Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 6 (Jan-Mar 1984) p. 75.


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Peter Weiss and the Aesthetics of Resistance

Anil Bhatti

QETER Weiss, whose father was a Jew, was barely 18 years old when the situation under Hitler's fascism made it necessary for the family to leave Germany. He died at the age of 65 on May 10,1983 in Sweden,

the country of his chosen exile. Thus the conditions of political and artistic activity in exile remained a central concern of his work. It is characterized by an attitude of resistance against the perverse logic of fascism which, by forcing him out of Germany, threatened his identity by alienating him from the language of his childhood. After devoting more than twenty years to painting the rediscovery of the painter Peter Weiss was a major cultural event of 1980 he turned to writing as part of a search for an identity. The transition from the medium of painting to writing and the struggle to reappropriate the language of his childhood German - are important aspects of his early work. The novels Abschied von den Eitern (Leavetaking) and Fluchtpunkt (Exile) published in 1961/62 can be read as narrative attempts to come to terms with exile and as essays on the reconstruction of identity and achievement of individual liberation.

Peter Weiss' international reputation resulted mainly from the worldwide success of the Marat/Sade play (1964). Several critics who had hailed the avante garde author of this fascinating play were less enthusiastic about his subsequent development into a committed Marxist writer and member of the Swedish Communist Party. The 1967 speech 'I Come Out of My Hiding Place' and the Ten Working Points for a Writer in the Divided World' are central documents of this development. His documentary theatre and political engagement for the anti-imperialist struggle, especially for Vietnam, became models for the committed integrity of the writer and intellectual in the late sixties. Peter Weiss devoted the last ten years of his life mainly to the completion of his great novel, Aesthetik des Widerstands (the Aesthetics of Resistance). Many themes from his earlier novels reappear, but they are now combined with a higher awareness, with a richer, more

January-March 1984 75


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