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This report is taken from PN Review 43, Volume 11 Number 5, May - June 1985.

German Notes Michael Hulse
On 2 December Botho Strauss celebrated his fortieth birthday. His writing life has spanned only a dozen years, if we do not count early critical journalism written for Theater Heute, but already, in spite of dissenting voices, it seems possible to acknowledge him as the most important (as well as the most controversial) writer of his generation.

Strauss has written poetry, but it is as dramatist and novelist that he enjoys his high German acclaim. Born in 1944 in Naumburg (today the GDR), he studied at Cologne and Munich and from 1967 to 1970 wrote for Theater Heute before moving in 1970 to West Berlin, to work with Peter Stein at the Schaubühne am Halleschen Ufer. There he collaborated with Stein on productions of Ibsen's Peer Gynt (1971), Kleist's Prinz Friedrich von Homburg (1972), Labiche's The Piggy Bank (1973) and Gorky's Summerfolk (1974-this last was also toured in a number of countries including England, where it was seen at the National Theatre in March 1977, to a reaction both baffled and polite).

Stein's work as a director has consistently been provocatively original, often unconventionally bizarre: he commands a cult following in Berlin, but his idiosyncratic theatrical approaches are by no means universally accepted. In Botho Strauss's first plays, Die Hypochonder (premièred 1972 in Hamburg) and Bekannte Gesichter, Gemischte Gefühle (premiered 1975 in Stuttgart), the influence of the Schaubühne's fluid ensemble conception of an anti-bourgeois dramatic art is pervasive and powerful. The first is a surreal detective farce ...

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