Paul Von Heyse

Note: This is the first in a series of literary dust ups, when authors pick fights with each other over their work. I probably should have started this with Octavio Paz almost punching Pablo Neruda in the face, but this pair is almost as good.

THE LAUREATE: Paul Von Heyse was born in 1830 in Berlin to an incredibly wealthy family. He studied classical and Romance poetry and puttered around writing. He dabbled in revolutionary fervor, but his parents disapproved and thus he stopped. Maximillian of Bavaria paid Heyse to be cultured at him during the 1850s. Lucky him. He died in Munich in April 1914.

WHAT I’M READING: Mary Magdala, a play about Mary Magdalene in a terrible, terrible English translation. So many thees and thous it makes me want to puke, but it’s all I can find that isn’t in German.

REVIEW: Oh man, that translation was terrible. The translator decided that the German original was too offensive to be shown to an English-speaking audience, so he kind of took the elements of Heyse’s play and made it palatable. So, this is about Mary Magdalene and Judas. You know how this plays out. Here, though, Judas is a patriot who gets fed up with Jesus’ wimpiness and unwillingness to violently throw off the Roman yoke. Mary is the village tramp. Generally speaking, Heyse makes an interesting dynamic, but the translator undermines it at every turn; I can’t give a proper review because I haven’t actually read Heyse’s play.

RECOMMENDED: Only if you can read German.

WHAT’S NEXT: Maurice Maeterlinck is sick of Heyse’s shit.


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