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Roosevelt Islander: Unstoppable Maurice Edwards at 95

Updated 2 years ago David Stone

Who's the only man who served in World War II, went shopping in Paris with Gertrude Stein, opened on Broadway with Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the Roof, managed the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, got kissed by Marlene Dietrich and published three books to wide acclaim? He's Island House resident Maurice Edwards, still going strong at 95.

Christian Dietrich Grabbe: His Life and Works by Maurice Edwards
Christian Dietrich Grabbe: His Life and Works by Maurice Edwards

Asked to write an article about about "some guy living on Roosevelt Island" who used to manage the Brooklyn Philharmonic, I tracked Maurice Edwards down and arranged to meet him at his apartment in Island House. He shared the space with his wife of 15 years, Nina Cassian.

That was 2013, and Nina was the subject he most wanted to talk about.

An internationally known poet forced to flee communist held Romania in 1985, Maurice's beloved wife was in the final stages of cancer, and our meeting had to be kept short. But in the time we had, I discovered a pair of the most memorable artists I'm likely to meet in this lifetime.

Nina insisted on giving me an autographed copy of one of her books. (Unsuccessful poets like me are drawn to those so irresistible they rise to the top of this shrinking art form.)

Five years later, a new book by Maurice, Christian Dietrich Grabbe: His Life and His Works, brought us full circle.

When he signed a copy of his book for me, Maurice added a co-author... "the Spirit of Nina Cassian."

I'll be updating my article about Nina and Maurice in the next few days, but about this remarkable new book, I'll let the better known critics have their say.

"This is an unusual and welcome book."  Ritchie Robertson in The Modern Language Review.

"Maurice Edwards, whom we know and love as an actor, artistic director and producer, has introduced the English-speaking world to his (Grabbe's) amazing life and work." Eric Salzman.

"Maurice Edwards, a scholar of literature, music and drama, has embarked on a monumental excursion into the life and work of Christian Dietrich Grabbe, a little known German genius, madman and dramatist with a poison pen." Review in Eve's Magazine.

"Grabbe... has received his long overdue attention in Maurice Edwards's expert service as biographer, translator and critic." John Simon, literary, theater and film critic.

You can find Edwards's masterpiece on Amazon

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