Tabori, George 1914–2007

views updated

Tabori, George 1914–2007


See index for CA sketch: Original name, Gyorgy Tabori; born May 24, 1914, in Budapest, Austria-Hungary (now Hungary); died July 23, 2007, in Berlin, Germany. Playwright, scriptwriter, novelist, translator, journalist, broadcaster, director, and actor. Tabori is known internationally as a playwright of the Holocaust whose work examined some of the most brutal and frightening elements of life under Nazi rule. The author himself escaped the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe as an emigré living in London, but his father was killed at Auschwitz and his mother barely talked her way out of the same fate. Tabori was born into a Jewish family and raised in relative comfort, ostensibly as a Roman Catholic. He had left Eastern Europe before Hitler's rise to power and was living in England as a naturalized British citizen when World War II began. Tabori spent the war years working as a journalist, translator, and foreign correspondent. After the war he moved to the United States, working in Hollywood as a screenwriter and occasional novelist, then in New York City as a playwright and translator-adaptor of dramatic works by his friend and colleague Bertolt Brecht. The screenplays include the Alfred Hitchcock movie I Confess (1953); the novels include Beneath the Stone (1945), the suspenseful story of a British parachutist's meal with a Prussian officer behind enemy lines. But it is Tabori's stage plays that critics remember most vividly. He was widely praised for using irony and humor (albeit dark humor) to explore the horrors of the Holocaust, the relations between Germans and Jews, and the ramifications of anti-Semitism with audiences who would not be receptive to his grim message in any other form. Some critics have described his subjects as characters wholly beyond redemption, but Tabori himself once said, rather enigmatically, that the theme of his work was actually the act of love. The Emperor's Clothes, produced on Broadway in 1953, is about a young man who falls into the hands of the Hungarian secret police. Facing interrogation and torture, the prisoner, instead of sacrificing his beliefs to save himself, finally reinforces them by a courageous demonstration of integrity. The Cannibals (1967) is the story of inmates of a concentration camp who are forced to choose between cannibalism of their own and the gas chamber. Mein Kampf (1989) has been described as a farce, but the play is the story of a young Adolf Hitler and his relationship with the Viennese Jew who becomes his mentor and helps to shape the future leader's world view. Tabori returned to Europe in the 1970s, where he settled in Germany as an actor, director, and playwright, notably with the Berliner Ensemble. In 1992 Tabori was awarded the George Büchner Prize of the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung for what the awarding body called "courage in using irony and humour to explain to Germans the grim history of relations between Germans and Jews."



Contemporary Dramatists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 245: British and Irish Dramatists since World War II, Third Series, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Reference Guide to Holocaust Literature, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2002.


Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2007, p. B9.

New York Times, July 27, 2007, p. C11.

Times (London, England), October 2, 2007, p. 56.

Washington Post, July 26, 2007, p. 86.