22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Yasmina Reza

Yasmina Reza was born to a Jewish-Iranian family in Paris in 1959. Reza’s mother was a violinist and music played an important role for the family. After studying drama at the University of Paris–Nanterre and the École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, Reza went on to act on stage across France. She began writing for theater in 1987 and her first two plays were awarded the Prix Molière. Her third play, »Art« (1994; Eng. 1996) was her breakthrough, bringing her further success and winning several awards. A man buys »a white painting with white lines« for 200,000 Francs, alienating his two oldest friends and leading to bitter arguments. Further plays followed, including »L’Homme du hasard« (1995; Eng. »The Unexpected Man«, 1998), »Trois versions de la vie« (2000; Eng. »Life X 3«, 2001), »Une pièce espagnole« (2004; Eng. »A Spanish Play«, 2007), and others, making Reza the most performed contemporary female playwright in the world. On top of that, she also wrote the film script of her play »Le Dieu du Carnage« (2006; Eng. »The God of Carnage«, 2008), which was then filmed by Roman Polanski in 2011 and won a César, among others. The formal requirements of stage writing are helpful to Reza in her writing; she does not view them as a restriction, which explains her preference for theater as a genre. The influence music has had on her also impacts her writing style: »I often use words because they sound good at a specific point, not because they are the right words to use at that specific point.« Some productions have reinterpreted the wit of Reza’s theatrical works as comedy; this approach, however, contradicts the immense gravity of the action and constellation of characters.

At the end of the ‘90s, Reza also began to write prose. Her portrait of Nicolas Sarkozy, »L’aube le soir ou la nuit« (2007; Eng. »Dawn Dusk or Night: A Year with Nicolas Sarkozy«, 2008), was the result of having accompanied the French president during nine months of electoral campaigning when he was a presidential candidate. »Heureux les heureux« (2013; Eng »Happy are the Happy«, 2014) tells of problems associated with wealth affecting the upper middle classes. Reza tells each chapter from the perspective of a different character and narrates their interpersonal friction using dark humor. Bottled-up fury and emotional strain also lead to sudden and fatal outbursts in her latest book, »Babylone« (2016; tr. Babylon). The story plumbs the murky depths of a romantic relationship: a man argues with his wife about organic chicken at a party. He then strangles her in the night and turns to their neighbors to get the body out of the house.

Yasmina Reza’s work has been honored with many awards, including the 2005 »Welt«-Literaturpreis, the 2009 Tony Award, the 2014 Kythera Prize and the 2016 Prix Renaudot for »Babylone«. She lives in Paris.