss between Rosmer and Rebecca, as well as between Rosmer and the outside world. These verbs are strange to a Norwegian reader in their contexts and therefore stand out. Rendering into comprehensible English, translators often miss the specific motifs of swallowing and suffocation, which Moi holds central to her understanding of the play.

Let鈥檚 compare a couple of passages from Parker鈥檚 1889 work, Charles Archer鈥檚 1891 translation (11755.df.45.), Michael Meyer鈥檚 1966 version (X.908/8346.), Mike Poulton鈥檚 2008 adaptation (YK.2009.a.18115), and Moi鈥檚 own renderings in her critical work.

The end of Act 2 sees Rosmer lament the impossibility of his political project due in part to his deep guilt over his wife鈥檚 death. Moi has it:

ROSMER: I shall never conquer this 鈥 not completely. There will always be a lingering doubt. A question. I鈥檒l never again be able to bask in (sv忙lge i) that which makes life so wonderfully delightful to live.
REBECCA: [leaning over the back of his chair, more slowly] What kind of thing is it you mean, Rosmer?
ROSMER: [looking up at her] Quiet, joyous freedom from guilt.
REBECCA: [takes a step back] Yes. Freedom from guilt.

Moi cannot retain the idea of swallowing but opts for a phrase that keeps a bodily sense, of absorbing something. This is lost in Meyer鈥檚 and Poulton鈥檚 translations, which go with the verbs 鈥榚njoy鈥 and 鈥榣osing the one joyful thing鈥. Parker and Archer settle for 鈥榬evel in鈥, retaining at least the preposition and therefore some idea of physicality.

The scene takes a turn when Rosmer asks Rebecca to become his second wife, a proposal she rejects for no clear reasons at this stage. Rosmer鈥檚 plea is about shaking off the burden of the past in marriage, demanding, according to Moi鈥檚 version, to 鈥榣et us strangle (kv忙le) all memories in freedom, in pleasure, in passion鈥. Meyer writes, 鈥榣et us lay all memories to rest in freedom, and joy, and love鈥, a significantly more peaceful image. Poulton offers a more violent image in the verb 鈥榙rown鈥. However, closer to the original, Parker and Archer prefer the verb 鈥榮tifle鈥, a motif of suffocation.

One last example that provides interesting comparison is the word vidnesbyrd, the 鈥榯estimony鈥 or 鈥榩roof鈥 Rosmer asks of Rebecca to restore his faith, essentially demanding that she takes her own life. Moi prefers to see this as 鈥榖earing witness鈥 because the concept is distinct from 鈥榩roof鈥, as it 鈥榟as to do with a person鈥, whereas 鈥榩roof鈥 鈥榦ften refers to things or facts鈥. This word isolates one translator among our selection. The very first translation, the one that was a product of an obsession with the most faithful rendering, Louis Napoleon Parker鈥檚 work is the only version not to use the word 鈥榩roof鈥. He employs the awkward formulation, 鈥楲et me have a token!鈥 The word 鈥榯oken鈥 insists on a visible and tangible manifestation of something in a way that 鈥榩roof鈥 does not quite manage.

As strange as it sounds in Parker鈥檚 rendering, perhaps Parker鈥檚 鈥榯oken鈥 is a more accurate translation after all, and, if anything, his version helps to remind us of Ibsen鈥檚 own strange language.

Pardaad Chamsaz, Curator Germanic Collections

References/Further Reading

Louis N. Parker, Several of my Lives (London, 1928), 010855.f.42

Toril Moi, Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism: Art, Theater, Philosophy (Oxford, 2006) YC.2006.a.19524

Mark Lawson, 鈥楾he Master Linguist: The Problem with Translating Ibsen鈥, The Guardian (29 October 2014)

05 June 2019

Transcending Text in Print: Lothar Schreyer鈥檚 Kreuzigung

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The term Bauhaus evokes functionality, social utopia, maybe even novel pedagogical thinking, but this is often associated with its role as a school of design. However, the Bauhaus developed out of a movement that was split between the rational and what P谩draic E. Moore refers to as the 鈥榗osmically-inclined鈥. This year鈥檚 Bauhaus centenary gives pause for thought to the contrasting utopianisms at the heart of the school, and to the esoteric elements, which have been given less attention in its historiography.

These elements are often reduced to the influence of Wassily Kandinsky, who articulated a 鈥榮piritual vision鈥 for 20th-century art. Kandinsky sought to unite form, colour, sound, and movement in 鈥榯he gradual forming structure of the new spiritual realm鈥. Der gelbe Klang (鈥楾he Yellow Sound鈥) is one such 鈥榮ymphonic composition鈥 that paved the way for a new theatre. It first appeared in Der Blaue Reiter Almanac (Munich, 1912; C.107.h.16) and comprises six 鈥榩ictures鈥 almost without dialogue, detailing elaborate staging and actor movements.

Kandinsky was a key influence on Lothar Schreyer, pioneer of expressionist theatre, who, according to David F. Kuhns, 鈥榖uilt a whole theory of performance on the expressive process first suggested in The Yellow Sound鈥.

Title-page of Lothar Schreyer's, Kreuzigung
Title-page of Lothar Schreyer, Kreuzigung (Hamburg, 1920)

Where Kandinsky offers lengthy stage directions as a surrogate for synesthetic art experience, Schreyer鈥檚 Kreuzigung: Spielgang Werk VIII attempts to represent a spiritual experience in a singular score, employing a distinct set of signs and symbols, colours and forms. Its publication triggered Walter Gropius to invite Schreyer to the Bauhaus, where he led the stage workshop between 1921 and 1923.

Photographic portrait of Lothar Schreyer
Lothar Schreyer  in 1918. (Picture from Universit盲tsbibliothek Heidelberg, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Kandinsky was influential but Schreyer鈥檚 Bauhaus experience was shaped more by Johannes Itten and Gertrud Grunow, two less familiar names. Schreyer鈥檚 thinking around rhythm maps onto ideas simiular to theirs. Itten led the Bauhaus Preliminary Course [Vorkurs] and Grunow the course in 鈥楶ractical Harmonization鈥 [Praktische Harmonisierungslehre], both forming the foundation of a student鈥檚 education. Itten鈥檚 devotion to Mazdaznan opened his practice to regulating physical exercises, including breathing and rhythmic drawing. Likewise, Grunow encouraged rhythmic breathing and a response to colours through movement. Both were committed to strengthening students鈥 鈥榮elf-awareness in relation to both the corporeal and the spiritual鈥 (Linn Buchert). In the focus on fundamental words, tones, colours, forms, Schreyer also encourages in each of his practitioners an inner harmony, sound, or rhythm, which pushes to a limit the experience of 鈥榳ord鈥. This is more than the 鈥榯ransmission of a message鈥; it is the evocation of spirit.

Kreuzigung developed out of Schreyer鈥檚 work with Der Sturm, the most influential journal of German expressionism, an offshoot of which, Die Sturm-B眉hne, he edited in collaboration with the Hamburg Kampfb眉hne, his parallel theatre project. Schreyer鈥檚 expressionism went against the overly literary dramatic tradition, which he declared defunct: in his 1916 essay 鈥楧as B眉hnenkunstwerk鈥, he wrote: 鈥業t is necessary to forget theatre. [鈥 A stage art [B眉hnenkunstwerk] is necessary鈥. That stage art privileged performance over print, synesthetic experience over dialogue. Kreuzigung then returns to the print medium in order to explode the representative possibilities of literature.

