The Council of Love

Panizza’s great work, and a landmark in the honorable history of literary blasphemy. God invents syphilis to punish humanity, while his son whimpers in heaven. This play earnt its author 30 years of persecution at the hands of the authorities, both ecclesiastic and secular, and an early death in a mental asylum.

Oskar Panizza (1853-1921) wrote his brilliant satire, The Council of Love, in 1893 as he was working as a psychiatrist and was active in the Munich Modern movement. The play was published the following year across the border in Zurich, but national boundaries did not prevent the Munich authorities trying the author on some 90 accounts of blasphemy (largely involving the Virgin Mary), having the book and the plates destroyed and sentencing Panizza to a year’s imprisonment. He subsequently emigrated to Switzerland, now a full-time writer and publisher, only to be hounded once again by the authorities. After several years in Paris, he finally returned to Bavaria where he was declared incapable of managing his affairs, and placed in a mental asylum in 1905.

The Council of Love not only inspired the turn-of-the-century modern movement, the young Expressionists who went on to create Dada a generation later, and the post-war Surrealists, but also new admirers, directors and would-be censors in recent decades.

This translation is based on the third, revised edition, published in 1897. The illustrations by Alfred Kubin are taken from the nine created specially for a private edition published in 1913.