Arthur Schnitzler: Papers shed light on playwright who inspired Freud and Kubrick

His plays were the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, David Hare's The Blue Room and Tom Stoppard's Dalliance, but outside Austria and Germany, the name Arthur Schnitzler is not instantly recognisable.

But now, more than 75 years after his death, a collection of the Jewish playwright's unpublished letters and draft manuscripts are going on public display for the first time in an exhibition at King's College London.

The exhibition, which opened yesterday and runs until 26 July, is made up of material drawn from a vast archive of material rescued from destruction by the Nazis after the playwright's death in 1931. Schnitzler's estranged wife, Olga, had asked a Cambridge student studying in his home city of Vienna, Eric Blackall, to arrange for the papers to be sent to the English university.

During his lifetime, Schnitzler was renowned for the sexual frankness of his writing, which led his friends to describe him teasingly as "a pornographer". Adolf Hitler cited his work as an example of "Jewish filth".

The writer had started visiting prostitutes at the age of 16 and was a notorious ladies' man, for several years keeping a log of every orgasm he achieved. But he was also famed for his outspoken attacks against anti-Semitism – the Cambridge archive contains correspondence from the Zionist founder, Theodor Herzl, who urged Schnitzler to move to Palestine and become "the leading playwright of the Jewish state".

The exhibition's curator, Lorenzo Bellettini, said: "He's very well known [in his homeland] but, indirectly, so much has been produced in the English language based on Schnitzler. Schnitzler himself is not very well known outside Austria and Germany. What this exhibition wishes to offer is an overview of the plethora of his literary legacy which is never shown."

Since the early 20th century, Schnitzler's plays have been adapted for the screen. His 1895 play Liebelei (Flirtation) was also adapted by Stoppard as Dalliance in 1986. Kubrick then turned Schnitzler's late novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story) into his last film, starring the then real-life couple Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise as a New York husband and wife torn apart by jealousy.

Before that, the best-known screen adaptation of Schnitzler's work was Ophuls's La Ronde of 1950, based on the 1897 play Reigen, about a chain of sexual encounters set against the backdrop of a syphilis epidemic in decadent Viennese society. When it was first performed in 1921, the theatre was closed by police and following a six-day obscenity trial, Schnitzler decided it should not be staged again.

Born in Vienna in 1862, the son of a prominent laryngologist, Schnitzler studied medicine to please his father, but soon turned to his real passion, writing. By 1900 he was firmly established as one of the avant garde group of writers known as Jung Wien (Young Vienna).

Although the playwright never met Sigmund Freud, the Viennese psychologist described Schnitzler as his "doppelgänger" and famously wrote in a letter to the author: "I have gained the impression that you have learnt through intuition – though actually as a result of sensitive introspection – everything that I have had to unearth by laborious work on other persons."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam