Peter Weiss and His Pièce de Résistance

"The Raft of the Medusa" by Théodore Géricault.

Every once in a while a book is published that not only tells a different story about the world we live in, but does so in a manner that is inimitable and unique to the point of being without peer. Peter Weiss's fiction trilogy The Aesthetics of Resistance may very well be just such a book. Originally published in German during the years 1975 to 1981, the second volume was recently published in an English translation in 2020 by Duke University Press (Volume One was published in English in 2005). It has been worth the wait.

Weiss, who is perhaps best known in the English-speaking world for his dramatic masterpiece The Assassination and Persecution of Jean Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (Marat/Sade), places his story in The Aesthetics of Resistance in Europe during the years 1937-1945, give or take. The narrator, the sole fictional character, shares some life history with Weiss himself. He is a young man whose leftist politics inform his resistance to fascism in Germany, Spain and elsewhere. Those politics are also what compel his travels from Berlin to Spain where he fights for the Republicans against the fascist Falange until he is exiled to France after the Republican defeat by the fascist forces.

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Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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