The book is not described as a playscript [Theaterst眉ck], rather Schreyer prefers the neologism Spielgang. Whereas the usual term refers to a piece, the new term draws attention to the mobility of the text through Gang (path, walk, derived from the verb gehen, to walk or go). It is the only Spielgang to materialize from a workshop process that was usually reserved for the Kampfb眉hne鈥檚 community of artists. Schreyer only rarely allowed outsiders into performances and practically no reviews. Yet Kreuzigung became the exemplary work 鈥榯o grant others the knowledge鈥 of this creative experimentation through, in Schreyer鈥檚 own words, 鈥榯he system and sign, in which a stage work was given the stability of form [die Best盲ndigkeit der Gestalt]鈥.

The text is evocative rather than wholly readable. It works in connection with the representation of movement, figures (as coloured forms), and sound. That is apparent from the title page, headed with the motto, 鈥楽turm dir Sturm allen Sturm鈥, which might be translated as 鈥楽torm to you Storm to all Storm鈥 but also works on the level of sonic rhythm and visual symmetry, especially in the heightened artistry of the wood-block setting.

Text 'What the reader must know' from 'Kreuzigung'
鈥榃hat the reader must know鈥, from Kreuzigung

The next page sets out what the reader, performer, and spectator 鈥榤ust know鈥. Schreyer writes in the essay 鈥楤眉hnenwerk Spielgang und Spiel鈥 that 鈥榠n order to learn the Spielgang system and its signs, no particular course of study is necessary鈥. Yet, the universal pretensions are qualified in the work itself as 鈥楢nyone can read the score who can hear word-tones [Worttone] internally and see the movement of coloured form鈥. Likewise, 鈥楾he play can only be seen and heard with a circle of friends as a shared experience, as a shared act of devotion, as a shared work鈥. On one level, Kreuzigung acts as a representation of performance but, on another, it points to the impossibility of that very representation. It is at once readable by all and penetrable only by the initiated.

The system and symbols from Kreuzigung
The system and symbols from Kreuzigung

The system is unpacked on the following page. Three levels are represented on a stave: word sequence, tone sequence and movement sequence. A zigzag line on the tone sequence denotes pitch based on its position and on the yellow (high) or blue (low) lines. The bracket symbols refer to volume and the target signs to pauses in both sound and movement. Words are stretched and contracted as appropriate to the bar by way of the woodcut text. The cross-like symbol relates to the 鈥楳an鈥 character, the single red circle to the 鈥楳other鈥 character, and the two red circles to the 鈥楤eloved鈥 character.

The figures of 鈥楳an鈥 and 鈥楤eloved鈥 from 'Kreuzigung'
The figures of 鈥楳an鈥 and 鈥楤eloved鈥 from Kreuzigung

These symbolic referents point to the 鈥榙e-individuated 鈥渁rt-body鈥 stripped of socially conditioned speech and movement patterns [鈥 capable of expressing universal truths鈥 (Buckley). In fact, the Spielgang was a communal creation based on an original process of meditation and vocal practice to identify the performer鈥檚 ground-tone [Grundton], becoming word-tones [Wortton] when applied to language and Sprachtonspiele when in sentence combinations.

Schreyer glosses the play itself as a 鈥榙esperate struggle for humanity against daemonic forces鈥. It evokes a post-war apocalypse, around which man wanders wounded in the company of two female characters in the conventional guises of mother and mistress, ultimately seeking escape through spiritual transcendence.

Page from 'Kreuzigung' showing the text and the symbols representing the characters and their movements
鈥楳an: Wounded feet of men carry us | Woman: My heart is blood鈥, from Kreuzigung (all translations by Mel Gordon)

Ultimately, while salvation is demanded, it does not arrive, as the figures are left to call for the world to wake, to realize itself beyond the material desperation. Yet, Kreuzigung is not just the representation of some failed transcendence; that would neglect the formal purity of a project less concerned with content. Rather, 鈥榯he actual logic of the work of word art [Wortkunstwerk] is more of an artistic logic鈥. Spiritual transcendence is a process entered into in the performance and experience of such universal stage art.

Complex movements All tasks we perform
Complex movements: 鈥楤eloved: I am (Beloved alternately moves arms up and down four times) | Man: All tasks we perform. Flames break at midnight. (Mother quarter turn left, right arm horizontal sideways. Hand behind, then in front, opens left hand on breast; Beloved quarter turn right, right arm horizontal sideways. Hand behind, then in front, opens left hand on left breast; Man forearm on cross, straight in front; Mother right hand on right breast; Beloved right hand on right breast)

Page from 'Kreuzigung' showing the text and the symbols representing the characters and their movements
鈥楽aviour!鈥 (All together)

Page from 'Kreuzigung' showing the text and the symbols representing the characters and their movements
The End: 鈥楢wake. World. Awake.鈥 (All together)

Kreuzigung is an attempt to encapsulate the anti-literary in print, what Buckley terms the manifestation of Schreyer鈥檚 鈥榓nxious utopianism鈥, which enacts the tensions 鈥榖etween its knowledge and its hopes 鈥 between the Werk as commodity and the Arbeit of the community, between mediation and immediacy鈥. A contemporary of Schreyer, Robert Musil, articulated this negotiation between spirit and rationality a year after the publication of Kreuzigung, as 鈥榓n abiding miscommunication between the intellect and the soul. We do not have too much intellect and too little soul, but too little precision in matters of the soul鈥. In the urge to leave something material, 鈥榦ut of which creative people in the future could understand what forces had moved and shaped our plays鈥 (Schreyer, Erinnerungen), Schreyer and the Kampfb眉hne showed their precision in works of the soul and underlined that tension at the heart of the Bauhaus. Kreuzigung is thus the result of precise printing craft and a meticulous pedagogical process that might just also tend towards the divine.

Pardaad Chamsaz, Curator Germanic Collections

References / Further Reading

Wassily Kandinsky, On the Spiritual in Art, edited and translated by Hilla Rebay (New York, 1946), 7813.b.1.

Lothar Schreyer, Theateraufs盲tze (Lewiston, 2001), YC.2002.a.12966

鈥斺, Erinnerungen an Sturm und Bauhaus. Was ist des Menschen Bild? (Lewiston, 2002), YK.2002.a.21881

Robert Musil, Precision and Soul: Essays and Addresses (Chicago, 1990), YC.1991.b.1058

Hans M. Wingler, The Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago (Cambridge, MA, 1979), f80/0186

Mel Gordon, 鈥楲othar Schreyer and the Sturmb眉hne鈥, The Drama Review, vol. 24, no. 1 (1980), pp. 85-102. 3623.197000

David F. Kuhns, German Expressionist Theatre: the Actor and the Stage (Cambridge, 1997), YC.2002.a.15612

Jennifer Buckley, 鈥楾he B眉hnenkunstwerk and the Book: Lothar Schreyer鈥檚 Theatre Notation鈥, Modernism.modernity, vol. 21, no. 2 (2014), pp. 407-24. 5900.120000

P谩draic E. Moore, 鈥A Mystic Milieu: Johannes Itten and Mazdaznan at Bauhaus Weimar鈥, bauhaus imaginista, edition 1

Elizabeth Otto and Patrick R枚ssler (eds), Bauhaus Bodies: Gender, Sexuality, and Body Culture in Modernism鈥檚 Legendary Art School (New York, 2019), ELD.DS.381646

Linn Buchert, 鈥楾he spiritual Enhancement of the Body: Johannes Itten, Gertrud Grunow, and Mazdaznan at the early Bauhaus鈥, in Bauhaus Bodies

21 December 2018

The 鈥楢rtist Maks鈥: The Ukrainian Disciple of Aubrey Beardsley

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2018 has marked 120 years since the death of Aubrey Beardsley (1872鈥1898), the British master of Art Nouveau who has been repeatedly named an emblem of Victorian Decadence. Born into the age of quick photomechanical reproduction of images, he exploited this new technology to circulate his black-and-white designs worldwide. 鈥楴o artist of our time鈥, noted the poet Arthur Symons in his tribute to Beardsley, 鈥榟as reached a more universal, or a more contested fame; [鈥 none has had so wide an influence on contemporary art鈥.

