Twilight: A Drama in Five Acts

  • Author: Elsa Bernstein
  • Translator: Susanne Kord
  • Pages: xlii & 145 pp.
  • Published: 2003
  • ISBN: 9780873529280 (Paperback)
Twilight: A Drama in Five Acts Cover
Paperback ($9.95)
“Kord’s introduction and the extensive critical apparatus, including notes and bibliography, are comprehensive and relevant to the interests of both the curious casual reader and the scholar who intends to make serious study of Bernstein’s life and work.”Midwest MLA Journal
“This introduction to Elsa Bernstein is excellent. . . . The account given of the reception history of the play is particularly fascinating and thoroughly researched; reception history is a crucial element in understanding this once famous, now far less widely known Jewish woman writer.”—Sarah Colvin, University of Edinburgh
“The translation is accurate, idiomatic, dramatic. A most impressive feat.”—Steven R. Cerf, Bowdoin College

Elsa Bernstein lived at the center of Munich’s cultural life from the 1890s into the next century. Her literary salon was frequented by such authors as Rainer Maria Rilke, Theodor Fontane, Henrik Ibsen, and Thomas Mann. Her plays, written under the pseudonym Ernst Rosmer, are noteworthy for their unconventional female figures, uninhibited language, taboo subjects, and realistic detail. Susanne Kord, the editor and translator of Twilight, discusses the reception of Bernstein’s works—at first enthusiastic, then increasingly sexist—and the theme, in Twilight, of the culturally sanctioned oppression of women.

In this naturalist drama, a woman eye surgeon treats the daughter of a man who is prejudiced against educated women. Her successful treatment wins the father’s affection for her, and they fall in love. She is ready to give up medicine for wedded bliss—her wish is to become “very happily stupid”—but finds misery instead.

Elsa Bernstein (1866–1949), though of Jewish descent, was a Christian and a member of Germany’s educated elite. During the Holocaust, she survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp through her classification as a prominent person—a status conferred on her through the intercession of Richard Wagner’s daughter-in-law, a friend of Hitler.