“George Tabori is one of the hidden masters of Jewish culture in the latter half of the twentieth century…Anat Feinberg's book is the first comprehensive attempt to chronicle his career and his works. An original and readable book that makes Tabori available for the first time in his complex and contradictory brilliance.”—Sander Gilman, Henry R. Luce Distinguished Service Professor of the Liberal Arts in Human Biology, University of Chicago
In Embodied Memory, Anat Feinberg offers the first English-language study of the controversial dramatist George Tabori. A Jewish-Hungarian playwright and novelist, Tabori is a unique figure in postwar German theatre—one of the few theatre people since Bertolt Brecht to embody “the ideal union” of playwright, director, theatre manager, and actor. Revered as a “theatre guru,”Tabori's career, first in the United States and later in Germany, is fraught with controversy.
“There are taboos that must be broken or they will continue to choke us,” he wrote upon the 1969 German premiere of Cannibals, a shockingly grotesque play about the inmates of a concentration camp who, in desperation, prepare to eat one of their mates in order to survive. This deliberately provocative debut marked the direction Tabori's work would take in the years to come. In his so-called Holocaust plays (Jubilee, My Mother's Courage, Mein Kampf, etc.), he confronted National Socialism and the systematic murder of European Jewry in a revolutionary way. In all of his work Tabori consciously resists the historical distortions of sentimental pity or sanctimonious judgment and hypocritical philosemitism, which is in many cases the reverse of antisemitism.
Making use of invaluable archival material, Feinberg's biographical account is followed by a study of Tabori's experimental theatre work. As did prominent avant-gardists such as Grotowski or Chaikin, Tabori sought to open up new vistas in an otherwise mainstream theatre system. Feinberg pays special attention to Tabori's theatrical innovations, most movingly found in his Holocaust plays. There Feinberg shows the ways in which Tabori's theatre becomes a locus of remembrance (Gedächtnisort) and of unique, engaging memory-work (Erinnerungsarbeit).
1. A Biographical Introduction
2. Towards a Dangerous Theatre
3. The Dialectics of Freedom and Order: Tabori's Theaterlabor
4. Kafka-Overpaint: The Metamorphoses Performance
5. What Goes Under So Fabulously Cannot Be Lost: Tabori's Titanic
6. Play it again, Sam: Staging Beckett
7. Lovers and Lunatics: A Shakespeare Collage
8. King Lear: Variations
9. Hamlet: All Over Again
10. Othello: The Triumph of a Defeated Man
Embodied Memory: The Holocaust Plays
11. A Black Mass in Berlin: The Cannibals
12. The Wound and the Knife: Variations on Shylock
13. A Mock Fairy-tale: My Mother's Courage
14. The Dry Bones of Memory: Jubilee
15. From Pathos to Bathos: Mein Kampf