Figure 1 (Beardsley portrait)
Above: Frederick Hollyer, photograph of Aubrey Beardsley, 1890s. Below:  Aubrey Beardsley, 鈥楾he Dancer鈥檚 Reward鈥, illustration from Salome, 1893. Both images reproduced in Arthur Symons,
Aubrey Beardsley (London, 1898) L.R.269.a.2/3.

Figure 2 (Salome)

Among the histories of Beardsley鈥檚 extraordinary international influence, his Ukrainian reception is among the most surprising ones. Thus, a single look at the works by Vsevolod Maksymovych (1894鈥1914) justifies the artist鈥檚 nickname of the 鈥楿krainian Beardsley鈥. Like Beardsley, Maksymovych was a prodigy. At 19, he produced most of his paintings that shared the period鈥檚 preoccupations with exoticism, mysticism, and sexuality. At 20, he committed suicide. His short life did nevertheless overlap with key cultural events of the early 20th century, including the fading of the Art Nouveau style, the birth of the Futurist movement, and the earliest avant-garde experiments in film.

Figure 3 (Masquerade)
Vsevolod Maksymovych, Masquerade, 1913, Oil on canvas, reproduced in Ukrains麓kyi modernizm 1910-1930 = Ukrainian Modernism, ed. by Anatolii Mel麓nyk and John E. Bowlt (Kyiv, 2006), LF.31.b.3196

Maksymovych was born in the city of Poltava in 1894. In the West, it was the year of the Beardsley Boom, when the volumes of the Decadent almanac The Yellow Book and Oscar Wilde鈥檚 drama Salome disseminated Beardsley鈥檚 notorious designs. After Beardsley鈥檚 premature death in 1898, the international circulation of his images persisted through fashionable periodicals. In Eastern Europe, his drawings were popularised by the St Petersburg aesthetic journal Mir iskusstva (1899-1904; P.P.1931.pmb.) and the Moscow review Vesy  (1904-1909; Mic.F.430). The Kyiv magazine V mirie iskusstv (1907-1910) dedicated an illustrated essay to Beardsley in 1907.

Figure 4 (V mirie iskusstv)
Cover of V mirie iskusstv, 1 (1909). ZA.9.d.620

At the beginning of the 20th century, a Ukrainian art lover such as Maksymovych would have inhabited a world permeated by Beardsley鈥檚 visual language and imagery. While it was common for the artists of the 1910s to adopt Beardsley鈥檚 stylised line and black-blot technique, Maksymovych stood out among the imitators. The painter transferred the intricate graphic lace of Beardsley鈥檚 black-and-white illustrations to his colossal 鈥 up to four-metre-wide 鈥 oil canvases. As the art historian John Bowlt observes, 鈥榠f certain esthetic ideas did bloom late on Ukrainian soil, they tended to assume luxuriant, hybrid proportions鈥.

Figure 5 (002)

 Vsevolod Maksymovych, Self-Portrait, 1913, Oil on canvas, National Art Museum of Ukraine, reproduced in Ukrains麓kyi modernizm 1910-1930 

Maksymovych鈥檚 life-size Self-Portrait is an example of such luxuriant blooming. The picture centres on the immaculately-dressed figure of the artist who, like Beardsley, posed as a dandy. Even more fascinating than Maksymovych鈥檚 self-depiction is the backdrop which incorporates familiar details from Beardsley鈥檚 Salome designs: the dramatic peacock patterns formed of curvilinear tails and foaming crescents. Those Beardsleyesque backgrounds dominated the responses of contemporaries to Maksymovych鈥檚 work. In the words of the Futurist writer Boris Lavrenev: 鈥楬is canvases consisted of circlets and rings, tangled and intertwined, [鈥 which resembled a pile of so邪p bubbles鈥. 

Lavrenev and Maksymovych met in Moscow in 1913 during the filming of The Drama in Cabaret No 13. This film is considered the first cinematic experiment of the global Avant-Garde. Directed by a pioneer of abstract art, Mikhail Larionov, it featured Futurist celebrities such as Vladimir Mayakovsky and David Burliuk. Although the film itself has been lost, surviving frames allow the identification of the male lead. It was, undoubtedly, Maksymovych, or the 鈥榓rtist Maks鈥 as he was called within the Futurist milieu.

Figure 7 (002)
A scene from The Drama in Cabaret No 13 featuring V. Maksymovych and N. Elsner, reproduced in M. L. Polianovskii, Maiakovskii-kinoakter (Moscow, 1940) YA.1997.a.3234.

The 鈥榓rtist Maks鈥 lived through the clash of the languorous Art Nouveau aesthetics with the revolutionary Avant-Garde. Despite Maksymovych鈥檚 prominent position in the Futurist networks, the style of his work was sadly out of date by the standards of 1914. When his one-man Moscow exhibition of that year failed, the 鈥楿krainian Beardsley鈥 overdosed on drugs.

Figure 8
A scene from
The Drama in  Cabaret No 13, from M. L. Polianovskii, Maiakovskii-kinoakter

After the painter鈥檚 suicide, his works did not stand much chance of entering official Moscow art collections. Maksymovych鈥檚 mother and the art collector Fedir Ernst eventually succeeded in bringing his works back to Ukraine. Ideologically incompatible with official Soviet culture, the paintings reemerged from the cellar of the National Art Museum of Ukraine only at the turn of the 21st century. Today, as we celebrate the international legacy of Aubrey Beardsley, it is time to look closely at his Ukrainian disciple and examine the transformations of art works, styles, and myths when they travel across national borders.

Sasha Dovzhyk, Birkbeck, University of London

References/Further reading

R. M. Iangirov, 鈥楽mert麓 poeta: Vokrug fil麓ma 鈥淒rama v kafe futuristov No. 13鈥濃, in Tynianovskii sbornik: Sed麓mye Tynianovskie chteniia, ed. by M. O. Chudakova, E. A. Toddes, and Iu. G. Tsiv麓ian (Riga, 1995) YF.2004.a.14913

Linda Gertner Zatlin, Aubrey Beardsley: a catalogue raisonne虂 (New Haven, 2016) LC.31.b.15403

V. N. Terekhina, 鈥榁sevolod Maksimovich sredi moskovskikh futuristov鈥, in Russkoe iskusstvo: XX vek, Vol. 3 (Moscow, 2009), pp. 147鈥156. ZF.9.a.7176

02 October 2018

鈥楾his art, at once so beautiful and so ungrateful鈥︹ Celebrating World Ballet Day

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鈥楾erpsichore is a jealous goddess,鈥 warns the 鈥楢dvice to Those Contemplating the Study of Dancing鈥 which opens A Manual of the Theory and Practice of Classical Theatrical Dancing, in which Cyril W. Beaumont and Stanislas Idzikowski expound the methods developed by the famous Italian ballet-master Enrico Cecchetti. The authors leave aspiring dancers in no doubt that 鈥榯hose who seek fame among her votaries must sacrifice at her altar years of patient study and hours of physical labour鈥. Fortunately, there have always been those determined enough to persevere with the rigorous training necessary to succeed in ballet and assure the continuation of this art form.

