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3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,094 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
Travesties was born out of Stoppard's noting that in 1917 three of the twentieth century's most crucial revolutionaries -- James Joyce, the Dadaist founder Tristan Tzara, and Lenin -- were all living in Zurich. Also living in Zurich at this time was a British consula official called Henry Carr, a man acquainted with Joyce through the theater and later through a lawsuit con ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published January 21st 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1975)
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Hamlet by William ShakespeareMacbeth by William ShakespeareThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar WildeRomeo and Juliet by William ShakespeareThe Crucible by Arthur Miller
Best Play Ever
156th out of 432 books — 389 voters
Hamlet by William ShakespeareMacbeth by William ShakespeareThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar WildeWaiting for Godot by Samuel BeckettRomeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Goodreads Top 100 Stage Plays of All Time
139th out of 318 books — 298 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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A masterful fizz of mature 70s Stoppard, this extravagantly brilliant play is, like many of his best works, sketched in the margins of existing literary history. Stoppard noticed, apparently for the first time, that Tristan Tzara, James Joyce and Lenin were all in neutral Zurich at about the same time during the First World War. Travesties imagines how they might have interacted, and it does so with real brio – including one scene written entirely in limericks, another imitating a chapter of Uly
Jul 08, 2015 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays, plays-seen

Tom Stoppard is my favourite contemporary playwright. This is not my favourite of his plays* and the first act is much stronger than the second, but it's still a gem. In it, Stoppard takes a coincidence of history and spins it into an intelligent comedy with a serious point.

The narrative and themes come from the fact that for a period in 1917, three revolutionaries - James Joyce, Tristan Tzara and Lenin - were all residing in Zurich. They apparently didn’t meet, but Stoppard imagines a world in
Jan 12, 2014 Greg rated it it was amazing
Great fun. The direction notes in brackets within the players dialogue helps to visualise the play, and also to understand its unusual time shifts while reading the play.

The verbal abuse between characters maybe a nod to, or have been inspired by the similar language in Ulysses. I was reminded of the flow of language, like on p.425 of Ulysses, "Christicle, who's this excrement yellow gospeller on the Merrion hall? ……Come on you winefizzing ginsizzing boozeguzzling existences!". Brave of Stoppard
Jan 23, 2014 Leslie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leslie by: Andy Garland
Shelves: plays, humor
OMG, I had forgotten (or not fully realized) how absolutely hilarious this play is! When I saw it in the theater, I must have focused on the homage to/parody of The Importance of Being Earnest because the James Joyce bits certainly were over my head then.

Brief description: Henry Carr is recalling his days in the British Consulate in Zurich Switzerland during WW1, when James Joyce, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin), and Tzara (one of the founders of Dadaism) are all there. These 4 are historical f
Asma Fedosia
Dec 19, 2012 Asma Fedosia rated it it was amazing
Comic drama starring the Irish modernist James Joyce, the Romanian Dadaist Tristan Tzara, the Russian Bolshevik Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, and other characters, set in a Room and a Library in the pacific Zurich of 1917. All three of the avant-garde, revolutionary figures are involved in their life's major work, but also bring the literature of Shakespeare and Wilde, the art trends of the period, and the contemporary political theories and relevant historical figures into the play and argue the purpo ...more
Laura Leaney
Jun 04, 2010 Laura Leaney rated it it was amazing
This is a play hell-bent on miracles. The writing is nothing short of brilliant. If you love words, and the linguistic gymnastics possible by those little letter-units, this is the play to read. Regardless of the intellectual pyrotechnics, I have stolen some of the simplest of Stoppard's lines for my own repertoire. One of which is below:

Gwen: Mr. Tzara!--you're not leaving? (the hat)
Tzara: Not before I offer you my poem.
(He offers the hat. Gwen looks into it.)
Gwen: Your technique is unusual.

Nov 26, 2014 Alan rated it really liked it
Maybe Stoppard's best, though I speak as a play-goer, not a reader; I have read Arcadia and his Seagull, but the others I've seen on stage (in London). Arcadia, despite seeing it twice, is still a puzzle to me, though I get the overall double plot and time contrast (maybe unique in drama, not a warren of discontinuous plots--Winters Tale excepted).
I liked Arcadia, though I did not understand it. And I was not alone. My first time at Theatre Royal Haymarket I met a Cambridge scholar (I had his s
May 03, 2013 Julia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british, plays, favorites
This is my favorite play. It's brilliant (in both ideas and language) and it's so much fun to read, and how many other writings about WWI, modernist literature, or absurdism can be accurately described as "fun to read"? Favorite passage:

CARR: How are you, my dear Tristan? What brings you here?
TZARA: Oh, pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring anyone anywhere?
(TZARA, no less than CARR, is straight out of The Importance of Being Earnest.)
CARR: I don't know that I approve of all these Benthamite
Jun 10, 2011 James rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama, humor
Travesties is not really a play at all but an intellectual vaudeville, frothier and more stuffed with factual arcana and philosophical inquiry than even Stoppard's Jumpers, to which it bears a certain stylistic resemblance. Its strength is not in its narrative (there isn't much) or characters (they're conceits), but in Mr. Stoppard's literate gags and glittering cerebral syntax, which finds or creates correspondences in the most hilarious places.

