Abse, Dannie

Dannie Abse was a Welsh-Jewish poet, playwright, essayist, and novelist born in Cardiff in 1923. A medical doctor by profession, Abse volunteered to work in the liberated concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. In his poem “White Balloon”, he remarked: “Auschwitz made me more of a Jew than Moses did”. Abse’s plays, written in the 1960s, were mostly staged by the semi-professional Questor Theatre in Ealing, but also at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Young Vic in London, and produced by BBC Radio 3. The plays tended to disregard the influences of the renowned playwrights of this period (such as Beckett or Osborne). Dealing indirectly with the Holocaust, they focused on moral dilemmas. In The Dogs of Pavlov (1973), Abse dramatises the readiness of ordinary people to inflict pain on each other, by echoing the atrocities committed during the Shoah. He is famous chiefly for his poetry, but also for his autobiographical novels, such as Ash on a Young Man’s Sleeve (1954) and The Strange Case of Dr Simmonds and Dr Glas (2002), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Abse was appointed CBE in 2012. He died in 2014.


—. The Eccentric. London: Evans Brothers, 1961.

—. Fire in Heaven (also known as In the Cage). London: Hutchinson, 1964.

—. Three Questor Plays: In the Cage, House of Cowards, and Gone. London: Scorpion Press, 1967.

—. The Dogs of Pavlov. London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1973.

—. Pythagoras. London: Hutchinson, 1979.

—. The View from Row G. Three Plays: House of Cowards, The Dogs of Pavlov and Pythagoras. Bridgend: Seren Books, 1990.