Manual of Classical Dancing by Randolph Schwabe for A Manual of the Theory and Practice of Classical Theatrical Dancing (London, 1922)

Many would-be dancers first develop their ambition through attending a performance of The Nutcracker or Copp茅lia; others devour the works of authors such as Lorna Hill (A Dream of Sadler鈥檚 Wells and its sequels) or Jean Estoril (Ballet for Drina, the first of a series charting the young heroine鈥檚 progress from early childhood to professional success in Drina Ballerina). Typically, their protagonists have to struggle with financial hardship, unsympathetic relatives and similar obstacles as well as the formidable demands of a classical ballet training.

Naomi Capon鈥檚 Dancers of Tomorrow provides a balanced account of such a training, designed, perhaps, to reassure parents as well as to leave ballet students in no doubt about the challenges they face. Illustrated with photographs taken at the Sadler鈥檚 Wells School (as it then was), it describes ten-year-old Ann Blake鈥檚 admission to the School despite her father鈥檚 misgivings and her studies within a curriculum where equal emphasis is laid on a good general education to equip those who, like her friend Barbara, prove unsuitable for further training to undertake a different career. The author emphasizes the hard work and concentration required from the outset and Ann鈥檚 realisation, on making her stage d茅but as one of the Morning Hours in Act III of Copp茅lia, that 鈥榠t鈥檚 only the beginning鈥.

Why are so many dancers of the future still drawn to ballet despite the prospect of years of extreme physical exertion and gruelling discipline? Very few can hope to achieve the glamour and acclaim surrounding the greatest dancers of the past, such as Marie Taglioni, whose fame even spread to the remote Russian province of Tver, as E. M. Almedingen recounts in Little Katia, based on the memoirs of her great-aunt:

鈥極ne of the visitors [鈥 from St. Peterburg was devoted to ballet. Once Uncle Nicholas appeared, a white gauze scarf in his hands, and started pirouetting about in the middle of the hall. The elegant gentleman [鈥 asked: 鈥淢ay I ask what you are trying to do, Nicholas?鈥 鈥淚 am not Nicholas, my dear friend, [鈥 I am Taglioni.鈥 After that, the visitor did not indulge in further monologues about the great dancer.鈥

Taglioni 558.g.33 Bayadere
Illustration from Six Sketches of Mademoiselle Taglioni ... Drawn from the life by A. E. Chalon... (London, 1831) 558*.g.33.

Other ballerinas and danseurs nobles also inspired evocations of their grace in other media, as seen in Robert Montenegro鈥檚 work celebrating Vaslav Nijinsky:

Nijinsky Tab.761.a.3. Spectre Le Spectre de la Rose from Vaslav Nijinsky : an artistic interpretation of his work, in black, white and gold (London, [1913]) Tab.761.a.3.

The work of the great stage designers can be regarded as art in its own right as well as part of the spectacle; many prominent artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries collaborated with Diaghilev鈥檚 Ballets Russes and other companies to create strikingly original sets and costumes. Among the finest examples of these are those devised in 1921 by L茅on Bakst  for a production at London鈥檚 Alhambra Theatre of The Sleeping Princess (the title was modified as the dancer portraying Aurora, Lydia Lopokova, did not consider herself a 鈥榖eauty鈥 in the conventional sense).

Bakst LR.23.a.8. Princess AuroraPrincess Aurora (above) and Prince Charming (below), illustrations from The Designs of Le虂on Bakst for The Sleeping Princess (London, 1923) L.R.36.a.8.

Bakst LR.23.a.8. Prince Charming

At times of national privation and austerity such as the periods after two World Wars, these productions satisfied a need for lavish and sumptuous beauty, capturing the imagination and offering a glimpse of a world where drabness and rationing had no place, even though 鈥榯he wonderful velvets were coarse and dirty, and the laces looked like limp pieces of rag when they no longer whirled in the dances鈥, as young Ann discovers on her first visit backstage. It was also with a performance of The Sleeping Beauty that the Royal Opera House  reopened in 1946 in a legendary production designed by Oliver Messel and produced by Ninette de Valois: clothing coupons had to be used to provide costumes, while the sets were constructed using cheap canvas and paint.

The success of this production, starring Margot Fonteyn and Robert Helpmann, inspired a surge of renewed interest in ballet as an art form and the publication of books devoted to it. One of the authors involved in this was Caryl Brahms, renowned not only for classic guidebooks such as A Seat at the Ballet and Footnotes to the Ballet but the wickedly funny satires which she penned with S. J. Simon, A Bullet in the Ballet and Six Curtains for Stroganova, featuring not only the inimitable impresario Vladimir Stroganoff and his temperamental troupe but also delicious allusions to Marie Rambert (鈥楢ssez de chi-chi!鈥), Arnold Haskell and other figures of the contemporary ballet world.

Some ballets, such as Cecchetti鈥檚 Eve, whose heroine escapes her creditors by joining an expedition whose crew is wiped out by hungry polar bears, are unlikely to be revived. Today, though, ballet flourishes as vigorously as ever, with all the tenacity and vitality which it exacts from those who keep its traditions alive.

Susan Halstead, Subject Librarian (Social Sciences), Research Services


Lorna Hill, A Dream of Sadler鈥檚 Wells (London, 1950) 12833.b.27

Jean Estoril, Ballet for Drina (London, 1957) 12839.e.21.

Jean Estoril, Drina Ballerina (London, 1991) YK.1991.a.932

Naomi Capon, Dancers of Tomorrow (Leicester, 1956) 7923.ff.8

E. M. Almedingen, Little Katia (London, 1966) X.990/512

Caryl Brahms, A Seat at the Ballet (London, 1951) 7900.ff.46

Caryl Brahms, Footnotes to the Ballet (London, 1936) 07908.ff.57

Caryl Brahms and S. J. Simon, A Bullet in the Ballet (London, 1937) NN.27474.

Caryl Brahms and S. J. Simon, Six Curtains for Stroganova (London, 1945, reprinted 1964) X.909/960

Olga Racster, The Master of the Russian Ballet: the Memoirs of Cav. Enrico Cecchetti (London, 1923) 10634.d.23

16 May 2018

Southern French printing during the Revolution: Le Journal de Marseille and La prise de Toulon

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 The Destruction of the French Fleet at Toulon, 18 December 1793, from Thomas Whitcombe, The naval achievements of Great Britain from the year 1793 to 1817 (London, 1817-18) 748.d.22.

In an earlier blog post, we discussed the recent acquisition of a copy of the revolutionary Journal de Marseille published in 1793-1794, RB.23.a.37976. Now we would like to comment on the collection of pamphlets bound at the end of the volume. They include a revolutionary song, the 鈥Chanson des sans-culottes鈥, by the comedian, theatre director, song writer and dramatic author Aristide Valcour. 

