The New Trial is Peter Weiss's final drama, completed only months before his death in 1982 and never before published in English. One of Europe's most important twentieth century playwrights-often considered as influential as Brecht and Beckett-Weiss is best known to American audiences as the author of the Broadway play Marat/Sade and the three-volume novel The Aesthetics of Resistance, which has elicited comparison with Joyce's Ulysses and Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. Initially influenced by Franz Kafka and later by the American Henry Miller, Weiss worked to expose the hypocrisy, the deception, and the nature of aggression in the contemporary world.
A transformative "updating" of Kafka's novel The Trial, The New Trial presents a surreal, hallucinatory look at the life of "Josef K.," chief attorney in an enormous multinational firm that exploits both his idealism and his self-doubt in order to present to the world a public face that will mask its own dark and fascistic intentions. Fusing Marxist and capitalist perspectives in a manner that anticipates aspects of the current global market expansion, Weiss evokes a world in which nothing is private and everything is for sale.
This edition of The New Trial is designed to facilitate theatrical teaching and stage production of the play. An extensive introduction by James Rolleston and Kai Evers situates the work in the full context of Weiss's life, including his Swedish exile during the regime of the Third Reich. In addition, the play's text is followed by interviews with Weiss and his original codirector (and wife) Gunilla Palmstierna-Weiss, as well as an account of the challenges of the first English staging by director Jody McAuliffe.
Peter Weiss (1916-1982) was a German playwriter, dramatist, visual artist, filmmaker, and novelist. His works include Marat/Sade, The Shadow of the Coachman's Body, The Aesthetics of Resistance, The Conversation of the Three Walkers, Trotsky in Exile, and Bodies and Shadows: Two Short Novels. His documentary drama The Investigation, which recreates the trial of Auschwitz concentration camp guards, was produced on American television in the 1960s. West Germany's most important literary prize, the Georg Buchner Prize, was awarded to Weiss only after his death in 1982. James Rolleston is Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Duke University. His previous books include Narratives of Ecstacy: Romantic Temporality in Modern German Poetry and Kafka's Narrative Theater. Kai Evers is an advanced graduate student in the German Department at Duke University who presently lives in Woodland Hills, California.
Preface Introduction: The Theater of Peter Weiss / James Rolleston and Kai Evers Chronology The New Trial The Kafka Connection Peter Weiss on The New Trial A Conversation between Peter Weiss, Gunilla Palmstierna-Weiss, and Anita Brundahl Peter Weiss on Dramatic Style Peter Weiss on Some Roles in The New Trial Jody McAuliffe: Reflections on a Director's Process