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438 MODERN DRAMA February what motivates evil but merely contrasts it with the suffering it causes: " ... the dramatist takes greater pains to share his cynical perception than to communicate a moving experience." From Wedekind Brecht learned that there is no incompatibility between art and low-life; and from Kraus he learned that the very fabric of society as we know it is imbued through and through with cy~ical corruption based on economic self-interest. Spalter sums up the result of his researches in Brecht's literary antecedents in this way: They all de-emphasize Aristotelian plot in order to demonstrate episodically that man is wholly at the mercy of forces that reassert themselves with monotonous inevitability. For Lenz, these forces are social, for Grabbe and Buchner they defy definition, for Wedekind they are sexual, for Kraus, immoral , and for Brecht, economic. In the plays of these dramatists there is as much thematic similarity as one could hope to find in any group of writers linked by kinships of sensibility and temperament. Invariably they show us a world in which only hypocrites and exploiters are at home, a world that is a . veritable hell for anyone with reverence for life and truth. Among the more useful and encouraging aspects of Spalter's book are the excellent extended literary analyses he gives us of the plays he discusses: Lenz's The Tutor, Grabbe's Napoleon, Buchner's Danton's Death and Woyzeck, Wedekind's Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box, and Kraus's The Last Days of Mankind. The chapter on Brecht, which gives capsule analyses of practically all of his plays, is superb-the best succinct literary treatment of Brecht that the present reviewer has come across. Dr. Spalter is also blessed with an excellent literary style himself, having achieved the enviable feat of wading through the turgid style of much German literary criticism without having become turgid himself. The second part of the book contains Spalter's translations of extracts from the plays he discusses. Here he reveals himself as a dramatic translator of considerable ability-a talent even rarer than the possession of a good literary style. My only reservation about the book is the inadequate footnoting. Dr. Spalter has an irritating habit of making trenchant critical remarks about the deficiencies of other scholars in the field without giving references. It is well indeed not to suffer fools gladly, but the fools should be identified. GEORGE E. WELLWARTH University of Pennsylvania THEATRE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, by James R. Brandon. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1967, 370 pp. Ill. Price $12.50. Mr. Brandon is essentially a man of the theater, and he does not seem to be really interested in the ethnography and history of the region, for some of his statements in Part I, "The Historical Background" will make the anthropologist or historian wince. For example, he says: "The period roughly from 1300 to 1750 saw ... Chinese-related peoples replace the earlier Malay settlers as rulers of Burma, Thailand, Laos and part of Vietnam." The Pyu king Duttabaung of Prome (circa 1st century) and the Burmese king Anawrahta of Pagan (nth century) would surely turn in their graves if their dynasties were to be described as Malay! He also says: "They (Mons) ruled most of southern Burma and Thailand from capitals at Pegu and Thaton. At the height of their power they even attacked Assam in India. Later the Burmese with Chinese help put an end to Mon rule." The Mons never went very far north of Pegu, and it was the Tai-Shans 1968 BOOK REVIEWS 439 who attacked Assam at the beginning of the 13th century. The Burmese never received help from the Chinese at any period of their history, and they conquered the Mons in the 11th century; in fact the defeat Kublai Khan inflicted on the Burmese in 1287 enabled the Mons in Lower Burma to rise again. To Mr. Brandon's charge (page 96) that I made a wrong assessment of the Javanese shadow play in my Burmese Drama, I plead guilty, but submit this in mitigation: When I wrote it, I was a conceited young man in his early twenties, who...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5286
Print ISSN
0026-7694
Pages
pp. 438-439
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
N
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