Aristide Valcour, Chanson des sans-culottes, ([Paris], 1793) RB.23.a.37976.(5)

It is followed by the left-leaning, Jacobin-inspired Constitution of 24 June 1793, which was never implemented, preceded as is often the case by the D茅claration des droits de l鈥檋omme et du citoyen.  The collection also contains reports and political discourses held at the National Convention and the Committee of Public Safety , discussing topics such as religion, government or public instruction. 

2IMG_8224a Constitution of 24 June 1793, with D茅claration des droits de l鈥檋omme et du citoyen ([Paris], 1793) RB.23.a.37976.(6)

The volume is very coherent in the way it gathers contemporary revolutionary material from South-Eastern France. Initially, the titles of the additional pamphlets suggested that some were duplicates of existing tracts in the British Library鈥檚 collection. However, most of the tracts contained in the Journal volume are from different, often Southern editions, or in some cases have a different type-set. For example, the discourse Aux grands Maux les grands Reme虁des by S茅bastien Lacroix (the initial editor of the Journal de Marseille), held at F.617.(21.) was first printed in Paris, while the other copy, a reprint published in Marseille by Auguste Mossy in the same year (an II / 1793), is abbreviated, and followed by an order of the General Assembly of the Republican Section des Quatre nations for the printing and distribution of 3000 copies and 500 posters of Lacroix鈥檚 petition. 

3IMG_8228aS茅bastien Lacroix, Aux grands Maux les grands Reme虁des (Marseille, 1793) RB.23.a.37976.(10)

Lacroix is the author of another tract in the Journal de Marseille collection: La Religion naturelle, la seule qui convient a虁 des Re虂publicains, published in 1793-94 (an II) by Auguste Mossy (1764-1820): in the compilation, this is a duplicate of BL collection item, R.337.(15.). The Mossy family of printers  seems to have played a key role in the diffusion of Jacobin literature such as that transmitted in the volume (we don鈥檛 know who were its early owners: the opening paste-down contains an ex-libris signature which has been crossed out). Auguste Mossy, who printed 3 tracts in the compilation, was a fervent revolutionary who started his own printing business in 1791 and became a municipal councillor for the city of Marseilles until 1793 (he later held other important political functions, under the Consulate and the Napoleonic Empire but was demoted under the Bourbon Restoration).

S茅bastien Lacroix, La religion naturelle la seule qui convient a虁 des Re虂publicains (Marseille, 1793) RB.23.a.37976.(7)

The patriarch, Jean Mossy worked with his sons Jean II and Auguste from 1784 to at least 1791. He was a printer for the Navy, the King/the Nation and the City of Marseille, and published important works in the 1770-80s on the antiquities of Marseille and the history of Provence and Comt茅-Venaissin. Jean II (1758-1835), who published 4 tracts in the Journal de Marseille compilation, inherited his father鈥檚 presses and his own son, Jean-Joseph Mossy, succeeded him as a printer and bookseller.

  5IMG_8227a Maximilien Robespierre, Discours prononc茅 脿 la Soci茅t茅 populaire des Jacobins 脿 Paris, 21 November 1793 RB.23.a.37976.(9)

Other material bound after the Journal de Marseille include several discourses by figures such as Robespierre, Billaud-Varenne, Moyse Bayle  (a member of Marseille鈥檚 Jacobins club, deputy for the Bouches-du-Rh么ne department at the 1792 National Convention, involved in in 1793 with the Committee of Public Safety and the Committee of General Security) and Jean-Corisandre Mitti茅. 

6IMG_8232a Title page of Jean-Corisandre Mitti茅, La prise de Toulon (Marseille, 1794) RB.23.a.37976.(14)

Mitti茅 succeeded Lacroix as editor of the Journal de Marseille from issue 44 onwards. He was an author of dramatic works like La prise de Toulon, fait historique en un acte et en prose, the last item in the collection, and went on writing plays performed in Paris, such as the farcical La descente en Angleterre, proph茅tie en deux actes (performed on 24 December 1797 at the Cit茅-Vari茅t茅 theatre) or L鈥檃nniversaire, ou La f锚te de la souverainet茅, sc猫ne lyrique et m茅lodramatique, m锚l茅e de pantomime, combats et danses, et d茅di茅e au peuple (performed in March 1798 at the Ambigu-Comique theatre). The newly-acquired Prise de Toulon is a copy of the first Marseille edition, published by Jean Mossy, while the library already owned the second edition (Paris, 1794; 11738.f.25.(7.).

7IMG_8234aInstructions for the actors; Scene 1 from La prise de Toulon

Mitti茅, who was sent by the Committee of Public Safety to Marseilles in 1794, asserts on the title page of La Prise de Toulon that he travelled to Toulon to be able to provide the most 鈥渆xact鈥, 鈥渄etailed information, the most authentic account and knowledge of the character and genius of the men who contributed to this memorable event鈥. The Siege of Toulon  led to a wealth of dramatic and lyrical revolutionary creations written by professional authors and enthusiastic revolutionaries and performed mainly in Paris at the beginning of 1794. The victory of the Republicans (including the young officer Napol茅on Bonaparte) over the Royalists and a coalition of British, Spanish and Italian troops in the city of Toulon, with its strategic port and arsenal, was celebrated throughout the country. 

8Les_coalises_evacuent_Toulon_en_decembre_1793 A. Forand, 鈥楨vac眉ation des puissances co盲lis茅es du port de Toulon. Le 18 decembre 1793鈥 (1793). (Image from Prints, Drawings and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library)

The list of characters and instructions to the actors give an idea of the ideological bias of Mitti茅鈥檚 play. The drama is represented as 鈥渦seful鈥 with its 鈥減atriotic influence鈥, because it 鈥渃onsecrates the most memorable period of the Revolution, the most decisive for the fate of Liberty鈥. On Republican side the Generals and Representatives of the people (including Fr茅ron, Barras and Robespierre), who after the flight of the English and the fall of the city, stop the pillage and execute the traitors, must have a 鈥渟trong voice and physique鈥, and the female heroine, 鈥渃itoyenne Lapoype鈥, who was captured but eventually liberated, 鈥渢he most touching voice and accent鈥. 

9IMG_8233aCharacter list and Preface from La prise de Toulon

On the side of the Royalists, depicted as reactionary and dissolute, the Marquis de Sombreuil, the type of the coxcomb, must have a 鈥渢one leading to ridicule鈥 and the Knight of Cazal茅s corresponds to the type of an old man. The play highlights the eventual execution and 鈥済uillotine鈥 of 鈥渃onspirators鈥 and 鈥渢raitors鈥. It ends with the ominous announcement by Fr茅ron of the intended destruction of the city of Toulon (which in the end was not implemented by the authorities): 鈥渙nly ashes and rubble鈥 will remain as 鈥渢he hand of vengeance will erase up to the last remnant of Toulon鈥. It closes with the enthusiastic salutation: 鈥渢he genius of Liberty hovers over us. Woe to the Royalists, war to tyrants, peace to the cottages and LONG LIVE THE REPUBLIC鈥.  

Ir猫ne Fabry-Tehranchi, Curator, Romance collections


Jacques Billioud, Le Livre en Provence du XVIe au XVIIIe si猫cle (Marseille, 1962). 2704.e.4.

