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Insisting on surgery, Wedekind died of ensuing complications. As a very young man in his father's Swiss castle, then as a rebellious son and self-made man in Berlin, Munich, Paris and London, he kept a diary of his preponderantly erotic vie de boheme. For example: "I buy myself Maeterlinck's 'Princesse Maleine,' take a seat in a cafe and read it through in one go.

And he wrote, though without getting anything produced for years. Something is astir in these pages that reaches fruition in the Lulu plays, and in those two masterpieces of the year 1900, "The Marquis of Keith" (which Wedekind considered his best play) and "The Court Singer" (which he considered his worst). Yuill, the British translator, fills in a few gaps in the German edition and seems, at times, to decipher Wedekind's difficult handwriting better than Gerhard Hay, the German editor.

Mostly, he would rise at noon, see people in the afternoon, have dinner with friends, go to a theater or cabaret or opera house, then drink in good company till early morning. Sparingly in Berlin and Munich (money was very tight), but liberally in Paris, he picked up women: usually cocottes, sometimes lowly streetwalkers, occasionally juveniles, to whom he was strongly attracted. at the Folies Bergere." Or he goes with a young woman to the outdoor market at Les Halles, a favorite wee-hours Paris sport. Tilly Wedekind, in her incomparable autobiography, "Lulu: Die Rolle Meines Lebens," correctly sized up the phenomenon that fascinated her husband, "that tragic events flip over into the grotesque." You find traces of it here, as also of another canny insight of hers, that he professed eroticism religiously, or religion erotically. The translation is smooth and generally faithful, though there are a few unfortunate lapses.

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His drama was the fountainhead of not just one form of German modernism, but of all three movements that superseded naturalism: Symbolism, Expressionism and that tertium quid whose creator, Bertolt Brecht, acknowledged him as his master.

But, of whatever nationality, he must be reckoned as one of the brightest stars in that great cyclorama against which world theatrical history is played out.

He became known later as Frank Wedekind, author of "Spring's Awakening" and the Lulu plays, "Earth Spirit" and "Pandora's Box." Until World War I forced him to obtain a German passport, he moved around Europe with American citizenship papers.

Until his premature death in 1918, he also acted in his plays and performed his cabaret songs with a quirky but insidious individuality, and championed freedom of expression, women's rights, anti-anti-Semitism (no small thing in Wilhelm ine Germany) and other worthy causes.