Marienbad, 1823: the 73-year old Goethe meets Ulrike von Levetzow, 19, and falls in love with her. The old man is almost shocked by the forcefulness of his emotions, and just as surprised by their familiar ease. Far away from Goethe’s professional world in Weimar, the couple takes strolls through the summery health resort and engages in witty banter, in which Ulrike challenges and charms the poet laureate with her unaffected demeanor and her quick repartees. But naturally, in the eyes of the world, this is a scandal, and a shadow is cast over the affair – by their own self-consciousness about the age difference; by Ulrike’s mother who is interfering; by a young rival who appears as hot-blooded as Goethe never wanted to be and, in his old age, no longer could be. But Goethe’s fiercest enemy is his own doubt. Has not every one of his thoughts been pre-formulated to perfection, has not every one of his emotions congealed into a literary quote? Goethe sublimates his break-up with Ulrike into his much acclaimed Marienbad Elegy and, through his self-doubt and yearning, becomes even more, what he no longer believed he could be: a loving man.
Martin Walser was born in 1927 in Wasserburg and now lives in Überlingen by Lake Constance. He has received numerous awards for his work, among them the Georg Büchner Award and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. He has also been decorated with...Plays by Martin Walser