play seven: don juan comes back from the war

Stormtroopers Advancing Under Gas, Otto Dix, 1924
Stormtroopers Advancing Under Gas, Otto Dix, 1924

Author: Ödön von Horváth

Published: 1938

Synopsis: Don Juan returns from the Great War in search of his jilted fiancee. In this period of massive inflation and despair he is the only man left alive. The world now revolves around women, who cannot help but revolve around him. Contracting influenza, his journey to the house of his fiancee’s grandmother (where he believes she is staying) is delayed long enough for his reformed nature to gradually deteriorate with each new affair. He is constantly looking for a reminder of his ideal beloved. With his health steadily declining, his eventual arrival is met with the grandmother’s triumphant news that her granddaughter died of heartache in 1916. He visits her grave and sits down in the snow to die beside her. His ideal may have always only existed in death.

What moved me: the way Don Juan tries to love a part of every woman he encounters in order to reconstruct his ideal love, just as every woman tries to recreate him in the image of the men they’ve lost. It creates a terrible melancholy and the sense that he is Frankenstein trying to make his own bride in a world where all values have been dislocated.

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