Page 48 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 36

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by deep personal convictions that Man must exercise his
fundamental freedom and that Man is, indeed, his brother’s
keeper. The play’s theatrical power stems from the author's
use of heightened verse dialogue mixing colloquialism with
ecclesiastical and Nazi party jargon.
Weiss and Hochhuth based their dramas upon actual events.
Whereas Weiss is unyielding in his insistance on unmitigated
evil, Hochhuth succeeds in the transformation of an historical
event into a theatrical experience.
European playwrights who have tried to depict the atrocities
of the Holocaust usually confront it directly. Friedrich Dur-
renmatt, on the other hand, resorts to cynicism and tragic-
comedy. There are ways of bringing Auschwitz to the audience
without bringing the death camp to the stage but by inventing
parallel situations.
The Visit,
in which the grotesque revenge
of a rich, old lady exposes her native town in a garish, satirical
light is a fine example. Durrenmatt justifies his dramatic tech-
nique in his essay, “Theatre Problems” (1955), as being the
only one valid for this apocalyptically absurd age, an age in
which we are all collectively guilty, enmeshed in the sins of
our fathers and of our father’s fathers. This is not our guilt
but, rather, our misfortune. Comedy alone is suitable for us.
Max Frisch in
The Fire Risers,
also resorts to comedy and
parables to attack the complacent irresponsibility of the average
citizen who appeases and encourages the amoral. Every man’s
behavior in an incendiary world is criminal. One of Frisch’s
greatest plays in
a tragedy about anti-Semitism and
the destructiveness of complacency and prejudice. Unlike Dur-
renmatt, who establishes a detachment from his characters,
Frisch is involved with them.
The major themes which dominate European plays are al-
most absent from the Holocaust plays written in Israel. The
few plays written in Israel after the Holocaust are not based
upon extensive documentation like
The Deputy,
nor are they
exclusively from the realm of the imagination like Mr.
6 Max Frisch
trans. by M. Bullock, 1962•