It’s over 30 years since this autobiography was published, but Michael Meyer’s “literary and theatrical memoirs” are still of great interest, especially to those interested in mid-twentieth-century drama. He found little success as a creative writer (plays, novel, poems), but as a biographer and translator of both Ibsen and Strindberg he achieved worldwide success. His Ibsen biography was especially praised (George Steiner: “A major achievement”) while his translations at the time of this book’s publication were “on average…staged or broadcast somewhere in the world every four or five days.”
Book ReviewIvo de Figueiredo, Henrik Ibsen: the Man and the Mask. Yale University Press, 2019 Michael Meyer’s 1971 Ibsen has long been regarded as one of the finest literary biographies. It has taken a brave writer to write a new one. Thirty-five years’ distance was needed before Ivo de Figueiredo took up the challenge. And it has been another dozen years for this new biography (actually published as two books in 2006 and 2007) to be translated into English. Extending over 642 pages, de Figueiredo’s work is nothing short of magnificent.
Laurence Olivier, after attending Ingmar Bergman’s 1968 production of Hedda Gabler at the World Theatre Season at the Aldwych Theatre, invited the Swedish director to produce Ibsen’s play at London’s National Theatre two years later. Surprisingly, because he was well known for refusing to direct outside Sweden, Bergman accepted. Robert Stephens recounts Bergman’s explanation of how he came to accept: “This man Lord Laurence is a warlock. I didn’t want to do it. We went to lunch and on the way to the Grill I was saying no, and on the way out I was saying yes. He’s a Warlock.” (Knight Errant, p. 106)