The University of Wisconsin Press
Drama / Philosophy
Hannah Arendt, the Two Adornos, and Walter Benjamin
A play by Carl Djerassi
“Few readers have studied the canonical texts of the great author-protagonists of the Frankfurt School without the secret desire to know more about their private lives. Djerassi’s historical fiction in dramatic form may come closer to the truth than any of the more empirical studies.” —Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Stanford University and the Collège de France
Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno were intellectual giants of the first half of the twentieth century. The drama Foreplay explores their deeply human and psychologically intriguing private lives, focusing on professional and personal jealousies, the mutual dislike of Theodor Adorno and Hannah Arendt, the association between Walter Benjamin and Georges Bataille, and the border between erotica and pornography.
Djerassi’s extensive biographical research brings to light many fascinating details revealed in the dialogues among the characters, including Adorno’s obsession with his dreams, Benjamin’s admiration for Franz Kafka, and the intimate correspondence between Gretel Adorno and Walter Benjamin. The introduction of a fictitious character, Fräulein X, intensifies the complex interplay among the four lead protagonists and allows for a comparison of Adorno’s philandering and the similar behavior of Martin Heidegger, whose affair with Hannah Arendt is well known. Foreplay brims with intrigue and the friction created when strong personalities clash.
“At once outrageous and beguiling, Foreplay boldly extrapolates from the known facts of its four real protagonists’ lives to create a spirited drama of entangled emotional intrigue and mordant wit. Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen and Tom Stoppard’s Travesties have found a worthy successor.”—Martin Jay, University of California, Berkeley
Carl Djerassi was born in Vienna and immigrated to the United States in 1938. He is the author of many literary works that have been translated into sixteen languages, including Four Jews on Parnassus, Cantor’s Dilemma, The Bourbaki Gambit, This Man’s Pill, and the plays An Immaculate Misconception, Sex in an Age of Technological Reproduction: ICSI and Taboos, Ego, Calculus, Phallacy, and Oxygen (coauthored with Roald Hoffmann). He is emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford University and recipient of the Serono Prize in Literature and many prestigious honors for his scientific achievements. He lives in San Francisco, London, and Vienna.
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"In Foreplay, Djerassi vaults the spectator straight into the middle of the emotional struggle among famous philosophers of the 20th century. His private insights into the lives of Hannah Arendt, Gretel and Theodor W. Adorno, and Walter Benjamin allow us access to the otherwise imponderable aspects of their interpersonal as well as intellectual relationships. Djerassi’s perspective is as sophisticated as it is ironic. It keeps us stunned and amused."
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Updated January 24, 2011© 2011, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System