“Today I give you a present: me. You take this present without qualms; it will bring you only good things. Let me be your ‘pleasure boy’ [Lustknabe), more than a friend but less than a husband. I’m in the world for you—that is self-evident, and you don’t need to feel obligated. You’ll now sense it. Give me just a small sign that you accept the present. Please.”
They were an unlikely couple. He was a short, prematurely balding, German cantor’s son with thick glasses that she thought made him look like a mathematics professor, and she was an Austrian Catholic coachman’s daughter, two years older and poorly educated. Escaping from an abusive father, she became a prostitute and then a would-be dancer turned actress in Zurich. Weill and Lenya needed one another on a “creative” level which defied ordinary emotional, erotic, or professional bounds. Their relationship always remained both tenacious and tumultuous, open to and always surviving many secondary sexual and romantic relationships.
Speak Low compiles the 375 letters, 18 postcards and 17 telegrams that survive; 296 from Weill to Lenya and 114 from Lenya to Weill. This deluxe edition also includes an autobiographical fragment of Lenya’s pre-Weill years and a postscript which focuses on her years as the Widow Weill, when she established herself as his leading interpreter and guaranteed the preservation of his memory. Also included is a listing of their pet names for each other, a biographical glossary, an index of names, an index of works by Weill and an index of works by others.
Hardback: 615 pages