Writing after Hitler: The Work of Jakov Lind

By Andrea Hammel; Silke Hassler et al. | Go to book overview

6
Jakov Lind and the Austrian
Popular Theatre

SILKE HASSLER

IN the early nineteenth century Johann Nepomuk Nestroy initiated a tradition of the Austrian popular theatre which has had an enduring influence.1 This tradition resurfaced in the midtwentieth century in the fringe performances of cabaret artists and actionists, and it still influences dramatists today. It is anarchistic in its transgression of cultural conventions, exuberant in its language and often chaotic in its plots. But it is also concrete in its representation of specific details and penetrating in its exploration of the murky depths of human behaviour. Lind’s position within this alternative tradition was noted by a perceptive German critic at the time of the German-language première of Ergo in April 1997 at the Vienna Volkstheater. His dialogue, the critic observed, is grounded in the tradition of the Viennese ‘Volksstück’.2 This comment was not necessarily intended as a compliment. For in the twentieth century this popular theatrical tradition has acquired a political dimension which conservative audiences find threatening. The choice of Ergo as the play to be staged to mark the author’s seventieth birthday led some Austrian critics to place him among those authors who allegedly ‘foul their own nest’ with ‘hatred, poison and gall’: Elias Canetti, Thomas Bernhard and Peter Turrini.3 If this rather unoriginal critic associates Canetti with hatred, Turrini with poison and Bernhard with gall, what epithet would one expect for Jakov Lind? The answer is ‘scorn and malice’ (‘Spott und Häme’).

Reviewers might have been more receptive if they had reflected on the affinities between Lind and Nestroy. Recalling his experiences in Vienna during the 1950s, Lind could find little to praise in the

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