THE LAUREATE: Maurice Maeterlinck was born in Ghent, Belgium in 1862. His work as a playwright tended to be influenced by the actress he happened to be dating at the time, often badly. He also apparently blatantly copied a series of articles about South African termites in what is a “textbook case of academic plagiarism.” Awesome. Even more awesome, though, was the fact that apparently Maeterlinck wrote several plays for marionette theater. The world needs more marionettists.
WHAT I’M READING: Mary Magdalene, which resembles Paul Heyse’s Mary von Magdalene in marginally non-infringing ways. Seriously bro, he looked it up first.
REVIEW: Maeterlinck’s play is the same basic outline as Heyse’s: Mary Magdalene is transformed at the sight of Christ and becomes his ardent follower. She has relations with a soldier and so forth. Unlike Heyse, Maeterlinck takes the conventional, anti-Semitic tack: Mary is proudly promiscuous Jewess who flaunts the fact that she is an awful person but screw you, you’re no better. Judas is a vile backstabber who you know would totally kill Christian babies to bake their blood into his bread if there were any Christian babies around for the killing. The Romans are self-serving and greedy and have no emotional engagement except by what their dicks are doing. Maeterlinck takes all this ugliness and doesn’t do anything worthwhile with it.
RECOMMENDED: No. Maeterlinck’s translator let his text speak for itself, but Maeterlinck didn’t have anything valuable to say. That said, apparently this was one of his weaker works. I got a copy of one of his other plays from Better World Books, so I’ll see if it’s worthwhile and revise my opinion accordingly.
LITERARY DUSTUP WINNER: The winner between Paul von Heyse and Maurice Maeterlinck is…[le drumroll] Paul von Heyse! Heyse took a stock dramatic situation from a standard text and recontextualized it in a way that fit the traditional requirements for the situation to be itself AND created a new and dramatically interesting situation. It’s no Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, but Heyse does the best with what he has. THE NEXT LITERARY DUSTUP WILL BE BETWEEN GERHART HAUPTMAN, LAUREATE IN 1912 AND AUGUST STRINDBERG, THE ONLY WINNER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ANTI-NOBEL PRIZE, ALSO IN 1912
WHAT’S NEXT: J.M.G. le Clezio’s French New Wave answer to Catcher in the Rye. I think. I might throw Theodor Mommsen up first, since he will be easy.