The Vaccination from German author Frank Wedekind is another entry for German Literature Month. Wedekind wrote the Lulu plays which became the basis for the silent film Pandora’s Box starring the intriguing actress, Louise Brooks. The Vaccination, rather like The Seducer, isn’t at all as the title implies. The Vaccination (Die Schutzimpfung), a tale of infidelity, jealousy and deceit, told in retrospect, concerns an affair between the narrator and a married woman named Fanny. There’s the impression that Fanny has strayed before as she’s rather practiced at deceiving her husband.
“You have nothing to fear, darling,” Fanny said to me one lovely evening, when her husband had just come home, “since husbands, by and large, are jealous only so long as they have no reason to be. As soon as there is really a reason for them to be jealous, it’s as if they were stricken with terminal blindness.”
The narrator isn’t as comfortable with this arrangement as Fanny and he’s sure the husband, who sends odd looks his way, “must have noticed something.” Fanny reassures her lover that her husband suspects nothing, explaining the bold “method” she has “devised” which, she insists works, “inoculating him once and for all against any jealousy” and suspicion. She describes how she constantly tells her husband she is “really taken” with the narrator and if she doesn’t “break her vows” of marriage it’s because of the narrator and for “him alone that I have been so unshakably faithful to you.” Fanny swears this sort of talk acts as a vaccination against her husband’s jealousy. The narrator isn’t convinced, but then one day Fanny unexpectedly shows up at his lodgings. There they are, in his small room, both starkers, whopping it up in bed when guess who else pops up unannounced? … Yes the cuckolded husband. So will Fanny’s method of vaccination work?
This tale has an unexpected, delightfully venomous twist in a careful-what you-wish-for sort of way. What a mind Frank Wedekind must have had.