Martin Esslin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Martin Esslin
Born Julius Pereszlényi
Hungarian: Pereszlényi Gyula Márton

(1918-06-06)June 6, 1918
Budapest, Austria-Hungary
Died February 24, 2002(2002-02-24) (aged 83)
London, United Kingdom
Education University of Vienna
Reinhardt Seminar
Occupation Theatre Critic and Scholar
Notable work(s) The Theatre of the Absurd

Martin Julius Esslin OBE (6 June 1918 – 24 February 2002) was a Hungarian-born English producer and playwright dramatist, journalist, adaptor and translator, critic, academic scholar and professor of drama best known for coining the term "Theatre of the Absurd" in his work of that name (1961). This book has been called "the most influential theatrical text of the 1960s."[1]

Life and Work[edit]

Born Julius Pereszlényi (Hungarian: Pereszlényi Gyula Márton) in Budapest, Esslin moved to Vienna with his family at a young age. He studied Philosophy and English at the University of Vienna and also graduated from the Reinhardt Seminar as a producer. Of Jewish descent, he fled Austria in the wake of the Anschluss of 1938.

Esslin defined the 'Theatre of the Absurd' as that which

The Theatre of the Absurd strives to express its sense of the senselessness of the human condition and the inadequacy of the rational approach by the open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought.

Esslin's definition encompassed not only Beckett's works but those of Sławomir Mrożek, Eugène Ionesco, Harold Pinter, Jean Genet, Günter Grass and Edward Albee amongst others.

The attribute of "absurdity" was not accepted by many of the playwrights associated with this trend. Ionesco said he did not like labels.[2] Ahmad Kamyabi Mask criticized Esslin severely for the colonialist quality of this title for the Avant-garde theater.[3][4]

He began working for the BBC in 1940, serving as a producer, script writer and broadcaster. He was head of BBC Radio Drama 1963-77, having previously worked for the external European Service. After leaving the BBC he held senior academic posts at Florida State and Stanford Universities.

He also adapted and translated many works from the original German, for example many plays of Wolfgang Bauer between 1967 and 1990. Original works included the seminal Theatre of the Absurd, and The Field of Drama.

Esslin died in London on February 24, 2002 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.[5]


External links[edit]