In his essay, Thomas analyzes and contextualizes Thomas Ostermeier’s adaptation of Édouard Louis’s second novel, Histoire de la violence. The production, Im Herzen der Gewalt, uses theatrical means to explore the questions of truth and untruth, reality and unreality, revision and refraction that are an essential part of not only Louis’s narrative but of all narratives of sexual violence. Thomas places Im Herzen der Gewalt against the history of depicting violence on stage, with a particular focus on the famous 1980 production of Howard Brenton’s The Romans in Britain. By placing this innovative piece within the legacy of cruelty and violence on stage, he finds that the tension between history and heart, between making sense of an act of violence historically and culturally while simultaneously doing justice to the emotional experience of the victim, is not only at the center of Im Herzen der Gewalt, it is also a problem fundamental to the representation of violence in the theater. As Brenton put it, “Cruelty is hard to dramatize.”

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