Oskar Panizza - The carnivalesque satire, dealing with the first recorded outbreak of syphilis in 1495, portrays the scourge as divine punishment for the rampant sexual excesses in the Vatican court of the Pope of the time, the notorious Rodrigo Borgia


Peter D.G. Brown, Oskar Panizza and The Love Council: A History of the Scandalous Play on Stage and in Court, with the Complete Text in English and a Biography of the Author, McFarland, 2010.

In 1894, German society was introduced to The Love Council, a scandalous new play by the playwright Oskar Panizza. The carnivalesque satire, dealing with the first recorded outbreak of syphilis in 1495, portrays the scourge as divine punishment for the rampant sexual excesses in the Vatican court of the Pope of the time, the notorious Rodrigo Borgia. Panizza was imprisoned for one year on 93 counts of blasphemy, the harshest sentence ever given to an artist in the Second Empire. This book contains a detailed history of the play on stage and the court proceedings that led to Panizza's imprisonment. A new English translation of the play is included, as well as a biography of its avant-garde, modernist author.

"[T]his scandalous play was not just banned time and again, it has also been republished again and again--and translated into foreign languages. A new English translation has now been presented by the renowned Panizza scholar Peter D.G. Brown, who only recently gained prominence with the publication of the facsimile edition of the play's manuscript. Like the former publication, his translation is welcome in several respects. First of all, Oreste Pucciani's 1973 translation has been out of print for some time. Brown is the first to have consulted Panizza's 1893 manuscript of the work. Additionally, the current volume contains all the key material on the play, along with extensive and updated supplemental material on its author, including documents and information regarding the numerous court proceedings initiated against The Love Council, its contemporary and later reception, as well as a performance history. It can only be hoped that this book will find numerous readers in England and especially in the United States, which, as Brown noted with a touch of irony, is a 'relatively enlightened and advanced country.'" - Rolf Lochel

Oskar Panizza, poet, journalist, and psychiatrist, who broke taboos, disobeyed religious and political authorities, and experimented with new artistic forms, was probably the "most brazen, provocative, outspoken and fearless" (12) writer of his time. Today, he is mostly known for his scandalous piece Das Liebeskonzil [The Love Council], whose publication resulted in a one-year prison sentence on charges of blasphemy and obscenity. During his prime in the 1890s, however, Bavarian-born Panizza was not merely regarded as an eccentric or psychopath (although that is how he self-identified sometimes) but valued as a creative personality in avant-garde and Bohemian circles. This was largely a consequence of his activities in the Gesellschaft fü r modernes Leben [Society for Modern Life], an authors' group founded in Munich in 1890. He was a friend of important figures such as Frank Wedekind, author of the Lulu dramas, and naturalist Max Halbe. Increasingly, Panizza suffered, however, from manifest paranoia and spent his last seventeen years, until his death in 1921, in different psychiatric clinics. This development resulted in the marginalization and neglect of Panizza's literary achievements, including his undoubtedly most important play, Das Liebeskonzil, which satirically discusses the emergence of syphilis at the Vatican court of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) at the end of the fifteenth century and depicts the Christian trinity in almost caricature-like distortion. Immediately after its publication in Zurich, the text was confiscated by legal authorities, who charged Panizza with blasphemy and pornography. It was not until 1967 that the play premiered in Paris, and even later it remained an object of legal contestation, such as when a film adaptation by Werner Schroeter was screened in Austria in the 1980s.
The attempt to introduce Panizza to a wider English-speaking readership seems highly justified, especially at a time in which questions regarding the satirical depiction of religious phenomena and "political correctness" in general have acquired international significance. One of the few scholars to deal in depth with Panizza's work is Peter D.G. Brown, who, in 1983, published one of the first serious studies on the subject. In 2005, Brown published the original manuscript and different versions of the The Love Council, as well as various materials on the play's production and reception histories, thus laying an essential foundation for further research. His new English translation of The Love Council, along with contextual materials, is superior to previous English versions because it is the first to be based on the 1893 manuscript of the play. Possessing profound knowledge of his source material, especially of the many linguistic peculiarities and irregularities of the author (apparent, for example, in Panizza's increasing use of sometimes bizarre orthographical forms), Brown has mastered the difficult task of translating the drama's text into comprehensible English, and, despite an inevitable degree of standardization, he still manages to preserve many of the characteristics of the original. The volume also includes a fairly detailed biography of the author as well as material on Panizza's trials and the worldwide reception and stage history of the play (with some photographs).
Brown's edition reveals not only Panizza's personal eccentricities but also his polemic and artistic energy, which he used to protest manically against obscurantism, the Catholic Church and its followers, opportunism, sexual inhibitions, and a hypocritical bourgeoisie that he saw as concentrated in Munich. The edition also documents Panizza's attempt to overcome the traditional theatre, which he regarded as obsolete. In ways similar to those of Wedekind and early Brecht, he tried to do so by systematically integrating versatile forms, such as parody, satire, caricature, variety show, cabaret, vaudeville, and commedia dell'arte. Thanks to a skilful selection of texts, Brown manages to trace Panizza's development from naturalism, the first explicitly modernist literary movement in Europe, to an innovative combination of heterogeneous elements from so-called low and high culture. The explanatory parts of Brown's book concern Panizza's use of dramatic devices. This investigation requires, however, further elaboration; for instance, the specific claim that The Love Council is a "tragedy of sex in the Sturm und Drang tradition" (19) needs further substantiation. Indeed, Brown's more general identification.  - Johannes G. Pankau

This is an amazing book and an absolute must for anyone interested in modern drama! Brown's new translation of this outrageous satire gets as close to the original German text as the English language allows. It's THE definitive edition of The Love Council that also includes an insightful biography of this German author, who in many ways was a century ahead of his time. This is the only book on Panizza to include all the press reviews and court documents from Panizza's 1895 trial in Munich. I was equally fascinated by the wealth of other biographical materials he included, e.g., the documents from the court proceedings a century later in Austria and at the European Court of Human Rights dealing with Werner Schroeter's 1982 film version, Liebeskonzil. Brown's final chapter on the more than one hundred productions of the play around the world includes dozens of eye-popping stage shots by some world-class photographers. He has been studying Panizza for decades, and this carefully researched, very readable and beautifully illustrated volume once again confirms Brown's reputation as one of the world's leading authorities on this seminal author. - Fabian Ernst 


Oskar Panizza, The Pig, in Poetic, Mythological, and Moral-Historical Perspective, Trans. with an introduction, by Erik Butler, Wakefield Press, 2016.

The pig is the sun... So begins Oskar Panizza’s outrageously heretical and massively erudite essay on the pig, originally published in 1900 in his journal, Zurich Discussions (self-published by Panizza in Switzerland after serving a year in a Munich prison on 93 counts of blasphemy for his play, The Love Council). The author contends, through painstakingly philological argumentation, that the miraculous swine occupies a central, celestial position as the life-giving force animating the entire universe, usurping the place of God as the beginning and end of all things.

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