The Dead Day

The Dead Day

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The Dead Day

Drama in Five Acts

Translation of: Der tote Tag

Ernst Barlach
Translated from the German by Naomi Jackson Groves

7 X 10 inches, 136 pages

Ernst Barlach Drama & Artist Series

THIS IS THE FIRST FULLY-COMPLETED PLAY by the North German artist, Ernst Barlach (1870-1938). Written soon after Barlach's return form visiting his brother, Hans, in Russia in 1906, it contains many personal elements: the missing father, whose influence is still strongly felt; the young son, whom the mother tries hard to keep at home for herself; and the son's efforts to break away that bring about the play's tragic outcome (fortunately, not paralleled in the artist's own life).

The central plot's framework for philosophical debate—Earth/Mother, Spirit/Father—is supported by the secondary characters: Kule, the blind beggar; Rumpbeard, the goblin-spirit, whom only the son and the artist can see; Broomleg, the mute, birchtwig-footed house-helper, who works by night and sees everything that happens (and escapes in the son's stead). The entire stage action takes place inside an old farmhouse with built-in bunks and an open hearth. Lost in a fog-journey during the last act, the son meets a stranger—his father?—who looms up, a hallucination, but Barlach's words make it visible and immensely real.

The play's first performance was in Leipzig in 1919; a later one in 1924 greatly intrigued Thomas Mann, as recounted in The Dial. Naomi Jackson Groves' English translation of The Dead Day was first presented at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln as early as 1957. Her translation of the second play in the Barlach drama series, The Poor Relation, was published by Penumbra Press in 2001.


Naomi Jackson Groves



Naomi Jackson Groves has been a boon to Penumbra Press, helping to shape Penumbra's sensibility, while proffering an oeuvre that shows remarkable range. As a diarist, opening up the diaries from her youth abroad exploring the intellectual and artistic life of Europe in the 1930's and 1940's. As the author or editor of books about her uncle, Group of Seven artist A.Y. Jackson. ("A courageous little cuss" is how her uncle sized her up, after her wartime travel in waters infested by German submarines.) As the translator of works by Greenland artist and author, Jens Rosing. As the generous spirit encouraging several other Penumbra projects off the ground. She is renowned for her critical writing and translations of German sculptor and dramatist Ernst Barlach.

Naomi Jackson Groves specialized in German and northern languages. Born in Montreal in 1910, she would graduate from McGill University with a B.A. in 1933 and an M.A. in 1935, from Radcliffe College in 1937, and from Harvard with a Ph.D. in 1950. In addition to teaching German at McGill and Carleton Universities, she re-established and headed the Fine Arts Department at McMaster University (1951-57). Active into her tenth decade, she passed away in December of 2001.

Remembering Naomi Jackson Groves ...

Ernst Barlach



Master of both visual and verbal creations but better known at first for his sculpture in ceramics and in wood, Barlach also wrote eight plays. All have become increasingly appreciated and performed, first in German-speaking countries, later in translation with many interpretations.

Further publications in the Barlach-in-translation series by Penumbra Press will include the remaining dramas, two novels, and some short, miscellaneous prose pieces. With five Barlach museums in Germany, frequent presentation of his plays, a new complete edition of his works being planned, Ernst Barlach (the Doubly-gifted) continues to thrive—and long may he last.

(Self Portrait, 1895: Copyright Ernst Barlach Lizenzverwaltung Ratzeburg)

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