The Aesthetics of Resistance, Volume II

A Novel

The Aesthetics of Resistance, Volume II

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: Published: March 2020

Author: Peter Weiss

Translator: Joel Scott

European Studies, History, Literature and Literary Studies > Fiction

A major literary event, the publication of the second volume of Peter Weiss's three-volume novel The Aesthetics of Resistance makes one of the towering works of twentieth-century German literature available to English-speaking readers for the first time. The crowning achievement of Peter Weiss, the internationally renowned writer best known for his play Marat/SadeThe Aesthetics of Resistance spans the period from the late 1930s to World War II, dramatizing antifascist resistance and the rise and fall of proletarian political parties in Europe.

Volume II, initially published in 1978, opens with the unnamed narrator  in Paris after having retreated from the front lines of the Spanish Civil War. From there, he moves on to Stockholm, where he works in a factory, becomes involved with the Communist Party, and meets Bertolt Brecht. Featuring the narrator's extended meditations on paintings, sculpture, and literature, the novel teems with characters, almost all of whom are based on historical figures. Throughout, the narrator explores the affinity between political resistance and art—the connection at the heart of Weiss's novel. Weiss suggests that meaning lies in embracing resistance, no matter how intense the oppression, and that we must look to art for new models of political action and social understanding. The Aesthetics of Resistance is one of the truly great works of postwar German literature and an essential resource for understanding twentieth-century German history.


“[The Aesthetics of Resistance,] which [Peter Weiss] began when he was well over fifty, making a pilgrimage over the arid slopes of cultural and contemporary history in the company of pavor nocturnus, the terror of the night, and laden with a monstrous weight of ideological ballast, is a magnum opus which sees itself . . . not only as the expression of an ephemeral wish for redemption, but as an expression of the will to be on the side of the victims at the end of time.” — W. G. Sebald,, On the Natural History of Destruction

The Aesthetics of Resistance is centrally important to any kind of assessment of twentieth-century German history.” — James Rolleston, editor of A Companion to the Works of Franz Kafka

"The Aesthetics of Resistance is a work born out of a profound dissatisfaction with the ways we are given to think about history, politics, and those great works of art that offer to do more than merely reflect them. It is also born out of a deep misgiving about the authorial self, and the blindness to which it must give rise, since the existential individual is not a sufficient basis on which to erect an historically relevant aesthetic truth—indeed, it is a screen for masking it." — Julian Murphet, Sydney Review of Books

"For the right reader, The Aesthetics of Resistance offers unique rewards. The West’s literary memory of twentieth- century communism was largely shaped by ex- and anti-Communist writers like Arthur Koestler, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Czeslaw Milosz, and George Orwell, who saw it as inimical to spiritual and intellectual life. Weiss makes a passionate case to the contrary, arguing that for the poor and oppressed, communism offered a key to spiritual and intellectual realms from which they had been historically excluded. But he is also acutely aware that the humanistic, emancipatory communism of his dreams had a foe in the actual Soviet Communist Party, with its demand for total submission to an ever-changing ideological line. Balancing hope against reality, Weiss’s novel tries to carry out the critique-from-within he outlined in his 'Ten Working Points' essay." — Adam Kirsch, New York Review of Books


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Peter Weiss (1916–1982) was a German playwright, novelist, filmmaker, and painter. His works include the plays The New Trial, also published by Duke University Press, and Marat/Sade, and the novels The Shadow of the Body of the Coachman and The Conversation of the Three Walkers. He received West Germany’s most important literary award, the Georg Büchner Prize, posthumously in 1982.

Joel Scott is a freelance translator, editor, and writer. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Bildverbot and Diary Farm.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Translator's Acknowledgments  ix
The Aesthetics of Resistance, volume II  1
Afterword to the New Berlin Edition / Jürgen Schutte  309
Glossary  313
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0699-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0614-5