Arnold Zweig Essay - Critical Essays


Arnold Zweig was an antimilitarist whose experiences during World War I colored a great deal of his writing. Although he had written Abigail und Nabal, a biblically based drama, and Ritualmord in Ungarn, based on a famous trial in Hungary, before the war, it was not until 1917 that he planned two works, Die Lucilla and Das Spiel vom Sergeanten Grischa, in both of which he attempted to analyze the causes of war, which he considered an inevitable result of Germany’s overall social posture.

Zweig lived through the 1920’s in a Germany in which social democrats struggled against Marxist revolutionaries, toward whom Zweig was sympathetic. Anti-Semitism had long existed in Germany, but during the economically devastating years following World War I, many Germans became more stridently anti-Jewish. Zweig’s response to this prejudice was to produce Juden auf der deutschen Bühne (1927; Jews on the German stage), in which he emphasizes the contributions German Jews made to their country.

His early interest in psychology was intensified by his reading of Freud and by his subsequent extended correspondence with him as well as by his personal exposure to psychoanalysis as a patient. In his novella Pont und Anna (first published in 1925 in Regenbogen), Zweig explores Germany’s repression of memories of war as well as Freud’s theory of how shock affects memory. This novel reflects the new morality that pervades Zweig’s later writing.

After his resettlement in Palestine, Zweig wrote little drama. His Soldatenspiele: Drei dramatische Historien contains his Austreibung 1744: Oder, Das Weihnachtswunder, Bonaparte in Jaffa, and Das Spiel vom Sergeanten Grischa. It met with little popular success because the dialogue was stilted and too ideologically heavy for the stage. Zweig knew that the stage was a medium through which he could reach and influence large audiences of all social classes, as such dramatists as Ernst Toller and Gerhart Hauptmann were doing. Drama, however, was not Zweig’s most effective genre. It is in his short stories and novels that he wrote most naturally and effectively.

Ritualmord in Ungarn

This play records the...

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