New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. Henry Schmidt (tr.), Matthew Wilson Smith (ed.). First Edition. Paperback. As New. B/W illustrations. Selected Bibliography. 13 x 21 cm. 412 pp. Item #13212
Few writers have transformed literature and theater so dramatically. Based on Henry J. Schmidt’s translations of The Hessian Messenger, Danton’s Death, Lenz, Leonce and Lena, and Woyzeck.
The Georg Büchner Prize is the highest literary honor for German language writers, and the full extent of Büchner’s influence—from Gerhart Hauptmann to Christa Wolf, Max Reinhardt to Robert Wilson, Alban Berg to Tom Waits—defies cataloging.
When Georg Büchner died in 1837 at the age of twenty-three, he left behind a small and heterogenous body of work, most of it unpublished: three plays, a novella, a political pamphlet, a dissertation, medical lectures, and letters. Matthew Wilson Smith has newly translated Büchner’s introduction to On Cranial Nerves. Each text is accompanied by explanatory annotations. The editor’s introduction examines the complexities of Büchner’s short life and how they informed his writing. The volume also contains ten illustrations.
“Contexts” includes Büchner’s correspondence with the people who knew him best, impressions of Büchner from a fellow medical student, excerpts from Büchner’s diary, the wanted poster calling for Büchner’s arrest for political conspiracy as well as the real-life inspirations his novella, Lenz, and his best-known play, Woyzeck.
For ease of reference, “Criticism” is topically arranged by work and includes assessments by, among others, Laura Ginters, Victor Brombert, Bertolt Brecht, Henry Schmidt, Andrew Webber, Rainer Maria Rilke, and George Steiner. Three accounts of important productions of Danton’s Death are reprinted, including John Houseman’s remarks on Orson Welles’s staging. Finally, the speeches of four winners of the Georg Büchner Prize—Paul Celan, Christa Wolf, Heiner Müller, and Durs Grünbein—are reprinted in their entirety.
A Chronology of Büchner’s life and work and a Selected Bibliography are also included.