Other Literary Forms (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
Although George Tabori gained the greater part of his fame in the United States as the writer of award-winning dramatic screenplays, he originally was lauded (particularly in European literary circles) as the writer of such critically acclaimed novels as Original Sin (1947). Tabori’s novels Beneath the Stone (1945) and The Caravan Passes (1951), for example, preceded his earliest drama, Flight into Egypt (1952), and deal almost exclusively with the philosophical contemplation of evil. On the other hand, later novels such as The Journey: A Confession (1958) and the memoir My Mother’s Courage (1979) tend to focus on personal issues such as love and family in the face of inhumanity. Tabori’s plays were the primary focus of his career, although such works as Frohes Fest (1981), for which he both wrote the screenplay and directed the film, show his extensive range beyond the theatrical drama.
Achievements (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
Resembling in many ways his mentor, Bertolt Brecht, George Tabori spent decades developing his skills as a playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and essayist. Given his literary zeal, then, it is not surprising that he was honored for his contributions to the areas of theater, screen, and text by a number of wide-ranging awards. In 1969, Tabori won the Best Foreign Film award. In 1981, Frohes Fest, a film that he directed and for which he wrote the screenplay, received the International Filmfest Mannheim-Heidelberg Grand Prize. In 1992, he was awarded the George Büchner Prize for Literature, and, perhaps most remarkably, given his background as one of the last surviving witnesses to the Holocaust, was extended honorary Austrian citizenship. These awards, however, do not fully demonstrate the esteem in which Tabori is held by European audiences. Despite the tragedies of his own life, Tabori’s writings unflinchingly take on the most difficult of topics—death, hatred, and personal moral responsibility—with great integrity and honesty.
Bibliography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
Feinberg, Anat. Embodied Memory: The Theatre of George Tabori. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999. Feinberg provides readers the first English-language study of the dramatic works of Tabori. Feinberg states that Tabori, like his predecessor, Brecht, tries to embody “the ideal union” of playwright, director, theater manager, and actor. He also suggests that Tabori rejects sentimentality and philosemitism in his plays, preferring stark realism in both the depictions of scenes and the frailties of the characters. Feinberg does not address the autobiographical elements of Tabori’s works because he sees them as the most commonly addressed issues in his plays.
Garforth, Julian A. “George Tabori’s Bare Essentials: A Perspective on Beckett Staging in Germany.” Forum Modernes Theater (Tubingen) 9, no. 1 (1994): 59-75. A great deal has been written about Tabori’s admiration for the works of Brecht. Garforth focuses instead on another of Tabori’s inspirations, Samuel Beckett, and how the playwright has chosen to adapt absurdist motifs in general and Beckett’s themes in particular within his own works. Tabori’s The 25th Hour is presented as having classic absurdist traits—death counterbalanced with zany humor, farce, wit, and slapstick.
Gottfried, Martin. “Theatre: Merchant of Venice in Munich.” Saturday Review 6:3 (1979): 36. Gottfried describes Tabori’s “improvisations” on William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. The rereading of this classic play for the modern stage, including references to Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, and brownshirts, particularly emphasizes the absurdly overdrawn hatred that Shakespeare has for his Jewish villain. Shylock’s character, according to Tabori’s vision, becomes a symbolic thread connecting ancient anti-Semitism with its modern counterpart.
Zipes, Jack. “George Tabori and the Jewish Question,” Theater 29, no. 2 (1999): 98-107. Zipes analyzes several of George Tabori’s dramas in the light not of their autobiographical or historical significance but of their universal depiction of the nature of identity. Zipes asserts that Tabori’s primary purpose in writing such works as The Cannibals is not to horrify or disgust audiences but to determine what it means to be Jewish today or what are the politics of identity, especially when one is not entirely sure of the implications of not knowing one’s own identity.