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The Investigation: Oratorio in Eleven Cantos Paperback – Aug 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Marion Boyars; First Printing, Underlining edition (Aug. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714503010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714503011
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.3 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Peter Weiss was born in 1916 and settled in Sweden before the outbreak of World War II. Apart from his writing, he was also well known as a painter, theatrical and operatic director as well as a film maker. He died in 1982. His magnificent play, the Marat-Sade, established his reputation among English-speaking audiences as a revolutionary dramatist.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By vickersss on 15 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having never studied the Holocaust before, I purchased this play as part of my university course. I was surprised, shocked, and enlightened by it. Weiss gets this just right. Weiss' directness renders 'The Investigation' chilling and powerful. The cantos are emotionless, but somehow resonant and deeply affecting. Weiss deals with the various accounts splendidly; using nameless numbers to outline the facts, which makes it all the more difficult to read. It is not written in a way that is false, or over-dramatised, which might be expected from a play.

The play raises a plethora of questions about the Holocaust, such as who is to be held to account and how an event of this gravity came to pass (the mass extermination of human beings) in a 'civilised', modern, 20th Century world. It is a piece of literature which makes the seemingly incomprehensible, comprehensible.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By David Keymer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I've wanted to direct Peter Weiss's The Investigation since I first read it in translation in the mid-sixties. Weiss is better known for his brilliant Marat/Sade, a reinterpretation of the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat by Charlotte Corday as staged by the marquis de Sade with the inmates of the mental asylum at Charenton. It's an awesome play.

But The Investigation in its own way is as revolutionary as Marat/Sade. More germane to my concerns, it's fairly easily adaptable to Readers' Theater. The play is presented as a series of eleven "Songs." (They aren't sung songs, but rather prose -talked--songs. It's Brecht-Talk to call them "Songs".) Each song/scene details some aspect of the atrocities committed upon the prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Most, perhaps all, of the text of the play is taken verbatim from the transcripts of the Nuremberg Trials (November 20, 1945, to October 1, 1946), which tried German war criminals. If the parts in the play were not double-cast, it would require twenty-eight actors (two of them women). The play is also too long: it would have to be shortened.

The dialogue is chilling, made even the more so by being presented in so low a key. There's almost no action: witnesses ascend and leave the witness stand, the prosecuting attorney and the defense counsel wrangle before the judge. Some functionaries who collaborated in maintaining the camp system are called as witnesses. All of them deny knowledge of what took place, even of what they could read in account books or see from the windows of their workrooms. The accused are monsters, whether on the stand testifying or simply acting the boor in their seats. The bulk of the witnesses are the former prisoners: a woman forced to work as secretary for a Nazi boss who likes to beat prisoners to death, a political partisan subjected to torture and himself beaten near to death, mothers separated from husbands and children, never to hear of them again.

It's great theater. I'm considering it for a local Readers' Theater and I think it would work: the characters can be doubled to keep the cast size in bounds, there's no set to worry about and there's enough overlap to permit cutting. That's essential, because the play is quite long at 313 pages in print but the message cannot be weakened.

I have two concerns. The first is the emotional charge the testimony delivers. It's far from cocktail theater. People may experience feelings they'd rather not feel on an afternoon or evening entertainment junket. The second is whether the play is dated now: will its moral urgency seem out of date when expended on an injustice now sixty-five years past
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
An Overwhelming Experience 6 April 2011
By Jackson Ward - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have not read this book yet but I did listen to the BBC radio version broadcast around the year 1967 I think. I would have been thirteen or fourteen years old at that time. I was at home, alone, and came upon it by chance, twiddling the dials looking for something interesting. The play caused me a concatenation of emotions: horror, revulsion, disbelief and, it must be said, a kind of fascination I regard it as one of the formative moments of my education as it lay before me, at a very impressionable age, the unimaginable possibilities of human cruelty. No details spared, the facts about what happened at Auschwitz are presented as evidence in a courtroom, giving it an immense understated power and resonance. Listeners/readers are left to paint their own picture and draw their own conclusions. My conclusions are quite beyond words at this time. But as the distance in time from these events lengthens beyond living memory, their reverberation only becomes louder it seems to me, not least because of subsequent state-sanctioned holocausts, for example in Mao's China or more recently in Congo, Yugoslavia, and Rwanda. "The Investigation" has been part of my own investigation into human violence. To quote Krishnamurti:
"This is really the maim issue - what can you as a human being, living in this country, do when you see the terrible disorder brought about by the army, the politicians and the priests, by individuals with their selfishness, their arrogance, their brutality and their violence. (...) And we have to be serious because the house is burning, not somebody else's house but our own house is on fire. We have to be very serious, not only to put the fire out, but also to bring about a different kind of house that cannot catch fire at any time, which means living a life of absolute inward order where there is no war, no fear. "
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
unforgettable 11 Aug. 2002
By Paul J - Published on
Format: Paperback
One of the most powerful readings of my life. I'd never heard of Weiss though I knew about the holocaust. Thinking of the death of millions of jews, gypsies, communists, mentally retarded and other 'undesirables' is always hard. A Series of Cantos from the transcripts of trials of Nazis in Germany after WWII. Weiss focuses on inviduals from this mass of innocent victims producing a tale to chill the heart, make any human cry and fill up with rage at the same time. The monstrous nazis have no shame or sense of guilt. Those who have survived the butchery give their case to the derision of those in the dock. Prosiac in language, overwhelming in tragedy. The sadistic ... Nazis are exposed. The simple humanism of their victims is eloquent and the reading is unforgettable
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The absolute best and absolute worst play I've ever done. 28 Jan. 2005
By Geri Farrar - Published on
Format: Paperback
Not meant for anyone younger than 18. But definitely a play that every single person on the planet should experience. If nothing else, it will remind you of how dangerous the world can be if we don't take care of each other, and what will happen again if we continue to turn our backs on the horrors that still go on today.

As an actor who has had the opportunity to perform a production of 'The Investigation' I offer a word of warning. This play will upset you, anger you, and destroy you. Merely reading the words on the page is bad enough, performing them - trying to re-emulate what really happened turns you inside out. As my director said - 'You'll be glad you did this, you'll be even gladder when it's over'. What is contained within the pages of this play is the human condition at it's absolute worse. You read about the ones who survived - and what they had to do in order to survive, and you read about those who were just 'following orders'. And the question you ask yourself when you are finished reading this is not 'What would I have done?', but, 'Would I have survived?'
Heart-Wrenching 18 Mar. 2014
By Brynn Vigneux - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am the kind of girl that picks up a book and doesn't stop till the last page. But this book is so emotionally overwhelming that I had to stop every once in a while so I wasn't completely washed with sorrow. I would recommend this book to anyone.
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