In response to:
Revolt in Munich! from the April 11, 1991 issue
To the Editors:
Contrary to what Professor Joll says in your April 11 issue[“Revolt in Munich!”], Wedekind’s Jack the Ripper kills both women—Lulu and the Countess Geschwitz. The point is important because these are the only prominent female characters in the entire plot, and the play is usually seen, today, as an indictment of destructive males, not the reverse. There is more to be said, of course, and there are admitted ambiguities. Wedekind’s daughter Kadidja (still alive and as far as I know well in Munich, by the way) told me her father changed his mind, somewhat, about his heroine before writing the revised version of Pandora’s Box which Professor Joll is citing. Through an affair with Strindberg’s ex-wife he had acquired (I was told) some of the Swedish master’s misogyny.
I speak of Pandora’s Box because the two plays mentioned by Professor Joll were originally one play with that title. This original ms was shown to Wedekind’s Munich publisher in 1895 but not published till the nineteen eighties. In the meanwhile the world had known only the distinctly different 2-play version—and a reduction of same made by Alban Berg for his opera (also held up, in its complete form, until rather recently).
About Lulu herself, it should be added that she is not portrayed as bisexual in any version I am aware of. The Countess is not her lover but her adorer: the adoration is conspicuously unreturned. Lulu is woman misunderstood by man—this time around by a male contributor to The New York Review.
New York City
James Joll replies:
I am grateful for Eric Bentley’s comments and interpretation—I can’t believe that the recruitment of Lulu to the feminist cause will do it much good.