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the Complete Review

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Yasmina Reza
at the
complete review:


biographical | bibliography | quotes | pros/cons | our opinion | links


Biographical

Name: Yasmina REZA
Nationality: French
Born: 1959
Awards: Laurence Olivier Award, 1998
Antoinette Perry ("Tony") Award, 1998

  • Yasmina Reza is also an actress

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Bibliography

Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

  • Conversations after a Burial - drama, 1987 (Conversations après un enterrement, trans. Christopher Hampton, 2000)
  • La Traversée de l'hiver - drama, 1989
  • 'Art' - drama, 1994 (Art, trans. Christopher Hampton, 1996)
  • The Unexpected Man - drama, 1995 (L'homme du hasard, trans. Christopher Hampton, 1998)
  • Hammerklavier - fiction, 1997 (Hammerklavier, trans. Carol Cosman, in collaboration with Catherine McMillan, 2000)
  • Desolation - novel, 1999 (Une désolation, trans. Carol brown Janeway, 2002)
  • Life x 3 - drama, 2000 (Trois versions de la vie , trans. Christopher Hampton, 2000)
  • Adam Haberberg - novel, 2003 (Adam Haberberg, trans. Geoffrey Strachan, 2007)
  • Une pièce espagnole - drama, 2004
  • Nulle Part - autobiographical, 2005
  • Dans la luge d'Arthur Schopenhauer - novel, 2005
  • The God of Carnage - drama, 2006 (Le dieu du carnage, trans. Christopher Hampton, 2008)
  • Dawn, Dusk or Night - non-fiction, 2007 (L'aube, le soir ou la nuit, trans. Pierre Guglielmina and the author, 2008)
  • Comment vous racontez la partie - drama, 2011
  • Happy are the Happy - novel, 2013 (Heureux les heureux, trans. Sarah Ardizzone (UK edition, 2014); John Cullen (US edition, 2015)

Please note that this bibliography is not necessarily complete.

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Quotes

What others have to
say about
Yasmina Reza:

  • "Minimally, millennially chic, Yasmina Reza is one of the most acclaimed and commercially successful dramatists of the past decade." - Susannah Clapp, The Observer (10/12/2000)

  • "Yasmina Reza is not so much a writer as a cultural phenomenon. (...) Maybe her creations have a peculiar resonance in the post-political age. Her characters, including herself in Hammerklavier, are self-obsessed, desperately ambitious for achievement, whatever form that achievement takes. They reek of futility but lack the desperate humanity of Beckett's existential no-hopers." - Simon Hattenstone, The Guardian (31/12/2000)

  • "Reza writes brisk, brief, chic and cutting-edge: she attracts an elsewhere longed-for audience of the kind of rich, fashionable people you would otherwise now be more likely to see at an art-gallery private view or a starry charity fund-raiser than in a theatre. (...) Reza is intellectual theatre lite, and she has plugged in to an entire generation of disaffected playgoers, those who found serious dramas too long and often boring, and light comedies too trivial to occupy their busy schedules." - Sheridan Morley, The Spectator (6/1/2001)

  • "In case you are as puzzled as I was about Reza's name and nationality, she is French, but the daughter of a Hungarian mother and a Russian-Iranian father. This background may help to explain why her ideas, humour and attitudes strike us as unconventional in a genuinely non-conformist way" - George Walden, Sunday Telegraph (1/12/2002)

  • "But if the world that Ms. Reza describes is filled with snarled ambiguities, her plays are as orderly as an obsessive-compulsive's sock drawer. Originally written (and produced) in French, they are usually slender sitcoms, elegantly streaked with troubling shadows and shaped with Cartesian symmetry. They are plays that suggest reassuringly that human depths can, after all, be measured by a slide rule." - Ben Brantley, The New York Times (1/4/2003)

  • "Like many writers with grand ambitions, Yasmina Reza has often strained to be what she's not. She is a born satirist, a gifted and wry observer of the absurdities and feints of social life (....) and of the small self-deceptions that help us all survive. Yet in her slender dramas and fictions she has also set herself up as a mini-Proust, grasping at immense themes that elude her: the slipstream of time, the isolation of individuals and especially artists." - Caryn James, The New York Times Book Review (4/3/2007)

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Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

    Pros:
  • Seems to have struck a chord with audiences
  • Compact works
  • Some wit, some clever ideas
  • Plays uniformly and professionally translated (by Christopher Hampton)

    Cons:
  • Not much depth -- only a veneer of profundity
  • Spare plots
  • Prevalence of a bitter tone
  • Often unsympathetic characters

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the complete review's Opinion

     Well, Reza is popular. Likely no other play came close to the incredible global success of 'Art' in the 1990s, and audience-interest has carried over to her other plays (if not yet her fiction). Reza has, quite quickly, become a significant name in the theatre-world.
     She does have some fine ideas -- 'Art' and Life x 3 are certainly based on interesting propositions -- and she has a sense of the dramatic. As an actress, she has a decent ear for what works on the stage. Her dialogue is often sharp, and there is a certain wit (though not necessarily one that is to everyone's taste). Plays such as 'Art' and The Unexpected Man, in particular, are showpieces for actors, rising and falling with what the actors can do with their roles. (Among the fascinating aspects of 'Art''s success is how many different sets of actors have found success in the roles. It is an odd sort of star-vehicle at which few seem to have failed.)
     Reza is also willing to take risks: The Unexpected Man, with its lack of obvious interaction between the two characters, is an unlikely scenario for the stage, but she even comes reasonably close to pulling it off.
     Almost all of Reza's works are largely about relationships. With family, with friends, with colleagues. There is dramatic tension, bickering, and the almost inevitable explosions (The Unexpected Man being a rare example of restraint on the part of those involved). There are few truly happy relationships, and even her resolutions can't entirely undo what has been said and revealed over the course of the plays.
     Reza's characters are rarely very sympathetic. In this they are, perhaps, very human -- but no more likable for it.
     Reza's characters -- and her work in general -- is also surprisingly shallow. There are some big concepts -- the question of art in 'Art', some vaguely relevant science-babble in Life x 3 -- but these issues aren't really explored. And they don't really need to be: they are just padding, as Reza's concern is almost entirely with the relationships between her characters and not greater philosophical issues.
     Reza has written some decent entertainments for the stage, but little of it has a lasting resonance. Still, her willingness to stretch the bounds of how theatre is presented and the dramatic gifts she does have might lead to some promising (and perhaps less bitter) work in the future.

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Links

Yasmina Reza: Yasmina Reza's books at the complete review: See also:

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