Am 4. September 2007 veröffentlichte der amerikanische Verlag “Faber & Faber” ein neues Werk von Bestsellerautor Jonathan Franzen (”Die Korrekturen”, “Die siebenundzwanzigste Stadt”, “Anleitung zum Einsamsein”, “Die Unruhezone”). Diesmal handelt es sich um keinen neuen Roman, sondern um eine Neuübersetzung des Frank Wedekind-Dramas “Frühlings Erwachen”.
Im Vorwort zu seiner Neuübersetzung kritisiert Franzen das gleichnamige Musical von Duncan Sheik scharf und bezeichnet es als “insipid” und “instantly overpraised”.
Das New York Magazine nahm das als Anlass, Jonathan Franzen ein wenig genauer zu “Frühlings Erwachen” und das Musical-Genre zu befragen:
So what’s your beef, exactly?
I care a lot about American theater, and I’m loath to criticize any spark of excitement anywhere. But what happened to the play is, I think, it became dishonest on the road to being that musical. The real way to any theatergoer’s heart is to tell some kind of truth about their experience, not flatter them with some kind of pleasant lie they’d like to tell themselves. It turns it into a kind of self-righteous Avril Sévigné…[A follow-up e-mail confirmed that, in fact, he meant pop star Avril Lavigne.]
So this is why you decided to try your own translation?
No. Fifty dollars made me do it in 1986 for the Swarthmore College theater department. It was a memorable production. It sat in a drawer for twenty years, and when the musical came along I remembered it. I knew it was a good translation, better than anything else out there.
One of the essays in your memoir, The Discomfort Zone, connects your love of German lit with your own sexual awakening. Is that why you love this play so much?
The play appealed to me primarily because it’s just rocking good. It’s funny and the characters are amazingly vivid. That’s why I’m so cruelly hard on a basically sunny Broadway musical. This stuff does matter to me—the German-literature stuff and the teen-sex part, it all matters.
Do you expect critics to whip out the elitist label again after they read this foreword?
Except for Harper’s, for whom I’m too populist. Having been through it once, I’m less afraid to go through it again. The fact is, I position myself in the middle. I am a theatergoer who has a brain, who knows the difference between good and bad, who wants to enjoy himself but also doesn’t want to have to put his brain to sleep.
Surely there was something redeeming about Spring Awakening?
There are four good musical numbers in there. What was unsatisfying was the disconnect between the excitement of those rocking numbers and the ostensible themes of the play.
Is there anything you really loved recently in the theater?
I actually saw The Drowsy Chaperone twice. I love it. Twice I came out just bursting from laughter, really in physical pain.
Anything you’ve hated?
If you want an example of what I think theater should not be, Embedded is a good example. I practically came out of Embedded ready to join the Republican Party.