Stoppard's comedy is rooted in history here, altho
Mar 01, 2010 Frankie rated it it was amazing
The most intriguing of Stoppard's dramas, Travesties blends history with probability as the minds and works of James Joyce, Tristan Tzara, and Lenin clash in a madcap tale of mistaken identies.

This play retells the story of a brief production of The Importance of Being Earnest Joyce produced in Zurich, and is structured after Wilde's fascinating social drama.

Please note, this is one piece of dramatic literature that is bound to make yinses heads hurt. Mind you, it doesn't require a full bottle
May 09, 2015 Gabrielle rated it it was amazing
Tom is an unrivaled genius that seems to be neglected in modern literary lists. His style and examination of the heart of human existence should earn him a larger place in literary circles. I learn a lot about myself with each of his novels and Travesties is no different.
Mar 01, 2014 William rated it really liked it
Shelves: forensics, theatre
Pretty pure Stoppard: philosophy and verbal hijinks, in this case blended for good measure with a dose of The Importance of Being Ernest. As matter of narrative, little really happens, but in between the forced interactions of The characters yields plenty of intellectual heat.
dead letter office
Mar 27, 2008 dead letter office rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Eliza
tom stoppard might be the cleverest man alive.
Apr 13, 2016 Tom rated it really liked it
Travesties is a play about breaking boundaries and trying to build bridges while they burn. It takes place during WWI, and smokes a bowl of what-if in order to cross-breed some of the great minds of the time who all happened to be in the same place. The main message I got from it seems to be that fallibility succeeds.

Ideology is fallible, which is why we can argue about the way the world works, or why it doesn't, while it continues to do so, or not do so, in the meantime. Memory is fallible, whi
Anton Shanaurin
Apr 03, 2016 Anton Shanaurin rated it it was amazing
Will Redd
Apr 05, 2015 Will Redd rated it it was amazing
Stoppard is definitely one of my favorite playwrights. I have probably recommended "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" to everyone I know at least twice. So, I'm finally taking a look at Travesties, which was recommended to me through the Goodreads recommendation system after adding R&G. I can definitely see why it's so well respected.

After noticing that James Joyce, Lenin and Tristan Tzara (founder of Dadaism) were all in Zurich in 1917, Stoppard took advantage of that fact to try to co
Elliot Horen
Jul 23, 2014 Elliot Horen rated it liked it
3 and 1/2 stars.
Bouncing from silly to didactic to absurd, Travesties is ultimately a clever and enjoyable fiction about a confluence of historic characters in early twentieth century Zurich.

I read Travesties at the suggestion of the girlfriend and it was something of an aberration for me. I don’t normally read plays, finding some of the humor and action to be lost without performance. Some of the play’s wittiest (and most-eye-catchingly well written) moments—a barrage of limericks and rhyming
Mar 20, 2014 Tony rated it it was ok
Shelves: drama
TRAVESTIES. (1975). Tom Stoppard. **.
Stoppard has several successful plays under his belt. I don’t know how well this one did in terms of its runs in England and/or New York. My first impression after reading it was that it was extremely preachy. The premise of the play derives from the fact that Stoppard learned that in 1917, three famous people were living in Zurich at the same time. They were James Joyce, Lenin, and Dadaist founder Tristan Tzara. Another key character was Henry Carr, the then
Dec 20, 2013 §-- rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
Zany (originally a commedia della arte term, I believe). The play is structured in 2 Acts, both scenes remembered by Henry Carr, an English consulate official (as he remembers it) in Zurich in 1917. He becomes acquainted with James Joyce, who is busily working on Ulysses, and who hires him to play Algernon in a production of the Importance of Being Earnest (I have not read this play, which kept me from getting a lot of the jokes in Travesties).