Herv茅 Gu茅not, 鈥 Le th茅芒tre et l'茅v茅nement : la repr茅sentation dramatique du si猫ge de Toulon (ao没t 1793鈥, Annales litt茅raires de l'Universit茅 de Besan莽on. Litt茅rature et r茅volution fran莽aise, 354, 1987, Ac.282/6

Hubert C. Johnson, The Midi in revolution: a study of regional political diversity, 1789-1793 (Princeton, 1986). YH.1987.b.380 

Michael L. Kennedy, The Jacobin Club of Marseilles, 1790-1794 (Ithaca, 1973). 73/13539 


11 May 2018

鈥楢nd so I came among the Germans鈥欌 Costantinos Chatzopoulos (1868-1920)

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If we are to believe the legends, to be a prominent figure in the development of Greek drama is to be almost guaranteed a sticky end; Sophocles was said to have choked on a grape, Aeschylus to have been hit on the head by a tortoise dropped by an eagle, and Euripides to have been attacked by a pack of hounds. The premature death of Costantinos Chatzopoulos was less dramatic but no less unfortunate for the modern Greek theatre. In 1920, he was returning with his family from Greece to Munich, where they had lived for several years, to collect the possessions which they had left behind on their precipitate departure in 1914. While travelling on the Montenegro, an Italian steamer, he was suddenly overcome by a violent attack of food poisoning and died shortly afterwards.

Cover of 'Ko虅stantinos Chatzopoulos ho pro虅toporos', with three photographs of Chatzopoulos Cover of Take虅s Karvele虅s, Ko虅stantinos Chatzopoulos ho pro虅toporos (Athens, 1998) YA.2003.a.5652

When Chatzopoulos was born on 11 May 1868, Greece was still a poor and culturally backward country, cut off from the rest of Europe for linguistic and historical reasons. Little had changed since Byron and H枚lderlin had expressed their frustration at the incapacity of the Greeks to live up to the glorious reputation of their forefathers and throw off the Ottoman yoke. When Athens was declared the capital in 1834 it had only 10,000 inhabitants; as late as 1907 the illiteracy rate was 40.5% among men and 82% among women.

  Black-and-white postcard of Agrinio
Postcard showing Chatzopoulos鈥檚 native Agrinio, from Praktika Episte虅monikou Symposiou "Ho Ko虅stantinos Chatzopoulos ho虅s syngrapheas kai theo虅re虅tikos" (Athens, 1998). YA.2003.a.5518

Although Chatzopoulos鈥檚 father was a farmer from Agrinio, three of the seven children went into literature; Costantinos鈥檚 younger brother Dimitris became a writer and Zacharias a journalist. Costantinos did his military service in the Balkans, studied law at the University of Athens, and practised this profession briefly (1891-93) before an inheritance enabled him to devote himself to writing. In 1898 he published a volume of poetry, Tragoudia t膿s er膿mias (鈥楽ongs of Solitude鈥) under the pseudonym Petros Vasilikos.

Cover of 'Tragoudia t膿s er膿mias'Cover of Tragoudia t膿s er膿mias (Athens, 1898) 011586.e.110

He was also active in the promotion of demotic Greek instead of the 鈥榮anitized鈥 Katharevousa, and in 1898-99 collaborated with Yiannis Cambisis on Techn膿 (鈥楢rt鈥), the first periodical in Greece to be written in Demotic. Its 12 issues contained translations of contemporary German and Scandinavian literature and critical theory, and bore witness to Chatzopoulos鈥檚 fascination with Nietzsche. He had studied German in Athens with the classicist Karl Dieterich, and in 1900 he made his first visit to Germany, wishing to improve his knowledge of the language in order to read German classics in the original.

Emerging from the narrow and constricting atmosphere of Greece, Chatzopoulos tended to view Wilhelmine Germany through rose-tinted spectacles, going so far as to describe it as a haven of personal freedom. It was during this stay that he met his future wife, the Finnish painter Sanny H盲ggman, and in the summer of 1901 he visited Finland. Over the next few years he embarked on a considerable career as a translator not only of German but of Scandinavian authors including Schiller, Lessing and above all Goethe, who enabled him, as he wrote to a friend, to 鈥榯urn around and understand the Parthenon that stands right behind my window鈥.

The first permanent theatre in Athens had been established in 1840, but the profession of director was slow to develop. In 1901, however, the Royal Theatre was established  with Thomas Oikonomou as its director. In this climate Chatzopoulos鈥檚 translations were eagerly welcomed, and made a considerable contribution to the development of the modern Greek theatre; they included Goethe鈥檚 Iphigenie auf Tauris (1910) and Faust (1916), Hugo von Hofmannsthal鈥檚 Elektra, Ibsen鈥檚 When We Dead Awaken, and works by Strindberg, Grillparzer, Gogol, Gerhart Hauptmann and Hermann Bang. Not surprisingly, as an Ibsen enthusiast he was one of the first to support women鈥檚 rights in Greece.

Unlike H枚lderlin鈥檚 Hyperion, whose sojourn among the Germans proved a source of disillusion and disappointment, Chatzopoulos was eager to return, and went back in June 1905 with his wife and three-year-old daughter Senta to settle in Munich. They also spent time in Berlin, and only left Germany on the outbreak of war in 1914. During these years he made the transition from poetry to prose, publishing short stories such as Taso and O hyperanthr艒pos (鈥楾he Superman鈥), published as a collection in 1916, which reflected social change and growing urbanization during the reforms of Eleftherios Venizelos, who became prime minister of Greece in 1910.

Significantly, this coincided with Chatzopoulos鈥檚 growing interest in the ideas of Karl Marx. However, when the socialist ideals which he had cherished in Germany were confronted with the reality back in Greece after his reluctant return, Chatzopoulos was embittered by the realization that there was little chance of mobilizing the Greek labour force to create an effective organization. An article which he published in the Greek press also noted Heinrich Mann鈥檚 all-too-accurate depiction in Der Untertan (Leipzig, 1918; 012554.a.10; translated into English as Man of Straw) of the spirit of Imperial Germany and the threat which it posed in cultural and political terms. His career closed, as it began, with poetry; in the year of his death there appeared his two final collections, Aploi tropoi (鈥楽imple Ways鈥) and Bradinoi thruloi (鈥楨vening Legends鈥; Athens, 1920; X.908/18945).

Title-page of 'Aploi tropoi'

Title-page of Aploi tropoi (Athens, 1936) 11409.l.35

He did not live to see Greek culture increasingly influenced by France rather than Germany, and his premature death protected him from witnessing developments in his second homeland which would have caused him anguish and deepened the schism between ideal and reality which many critics have identified in his work. Yet in his comparatively short life he not only captured images of a society in rapid transition but spun strong threads to weave it firmly into the fabric of wider European culture.

Susan Halstead (Subject Librarian: Social Sciences) Research Services.

