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Literary and Cultural Relations

Ireland, Hungary and Central and Eastern Europe

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Edited By Maria Kurdi

The lively, informative and incisive collection of essays sheds fascinating new light on the literary interrelations between Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic. It charts a hitherto under-explored history of the reception of modern Irish culture in Central and Eastern Europe and also investigates how key authors have been translated, performed, and adapted. The work of Jonathan Swift, John Millington Synge, Flann O'Brien, Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon and Martin McDonagh, it is indicated, has particularly inspired writers, directors, and translators. The searching analyses presented here illuminatingly reflect on the far-reaching political and social import of multicultural exchange. It is shown to be a process that is at best mutually defining and that raises questions about received forms of identity, the semiotics of genre and the possibilities and limits of linguistic translation. In addition, the histories compiled here of critical commentary on Irish literature in Hungary or of the staging of contemporary Irish plays in Hungary and in the Czech Republic, for example, uncover the haphazardness of intercultural exchange and the extent to which it is vulnerable to political ideology, social fashion, and the vagaries of state funding. The revealing explorations undertaken in this volume of a wide array of Irish dramatic and literary texts, ranging from Gulliver's Travels to Translations and The Pillowman, tease out the subtly altered nuances that they acquire in a Central European context. By the same token, it is demonstrated that Ireland has been changed by the recent migration of workers from Eastern Europe and that consequently projections of the figure of the emigrant or asylum seeker in current drama warrant scrutiny. This original and combative collection demonstrates, not only that literary exchange between Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Ireland has been prolonged, multifaceted and, above all, enriching, but also that it exposes blind-spots, and forces confrontation with issues of racism, failure of empathy and cultural misprision.

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3 | Body Politics in a Fictitious East European Dictatorship: Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman

3 |   Body Politics in a Fictitious East European Dictatorship: Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman

Extract

Péter P. Müller

Until the Renaissance European drama excluded brutal actions from the stage. Murder, tortures, fights and physical punishment had only been narrated and referred to, but not performed for the theatre audience in the previous ages. The Elizabethan theatre broke this tradition by staging murder, amputation, and torture, a broad variety of violent actions against the body in plays by such dramatists as Thomas Kyd, John Webster, and William Shakespeare. Seventeenth-century French tragedy, early bourgeois drama, romantic and modern drama all returned to the discreet, bashful forms of dramatic action, preferring wordy and intellectual ways of expression to physicality and bodily representation. Although exceptions can be pointed at — like Shelley’s The Cenci, the French marionette genre of Grand Guignol etc. — the tendency of European drama demonstrated this prudish tradition.

Nowadays a younger generation of playwrights of the Millennium — including the German Marius von Mayenburg, Dea Loher and Theresia Walser, the British Mark Ravenhill, Sarah Kane and Martin McDonagh — labelled by different terms, as new brutalists, representatives of ‘in-yer-face’ theatre, etc., have demonstrated significant interest in different cruelties against the body. In their plays brutal actions are not reported but acted out on stage, challenging the theatrical representation in the manner that ←47 | 48→their forerunner, Edward Bond, provoked theatres and audiences in the 1960s and 1970s with his plays Saved (1965) and Lear (1971).

Approaching the oeuvre of Martin McDonagh from a Hungarian perspective it has to be clarified that...

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