Spring Awakening A Play

Frank Wedekind; Translated and with an introduction by Jonathan Franzen

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

112 Pages



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First performed in Germany in 1906, Frank Wedekind's controversial play Spring Awakening closed after one night in New York in 1917 amid charges of obscenity and public outrage. For the better part of the twentieth century, Wedekind's intense body of work was largely unpublished and rarely performed. Yet the play's subject matter—teenage desire, suicide, abortion, and homosexuality—is as explosive and important today as it was a century ago. Spring Awakening follows the lives of three teenagers, Melchior, Moritz, and Wendl, as they navigate their entry into sexual awareness. Unlike so many works that claim to tell the truth of adolescence, Spring Awakening offers no easy answers or redemption.

Today, one hundred years after the play's first performance, a new musical version of this essential modern masterpiece is being hailed as the "best new musical . . . in a generation" (John Heilpern, The New York Observer). Franzen's translation of the text—for so long poorly served in English—is unique in capturing the bizarre and inimitable comic spirit that animates almost every line of this tragic play.


Praise for Spring Awakening

"Spring Awakening is the best play ever written about teenagers, and Jonathan Franzen's fraught yet buoyant translation is the best I've ever read. In a culture where lies about adolescence prevail, this funny and honest play is more relevant than ever. Spring Awakening is essential reading."—Christopher Shinn, The New School

"In the introduction to his new translation, Franzen offers good insights into Wedekind's text and also provides a thoroughly damning critique of Sater's musical, essentially illustrating that the soul of the original is lost. And he's right."—Justin Maxwell, Rain Taxi

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Frank Wedekind; Translated and with an introduction by Jonathan Franzen

  • Jonathan Franzen is the author of four novels—Freedom, The Corrections, The Twenty-Seventh City, and Strong Motion—and two works of nonfiction, How to Be Alone and The Discomfort Zone. He has been named one of the Granta 20 Best Novelists under 40 and is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and Harper's. He lives in New York City and Santa Cruz, California.

    Frank Wedekind, born July 24, 1864, was a German actor and playwright. He lived in Switzerland (1872–84) and then in Munich, where he worked at various jobs, including journalist and cabaret performer. He wrote plays from 1891, when his tragedy The Awakening of Spring created a scandal with its theme of awakening adolescent sexuality. In his "Lulu" cycle, Earth Spirit (1895) and Pandora's Box (1904), he extended the theme of sex to the underworld of society and introduced the amoral Lulu. His plays used episodic scenes, fragmented dialogue, distortion, and caricature, prefiguring the Theatre of the Absurd and forming a transition from realism to Expressionism.

  • Jonathan Franzen Shelby Graham
    Jonathan Franzen