08 November 2017

Heroes and victims of the Revolution

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 In November 1918, the first anniversary of the Bolshevik military insurrection (as the October Revolution was then known) was 鈥榗elebrated in style鈥 in Soviet Russia. Around 3,500 metres of red fabric was allocated for decorating the Kremlin in Moscow. Over 400 metres of ropes were supposed to hold posters and panels during the celebration. On 7 November 1918 Lenin, who had made a remarkably prompt recovery after being seriously wounded in an assassination attempt some two months earlier, managed to give several speeches in different parts of Moscow. A large memorial plaque in commemoration of those who lost their lives 鈥渋n the struggle for peace and the brotherhood of nations鈥 was unveiled on Red Square and a temporary monument to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels was also erected in the centre of the capital. A mass show 鈥淭he Pantomime of the Great Revolution鈥 was staged in the streets. Such mass festivals and reenactments of 鈥渞evolutionary events鈥 would soon become a usual feature of each commemoration and celebration in the early years of Soviet Russia. You can see photographs of those first anniversary celebrations here.

Those Russian artists who embraced the Bolshevik Revolution were happy to glorify it in arts. Vladimir Mayakovski was quite active in promoting the celebrations. For the first anniversary he wrote a 鈥榗omic opera鈥 鈥 Misteriia-buff (Mystery-Bouffe) 鈥 which was accepted to be part of the festivities. Staged by the famous theatre director Vsevolod Meyerhold with designs by Kazimir Malevich the play was premiered on 7 November 1918 and then shown two more times. The author also appeared on stage as a 鈥榗ommon man鈥, but then had to play a couple more roles as some actors did not turn up.

Image 1 - Misteriia

Above: Designs by Kazimir Malevich, from Istoriia sovetskogo teatra ed ited by V.E.Rafalobich, Vol.1 (Leningrad, 1933).; Below: Vladimir Mayakovski, poster for Misteriia-buff, 1918. From The Soviet theatrical poster (Leningrad, 1977). HS.74/2256

Image 2 - Misteriia-Buff poster

Seven pairs of 鈥榗lean鈥 (鈥榖loodsuckers鈥) and seven pairs of 鈥榰nclean鈥 (鈥榳orkers鈥), as well as The Hysterical Lady, The Common Man (The Man of the Future), Devils, Saints (including Leo Tolstoy and Jean-Jacques Rousseau) performed a 鈥榮atirical drama鈥 in The Entire universe, The Ark, Hell, Paradise, Land of Chaos and finally 鈥 in The Promised Land. By the end of the year the play was published as a separate edition.

Image 3 - 1st edition

Cover by Mayakovski for the 1st edition of Misteriia-buff. (Petrograd, 1918). C.135.g.23

The Revolution affected everyone in the country, but it was also important for avant-garde artists and the Bolsheviks as well to stress the final divide between the past and the present, the rich and poor, the victors and losers, the heroes and victims and leave no space in between so that each and every one should clearly take sides. This irreversible split was also presented in another work by Mayakovski created for the anniversary 鈥 the album of drawings and short verses Geroi i zhertvy revoliutsii (Heroes and Victims of the Revolution鈥; Cup.410.c.81). Heroes (Worker, Red Army Soldier, Farm Labourer, Sailor, Seamstress, Laundress, Motorist, Telegraph Operator and Railway Worker) and Victims (Factory Owner, Banker, Landlord, Kulak, Lady, Priest, Bureaucrat, General and Merchant) are presented by four artists: Kseniia Boguslavskaia , Vladimir Kozlinskii, Sergei Makletsov and Ivan Puny.

Below are four of the album鈥檚 Heroes鈥: the Red Army soldier, Laundress,  Motorist and Railway worker:

Image 4 (3)

  Image 4 (7)

Image 4 (8)

Image 4 (10)

And here are some of the Victims鈥: Merchant, Kulak, Lady and Priest

  Image 4 (1)

Image 4 (14)

    Image 4 (15)

Image 4 (16)

It was proven before and happened this time again 鈥 Revolution devours its children. In 1919, Boguslavskaia and Puny left Russia for good; in 1930 Mayakovski committed suicide; in 1935, Malevich died of cancer having been banned from exhibiting 鈥榖ourgeois鈥 abstract art; and in 1940, Meyerhold was shot dead in Stalin鈥檚 purges as an 鈥榚nemy of the people鈥.

Katya Rogatchevskaia, Lead Curator East European Collections

03 October 2017

Le rose et le noir: Jean Anouilh

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Visitors attending the British Library鈥檚 event Greeks: Classic to Contemporary this evening will have the privilege of hearing Kamila Shamsie, among others, discussing her new novel Home Fire, a reworking of the legend of Antigone. It is appropriate that this timeless parable of civil disobedience should be re-examined on the 30th anniversary of the death of a man who brought it to the stage at a crucial point in European history: Jean Anouilh.

Anouih portrait YF.2014.a.17873

Portrait of Jean Anouilh from Anca Visdei, Jean Anouilh: une biographie (Paris, 2012) YF.2014.a.17873.

It may seem odd that such a classic figure of the modern French theatre died as recently as 1987, but Anouilh began his creative life and established his reputation at a comparatively early age. He was born on 23 June 1910 in the little village of C茅risole near Bordeaux, and registered as the son of Fran莽ois Anouilh, a tailor of Basque descent, and his wife Marie-Magdeleine, a violinist. During the summer she would augment the family finances by playing in music-hall, casino and theatre orchestras in the seaside resort of Arcachon, and years later her son discovered that he was actually the result of an affair which she had had there. A more tangible influence was the exposure to the world of the theatre where young Jean attended rehearsals, read scripts, and even experimented with playwriting on his own account.

When Jean was eight the family moved to Paris, where he was educated at the famous Lyc茅e Chaptal and gained admission to the Sorbonne to read law. The family鈥檚 finances, however, were still too precarious to allow him to continue his studies, and in his second year he left to seek employment with the advertising firm Publicit茅 Damour. This apparent blow actually stood him in good stead and provided him with a training in pithy and concise use of language, equally applicable to writing for the stage.

After a period of military service and an early and troubled marriage to the actress Monelle Velentin, in 1935 Anouilh became secretary to the actor and director Louis Jouvet at the Com茅die des Champs-Elys茅es. This brought him into contact with Jean Giraudoux, who encouraged him to return to writing, and in 1932 Anouilh completed L鈥橦ermine (the British Library holds the 1934 edition:, and also a first edition of Y'avait un prisonnier (Paris, 1935; P.P.4283.m.(2.)). Anouilh also collaborated with the Russian director Georges Pito毛ff, with whom he achieved his first commercial success, Le Voyageur sans bagages (Paris, 1937; P.P.4283.m.(2.)). He also worked closely with the set designer Andr茅 Barsacq, director of the Th茅芒tre de l鈥橝telier, who created an exquisite series of illustrations for a limited edition of Anouilh鈥檚 play L鈥橧nvitation au ch芒teau.

Anouih Invitation 11740.n.8.

Illustration by Andr茅 Barsacq for L鈥橧nvitation au ch芒teau (Paris, 1948) 11740.n.8.

This play, memorably adapted by Christopher Fry under the title Ring Round the Moon (London, 1950; 11740.n.11) was one of many which gained wide popularity on the English-speaking stage.

It belongs to the group classified by Anouilh as his pi猫ces roses, comedies with an almost whimsical fairy-tale quality, in strong contrast to his pi猫ces noires, where a darker, more cynical tone prevails. The bitter years of the German occupation and the Vichy regime had led Anouilh to reflect on the recurrent motifs and archetypes of human folly and cruelty in history and myth, crystallized in a series of dramas including Antigone (Paris, 1946; W22/1129) and L鈥橝louette (1952; BL copy Paris, 1953; 11740.m.34) dealing with the conflicts surrounding idealistic young protagonists facing a choice between integrity and death in a corrupt society. Despite belonging to a third group described by the author as pi猫ces costum茅es, this play, like Becket, does not merely seek refuge in the safe past but emphasizes the eternal and vividly topical nature of the moral choices which the characters confront.

