Kaiser, Georg

(1878-1945)
   writer; among Germany's premier Expres-sionist* playwrights. Born in Magdeburg, he broke off an apprenticeship in the book trade to take a position with an export and import company. In 1898, having created the literary society "Sappho" in 1895, he went to Latin America in pursuit of a more congenial life. After three years in the Buenos Aires office of German General Electric, he returned to Magdeburg with malaria. Marriage in 1908 to a prosperous woman brought him more than a decade of untroubled existence. But by 1920 he had consumed his wife s money, had sold her estate, and faced a charge of theft. At a sensational 1921 trial he defended his crime by arguing that the artist should be immune from the common cares of life. Following a one-year prison sentence, he led a withdrawn existence until 1938 in the Berlin* suburb of Grünheide.
   Kaiser wrote over sixty dramas and was among the favored stage authors of the Weimar era. He began his career shortly after returning from South America, completing Rektor Kleist in 1903. His early work, mostly comedies, took the form of biting satires against a lower middle class consumed by dreams of fortune. In 1912, with publication of Die Burger von Calais (Burghers of Ca-lais)—an account of self-sacrifice for a wider community—he established his reputation as a leading Expressionist. The same year's Von Morgens bis Mit-ternachts (From morn to midnight) is still deemed a classic; with Die Koralle or the Gas trilogy (1917-1920), it is among his finest writing. By the early 1920s, with the emergence of Neue Sachlichkeit,* his work exhibited a new coolness. But he also wrote a lighthearted comedy entitled Zwei Krawatten (Two neckties) and collaborated with Kurt Weill* on two one-act operas, Der Pro-tagonist (1925) and Der Zar lasst sich photographieren (The tsar has his picture taken, 1927). His Silbersee (1932), for which Weill composed the music,* in-cited a small riot when it opened in Leipzig.
   The NSDAP banned the production of Kaiser s plays and burned his books in May 1933. Although he signed a declaration of loyalty to the Third Reich, he was expelled from the Prussian Academy of Arts. He remained in Germany until 1938, but finally fled to Switzerland. Of the works secretly written in the 1930s, the most notable is Der Soldat Tanaka, a play about a Japanese soldier who, upon becoming a pacifist, is executed.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; NDB, vol. 11; Patterson, Rev-olution in German Theatre; Sanders, Days Grow Short; Willett, Theatre ofthe Weimar Republic.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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