Werner Schmidt

Peter Weiss - Biography

(German title: Peter Weiss)
ca. 463 pages
Werner Schmidt

Werner Schmidt

Werner Schmidt, born in 1944, is Professor emeritus for Modern History in Stockholm. His research focuses on intellectual (and Communist) workers’ movements and historical theory.

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The first comprehensive biography on Peter Weiss


Peter Weiss (1916–1982) was a German writer, painter, graphic artist, and experimental filmmaker. He is best known for his plays Marat/Sade and The Investigation, as well as the monumental three-volume historical novel The Aesthetics of Resistance.

Born in Germany in 1916, he began his career as visual artist, studying at the Prague Art Academy in the late ’30s. He was also a »student« of Hermann Hesse’s in Montagnola for a few months in 1937. After the German occupation of the Sudetenland, his family moved to Sweden, where Weiss would spend the rest of his life, initially writing in Swedish and switching to German only later. His ties to Germany and its political situation are reflected in his criticism of both the capitalism in West Germany and the socialism of East Germany. His work won many major German literary awards, including the Büchner and Mann Prizes, and Peter Brook’s production of Marat/Sade received the Tony Award for Best Play. Weiss is one of the most influential writers of post-war Germany, his prose influencing the following generations of writers. His plays contributed majorly to the culture of theatre, not only in Germany but worldwide. Weiss is also the inventor of the »documentary theatre«.

Historian Werner Schmidt, Professor of Modern History at the Södertörn University in Sweden, examines the life and work of Peter Weiss by placing the private as well as the publicly acting person into the historical context. In doing so, he gets down to the fundamental core, the driving forces behind Peter Weiss’s creative process, as he is able to reference the backgrounds in both Sweden and Germany, to draw on contemporary witnesses and to utilize previously unknown material.