Stoppard, in Travesties, works in pastiche as Joyce
Jul 07, 2012 Phillip rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
This was a really fun play to read. It is a fascinating meditation on the ways in which memory is shaped, shaded, and distorted by cultural texts. Ostensibly this play is based in the memories of Henry Carr, who worked in the British Consulate in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1917. Also in Zurich at that time (and populating this play) were the revolutionary Bolsheveik V.I. Lenin who would become the leader of the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution, High Modernist author James Joyce who was the ...more
Jun 09, 2013 H added it
Shelves: drama
JOYCE: You are an over-excited little man, with a need for self-expression far beyond the scope of your natural gifts. This is not discreditable. Neitehr does it make you an artist. An artist is the magician put among men to gratify--capriciously--their urge for immortality. The temples are built and brought dorwn around him, continuously and contiguously, from Troy to the fields of Flanders. If there is any meaning in any of it, it is in what survives as art, yes even in the celebration of tyra ...more
Dec 01, 2009 H added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
even more confounding than Ros & Guil Are Dead. most if not all of the politics and history went way over my head. memorable lines:

TRISTAN TZARA: My God, you bloody English philistine -- you ignorant smart-arse bogus bourgeois Anglo-Saxon prick! When the strongest began to fight for the tribe, and the fastest to hunt, it was the artist who became the priest-guardian of the magic that conjured the intelligence out of the appetites. Without him, man would be a coffee-mill. Eat -- grind -- shit
Emily Fortuna
Dec 26, 2014 Emily Fortuna rated it it was ok
Travesties is very much a theatre-nerd's play: it is full of theatre in-jokes and references to other works of literature. While certainly enjoyable and humorous, I found as a play itself, it leaves some to be desired. Because of its in-joke-y-ness it seems like it would not be very accessible to the average theatergoer. One can certainly argue that this is the point, as much of the play examines the nature of art and to whom it is accessible, therefore the play itself is a meta-critique on art ...more
Tom Marcinko
Dec 31, 2015 Tom Marcinko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
TZARA: But, my dear Henry, causality is no longer fashionable owing to the war.
CARR: How illogical, since the war itself had causes. I forget what they were, but it was in all the papers at the time.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead has been a favorite of mine since way back in the 20th century. I was pulled back into reading Stoppard by the @TomStoppardQuotes account on Twitter. (And they say social media doesn't serve the cause of literature.) This mashup of high and low comedy, featuring
Aug 10, 2008 Daniel rated it liked it
Shelves: plays, theatre
This is a moderately difficult book to read, but as is the case with a play, it is meant to be seen, not necessarily just read.

I had to work very hard at visualizing this, putting myself in the roles of both audience member and director. When I was able to do that (I wasn't always consistent with this) I found that I greatly enjoyed the interaction between the characters.

I'm not at all familiar with the works of James Joyce (or Lenin or Tristan Tzara for that matter), but I liked the character a
Oct 13, 2014 Jc rated it it was amazing
Oh my -- for the Tom Stoppard fan, or the fan of absurdist yet deeply thoughtful theater, this is a must read/must see. Recently I did both. I started by reading some introductory material and the first couple of scenes, then saw a wonderful, hilarious professional production of the play (Wisconsin's American Players Theater), and finally completed my read of the script. Typical Stoppard, you need to have a little background in political and literary history to get his jokes, but if you do, Stop ...more
Jul 20, 2014 AB rated it it was amazing
Recommended to AB by: unnarrator
Shelves: plays, author-m, cart
Fucking fantastic. I mean, Anything that takes on The Importance of Being Earnest in this manner gets an unqualified A+ from me anyway, but this is just sublime. By the time I finished reading Act I my brain was lit up like a Christmas tree and my nerve endings were hissing and fizzing and I was swooning all over the place; I haven't had so much fun since Angels in America, which is saying a lot.

Also I have a feeling that my eventual reading of Ulysses is going to be eminently more enjoyable no
A story about Dada, Lenin, and James Joyce, set in Zurich, and done in the style of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. All in all, I hear Stoppard's voice less and less in this absolutely insane hodge-podge, but there's something endearing about the messiness, and I find as I read more of the works that the characters have written, I come to understand the in-jokes more. Definitely worth the curiosity, at any rate.
Jan 01, 2013 Tristan rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
A very intellectual play on the affect Art has on government, ideologies and philosophical beliefs. With segments pertaining to Dadaism, Bolsheviks, socialism and communism, we're shown a comedic side to the intellectual "friends" discussing art. Similar to the Lost Generation of Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald etc., and the Beat Generation of Kerouac, Burroughs etc., we see this unrealized generation in Zurich.

Although a difficult and superbly intellectual play, I found it very insightful behind
Sep 09, 2013 Nicki rated it liked it
Shelves: tony
I can tell this would be an absolutely brilliant play....if most of it didn't go right over my head. Chalk it up to the lack of history education given to the Millennials. There were many memorable quotes that, despite my overall sense of being lost, were witty and politically searing. I'm almost certain a man with spectacles and a houndstooth jacket stood up after this play and screamed with delight "FINALLY! A play for historians!"

The scene that progresses in limerick form was one of the most
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Sir Tom Stoppard OM, CBE, FRSL, is a British screenwriter and playwright.

Born Tomáš Straussler.

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“[James] Joyce... an essentially private man who wished his total indifference to public notice to be universally recognized....” 24 likes
“Nowadays, an artist is someone who makes art mean the things he does.” 12 likes
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