A passionate social moralist with a keen sense of satire and irony, Ödön von Horváth was considered an undesirable individual by Adolf Hitler’s National Socialists and his work was on the Nazi index of banned books. He was extremely critical of the hypocrisy and falsity that he saw in the middle-class society around him (especially with regard to issues such as the societal mistreatment of workers, sexuality, and the often exploitative relations between men and women), and it became the expressed intention of his writing to “unmask the false consciousness” (Demaskierung des Bewusstseins) or the self-delusion that veiled such injustices in the minds of those who perpetrated them. He accomplished this with great skill and success. Equipped with an ear for the speech and language habits of the German/Austrian middle and lower-middle classes as well as a keen psychological insight into human motivations, Horváth exposed the often vicious and cunning motives behind the beautiful and noble sentiments expressed in the words of everyday conversation, and he did so with a sly and devastating sense of humor.
In order to appreciate the full achievement of Horváth’s dramatic art, one must realize that his major works stand within two important traditions in German-Austrian culture. First, he revitalized and modified in his plays the nineteenth century Viennese genre of the Volksstück , or popular folk play, which used the linguistic expressions and dialect of the people. These pieces were often rather sentimental and trite, but...
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Balme, Christopher B. The Reformation of Comedy: Genre Critique in the Comedies of Ödön von Horváth. Dunedin, New Zealand: Department of German, University of Otago, 1985. A study of the comedies of Horváth.
Bance, Alan, and Ian Huish, eds. Ödön von Horváth, Fifty Years On: Horváth Symposium, London, 1988. London: Institute of Germanic Studies, 1988. A collection of essays in English and German on Horváth’s life and works. Bibliography.
Beardsworth, Robert. From Virgin to Witch: The Male Mythology of the Female Unmasked in the Works of Ödön von Horváth. Stuttgart, Germany: H.-D. Heinz, 1991. An examination of the women characters in the works of Horváth.
Carstens, Belinda Horton. Prostitution in the Works of Ödön von Horváth. Stuttgart, Germany: H.-D. Heinz, 1982. A study of Horváth’s dramas, with the emphasis on his treatment of prostitution. Bibliography and index.
Gussow, Mel. “Examing the Dark Flower That Was Weimar Culture.” New York Times Current Events Edition, October 23, 1991, p. C17. An account of the Classics in Context festival, on Weimar culture, at the Actors Theater of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, in October, 1991. Contains an overview of the works of Horváth and Bertolt Brecht.
Hampton, Christopher. Tales from Hollywood. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1983. An examination of the drama of Horváth.