Two texts, 120 years apart, describe how social conventions determine the role of women in human relationships.

This evening focuses on two texts that reflect the story of two women from two centuries - from the present day and the 19th century. The heart-wrenching story by Theodor Fontane focuses on the young Effi Briest, who marries a man who is too old far too soon, finds herself lonely on his estate and meets another man who promises esprit and a new life. Both deny themselves their happiness in love and stay with their families, but the social norms of the 19th century catch up with them anyway: one day Effi's husband finds the collected love letters and challenges his rival to a duel. Rejected by her husband and her family, she perishes in loneliness.
This contrasts with the story of The Young Man by Nobel Prize winner Annie Ernaux. In our present day, we see a middle-aged woman who enters into a relationship with a much younger man - out of pure lust and sympathy, but also to feel younger herself, to experience a "second youth". But her own past won't let her go: memories of love affairs with men from her own life story come flooding back. And these images are stronger than what she experiences with her current lover. At the same time, the intimate episode is political, as the constellation of "older woman with younger man" almost constantly triggers angry looks and reactions on the street, in restaurants and bars.
Effi Briest is a great love and marriage story that must end tragically in the face of the relentless corset of conventions. The Young Man is a plea for a self-determined and equal life for the sexes, for independence, for overcoming role models. Both texts tell of love that fails between social constraints and the personal longings and doubts of the lovers - and not least of the extent to which, even after centuries of social change, the most private things are still determined by the public.
Annie Ernaux, born in 1940, describes herself as an "ethnologist of herself". She is one of the most important French-language writers of our time, and her twenty novels have been celebrated by critics and audiences alike. She has received numerous awards, most recently the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Premiere: January 20, 2024
Further performances: January 31; February 21 and March 7, 2024

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