Category Archives: Wedekind Frank

The Vaccination: Frank Wedekind

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.

Juan LePuen

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The Seducer: Frank Wedekind

After reading Frank Wedekind’s short story, The Seducer, I looked up the meaning of the word ‘seduce.’ “A person who entices another into sexual activity. A person who entices another to do or believe something inadvisable or foolhardy.” Initially I was not sure that either definition quite fits Wedekind’s story, but perhaps it’s a matter of who is being seduced. … The story, set in the 19th century, begins like this:

“It is entirely easy to win the favor of every girl, without exception. But it isn’t always easy. The important thing is to set about it in the right way.”

The rest of the gentlemen of the circle of close friends listened in eager anticipation.

So we have several men gathered while one explains how to win “the favor” of a woman. Thanks to the title, naturally, I decided that the narrator is talking about sexual favors. The narrator goes on to explain how he visited his Aunt Matilda and there met Melanie who has just returned from Brussels. The narrator is clearly sexually attracted to Melanie and that notes that “her hips and most of all the shape of her corset struck me for their magnificent curves.” But while the narrator is impressed by Melanie, the feeling isn’t mutual.

She cast sharp glances at me that made me feel as if I were being peppered with small-caliber shot.

Later the narrator and Melanie go for a walk in the garden. It’s dark and there’s a little bit of seduction going on with Melanie as she “leaned her upper body” over her male companion. The narrator leaves only to return a few days later. At this meeting, with the aunt conveniently asleep, the narrator and Melanie are in the house with Melanie sprawling all over the chaise longue, and she’s so hot, she has to undo the two top clasps of her thin dress so she can “breathe better.” The narrator feels no small frustration during his talk with Melanie as he is only given “a wordless, superior smile.”

The courtship, for that is what it is, continues with the narrator almost driven crazy by Melanie’s behavior. On one hand she’s cold and yet during each of their meetings there are rather unsubtle sexual maneuvers from Melanie. This short story only runs to a few pages, so I won’t go into it any further. For this reader, the story is, given the narrator is lecturing men on the subject of how to win an uninterested woman, ironic. There’s a seducer in this story alright–it’s just not the narrator.

Original title: Der Verfüher.

Translator:Juan LePuen

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