Sunday 9 November 2014

I suppose Nobel had enough money to buy his own theatre, but he had his pride. So he discreetly informed Bertha von Suttner of his literary efforts. After all, she owed him a favour or two for all the donations he had made to her foundation, The Austrian Society of Friends for Peace:
Dear Countess and friend…I have written a tragedy…I have taken my subject from the touching story of Beatrice Cenci, but have treated it in a manner very different from Shelley’s. In deference to an inflexible public I have toned down the hateful subject of incest to the point of practically suppressing it. …I am curious to see whether someone will stage my little piece, in which the dramatic effect is quite good, in my opinion.
A week later Suttner writes back: 
Beatrice Cenci? That is a dramatic subject! I am curious. Besides, I am sure it is well written…If you believe that it is plausible in its dramatic effect and that the scabrous side is sufficiently played down, I am quite certain that a theatre in Vienna will take it. She even considered translating the play into German herself: 
If my name is attached to it, it will arouse interest… Beatrice Cenci would be a good role for Hohenfels or perhaps Sandrock (the famous actress who later had a stellar career in film).
Nobel has doubts about putting the play on in Vienna: It won’t be allowed in Austria because the clergy comes off as bullies. Besides, he says, the piece is written in Swedish.
Oh, Swedish? Suttner replies. I thought you had written it in French (the language in which they corresponded). And you are right: in Vienna one couldn’t risk putting on something that has an anticlerical slant. But one might try Berlin.
Nothing more was said about the matter. Six months later, Nobel was dead. I don't think his play was ever performed.

(My translation of the French text in E. Biedermann, Briefwechsel)

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