Weiss, Peter

Weiss, Peter

Weiss, Peter (pāˈtər vīs), 1916–82, German-Swedish dramatist, novelist, film director, and painter. Weiss's early novels Abschied von den Eltern (1961; tr. Leavetaking, 1962) and Fluchtpunkt (1962; tr. Vanishing Point, 1967) draw upon his emigration experience. His philosophic drama on the nature of revolution, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (1964; tr. 1965), effectively conveys the atmosphere of an insane asylum as a social microcosm. Both this and his play Die Ermittlung (1965; tr. The Investigation, 1966) were international successes. The Investigation uses texts from the 1964 Frankfurt war crimes trial to demonstrate that the capitalist system, responsible for Auschwitz, exists in postwar society. Later works include the documentary drama Trotzki im Exil (1970; tr. Trotsky in Exile, 1971) and The Song of the Lusitanian Bogey (tr. 1970).


See studies by I. Hilton (1970), K. Vance (1981), and R. Ellis (1988).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Weiss, Peter


Born Feb. 18, 1916, in Nowawes, near Berlin. German writer.

In 1934, Weiss’s family emigrated from Germany, and since 1939 he has lived in Sweden. Weiss has been an artist and a film director. His literary activity began with the “micronovel” entitled The Shadow of the Coachman’s Body (1960), written in the vein of the experimental French “new novel.” In his novels The Leavetaking (1961), The Vanishing Point (1962), and The Conversation of the Three Wayfarers (1963), Weiss described the adversities of émigré life. The duality of meaning in the play entitled The Persecution and Assassination of Marat As Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (Marat/Sade; 1964) provided the grounds for its various stage interpretations in different countries. Exhibiting an interest in a special genre, in which primary documents are reworked into fictional scenes, Weiss wrote the antifascist play The Investigation (1965; Russian translation, 1966), constructed on the basis of genuine materials from the trial of the Auschwitz criminals. In his article “Ten Working Points Held by the Author in A Divided World” (1965) Weiss concludes that only a socialist system provides “the possibility of eliminating the bad state of affairs which exists in the world.” The imperialism of the USA is exposed in the play Vietnam Discourse. A satirical depiction of present-day bourgeois society marks the play How Mr. Mockinpott Extricated Himself From His Misfortunes 1968; Russian translation, 1968). Weiss’s creative work at various phases has reflected his lack of consistent ideological and political positions. After publishing a number of progressive works in 1970 he published his play Trotsky in Exile, which is patently anti-Soviet in character.


“Zametki o dokumentär nom teatre.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1968, no. 7.


Knipovich, E. “Svideteli.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1966, no. 5.
Ginzburg. L. “’Samovyrazhenie’ i samorazoblachenie Petera Vaisa.” Literaturnaia gazeta, Apr. 1, 1970.
Rischbieter, H. P. Weiss. Velber bei Hannover, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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