Martin Esslin

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Martin Julius Esslin
Born Julius Pereszlényi
Hungarian: Pereszlényi Gyula Márton

(1918-06-06)6 June 1918
Budapest, Austria-Hungary
Died 24 February 2002(2002-02-24) (aged 83)
London, England, UK
Education University of Vienna
Reinhardt Seminar
Occupation Theatre critic; scholar
Notable work The Theatre of the Absurd

Martin Julius Esslin OBE (6 June 1918 – 24 February 2002) was a Hungarian-born English producer, 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 the same name (Theatre of the Absurd; 1961). This work has been called "the most influential theatrical text of the 1960s" by some reviewers.[1]

Life and work[edit]

Born 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 graduated from the Reinhardt Seminar as a producer; actor Milo Sperber was a classmate. Of Jewish descent, he fled Austria in the wake of the Anschluss of 1938.[2]

He defined the "Theatre of the Absurd" as follows:

This attribute of "absurdity" was not accepted by many of the playwrights associated with this trend. Ionesco stated that he did not like labels.[3] Ahmad Kamyabi Mask criticized Esslin for a purported "colonialist" quality of this title for the Avant-garde theater.[4][5]

He began working for the BBC in 1940, serving as a producer, script writer and broadcaster. He headed BBC Radio Drama from 1963–77, having previously worked for the external European Service. After leaving the BBC he held senior academic posts at Florida State University and Stanford University.[2]

He adapted and translated many works from the original German, for example many plays of Wolfgang Bauer between 1967 and 1990. Original works included Theatre of the Absurd, and The Field of Drama.[2]


Esslin died in London on 24 February 2002 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease, aged 83.[2][6]


  1. ^ John Calder (27 February 2002). "Illuminating writer and radio drama producer". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 July 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d Guardian obituary, 27 February 2002; accessed 11 August 2014.
  3. ^ Ionesco rejects Esslin's label,; accessed 11 August 2014.
  4. ^ by Ahmad Kamyabi Mask,; accessed 11 August 2014.
  5. ^ profile,; accessed 11 August 2014.
  6. ^ Sanford, John (6 March 2002). "Martin Esslin, drama professor and theater critic, dies". The Stanford Report. Stanford News Archive. Retrieved 19 April 2012. 

External links[edit]