Anouilh was equally unsparing of himself in his final cycle of pi猫ces secr猫tes in which he analyses the predicament of the dramatist or director and the dilemmas which it poses. As well as the conflict between life and art, these were also of a political nature; Antigone, for example (a theme which had also been interpreted by Brecht) escaped censorship under the Vichy government and thus attracted criticism on the grounds of moral ambivalence, as did Anouilh鈥檚 public disagreements with Charles de Gaulle and his support of the author Robert Brasillach, executed in 1945 for collaboration with the Nazis. Despite the numerous honours which Anouilh received, these considerations may have had a bearing on the fact that despite being shortlisted for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, he never won it. Moreover, in the 1960s, as the Theatre of the Absurd gained ground, his plays began to lose their appeal despite his own highly individual approach to existential crises as profound as anything to be found in the works of Beckett or Ionesco (both of whom he defended); the Belgian critic Hubert Gignoux, for example, sums up Antigone as 鈥榙rame psychologique en marge d鈥檜ne trag茅die鈥.

Anouilh biog Gignoux 11867.e.29

Cover of Hubert Gignoux, Jean Anouilh (Paris, 1946; 11867.e.29).

However, he retained his vitality as a man of the theatre and the cinema well into his seventies, turning to directing (he was also a translator of Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde). Although he remarked in 1946 to Gignoux that he had no biography and was content with the fact, he could surely have had no quarrel with his biographer Anca Visdei鈥檚 comment in her biography of Anouilh: 鈥楢nouilh est devenu omnipr茅sent dans la vie th茅芒trale fran莽aise 鈥 Incontournable.鈥

Susan Halstead (Subject Librarian, Social Sciences) Research Services.

31 March 2017

Wagenseil, Wagner and the Mastersingers of Nuremberg

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By a neat coincidence, an enquiry about a work by Johann Christoph Wagenseil arrived in the same week that I attended a performance of Richard Wagner鈥檚 Die Meistersinger von N眉rnberg at the Royal Opera. Why a neat coincidence? Because an important source for Wagner鈥檚 opera was another work by Wagenseil, a history of Nuremberg with an appended study of the Meistersinger, or Mastersingers, and their art, especially as it developed in the city.

Wagenseil tp
Title-page and frontispiece portrait of the author from Johann Christoph Wagenseil, De Sacri Rom. Imperii Libera Civitate Noribergensi Commentatio ... (Altdorf, 1697) 794.f.6.(1.)

The precise origins of the historical Mastersingers are not entirely clear, but their schools or guilds developed in the late middle ages and their heyday was in the early 16th century. Wagenseil reports the tradition that the Mastersingers looked back to 鈥楾welve Old Masters鈥, including the mediaeval poets Wolfram von Eschenbach and Walther von der Vogelweide 鈥 although in the opera the pedantic town clerk Beckmesser dismisses the latter as a master because he is 鈥榣ong since dead鈥 and would have known nothing of the guild鈥檚 rules.

In Wagner鈥檚 story, the knight Walther von Stolzing seeks admission to Nuremberg鈥檚 guild of Mastersingers in the hope of winning the hand of his beloved Eva Pogner at the St John鈥檚 Day singing contest. Among the masters he is opposed by rival suitor Beckmesser and assisted by the shoemaker Hans Sachs, who has to set aside his own feelings for Eva. In the first act Walther auditions for the guild and the Masters are shocked by his untutored efforts, which break all their rules and are especially condemned by Beckmesser, who judges the song in his official role as 鈥楳arker鈥.

Wagner took many details of the Mastersingers鈥 rules and ceremonies from Wagenseil. The list of sometimes bizarre names for the guild鈥檚 approved tones, which Sachs鈥檚 apprentice David reels off to the baffled Walther, all come from Wagenseil, and the rules of the 鈥楾abulatur鈥 which the master Fritz Kothner recites before Walther鈥檚 audition for the guild cleverly reflect in verse the rules described by Wagenseil in prose.

Wagenseil Tones
A selection of the Mastersingers鈥 tones, from Wagenseil鈥檚 book

Walther鈥檚 experience of the 鈥楽ingschule鈥 also follows Wagenseil鈥檚 description, including the time and place: following a service at St Catherine鈥檚 Church. One key difference, however, is that where Wagenseil describes four Markers, each with a specific task, Wagner has only one, in order to highlight the contrast and rivalry between Walther and Beckmesser.

Even the Masters鈥 names come from Wagenseil, who lists 12 鈥榦ld masters鈥 of the Nuremberg guild. Wagner uses all of these (with some minor changes), but attributes a selection of trades to them which are not mentioned by Wagenseil. As Wagner also needed to add Hans Sachs to his list and presumably wanted to avoid the odd and unlucky number of 13 masters on stage, one of Wagenseil鈥檚 line-up, Niclaus (In Wagner鈥檚 libretto Niklaus) Vogel, is absent from the action, reported sick by his apprentice during the roll-call.

Wagenseil Masters
Wagenseil鈥檚 list of the 12 鈥榦ld masters鈥 of the Nuremberg guild

For all its basis in Wagenseil鈥檚 work, Wagner鈥檚 opera presents a romantic and idealised view of the Mastersingers as a core part of a community where art and work go hand in hand, and where the townspeople share an instinctive appreciation of true art. The guilds actually had little public or popular resonance, but were more of a closed circle. Those who did become popular writers, such as the real Hans Sachs, tended to be known for other works, not least because their Meistergesang was performed only at the guild鈥檚 meetings and preserved only in manuscript among the members.

In fact one of the historical Sachs鈥檚 works features in the opera: the opening lines of his poem in praise of Martin Luther, Die Wittenbergisch Nachtigall, are sung in act 3 by an admiring chorus in praise of Sachs himself. But its poetic form is not that of authentic Meistergesang, and nor is the musical setting of the chorus.


Nachtigall Wach auf
Title-page and opening lines (as set by Wagner) of Hans Sachs, Die Wittembergisch Nachtigall  ([Augsburg, 1523]) 11515.c.18.(4).

Indeed, it seems that Wagner took little inspiration for the actual music of the opera from Wagenseil鈥檚 work: according to the musicologist Annalise Smith, it is only the songs of the rule-obsessed Beckmesser that closely follow the guidelines cited by Wagenseil. But since Wagner鈥檚 plot is concerned in part with the importance of change and innovation in artistic practice, and since he gently mocks many of the rules quoted from Wagenseil, perhaps this is only fitting.

Wagenseil Melody
An example of Meistergesang with music from Wagenseil鈥檚 history

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Collections

References/further reading

Herbert Thompson, Wagner & Wagenseil: a Source of Wagner鈥檚 Opera 鈥楧ie Meistersinger鈥 (London, 1927) 07896.f.36.

John Flood, 鈥楳astersingers鈥, in Matthias Konzett, ed., Encyclopedia of German literature (Chicago, 2000) pp. 687-689. YC.2000.b.1167

Annalise Smith, 鈥楬onour Thy German Masters: Wagner鈥檚 Depiction of 鈥淢eistergesang鈥 in Die Meistersinger von N眉rnberg.鈥 Musicological Explorations, 11 (2010)