History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/French Post-WWII

Main dramatists of the period after World War II (1939-1945) are Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) and Jean Genet (1910-1986), the former with "Les séquestrés d'Altona" (The condemned of Altona, more precisely The sequestered of Altona, 1959) and the latter with "Les bonnes" (The maids, 1947) and "Les nègres" (The blacks, 1958).

Mention should also be made of "Le maître de Santiago" (The master of Santiago, 1948) by Henry de Montherlant (1895-1972). The play "Les caves du Vatican" (The Vatican cellars, 1950) by André Gide (1869-1951) deserves notice as a close adaptation of the 1914 novel of the same title.

A bridge is drawn between existential drama and the French Theatre of the Absurd in Jacques Audiberti's (1899-1965) "Le mal court" (Evil runs, 1947), also showing some affinity with Georg Büchner's "Leonce and Lena" (1836) and Alfred de Musset's "Fantasio" (1834). This category also includes "L'invasion" (The invasion, 1950) by Arthur Adamov (1908-1970).

The French Theatre of the Absurd took over in the 50s, whose main proponents comprise Romanian-born Eugène Ionesco (1909-1994) with "La cantatrice chauve" (The bald soprano, 1948) and "Rhinocéros" (Rhinoceros, 1959), the Irish-born Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) with "En attendant Godot" (Waiting for Godot, 1953), "Fin de partie" (Endgame, 1957), and "Oh, les beaux jours!" (Happy days, 1960), and the Spanish-born Fernando Arrabal (1932-?) with "Le cimetière des voitures" (The automobile cemetery, 1959), "Guernica" (1959), and "Le grand cérémonial" (The grand ceremonial, 1963). As with the British Kitchen Sink School, the better plays seem to arise early in the dramatic careers.

In Post-absurdist theatre, there are several trends of note, including the return of history plays, though largely imagined in the case of "L'Entretien entre M. Descartes avec M. Pascal le jeune" (The dialogue between Mr Descartes and the young Mr Pascal, 1985) by Jean-Claude Brisville (1922-?), consisting of a dialogue between the two mathematicians and philosophers based on their meeting in 1647.

"The sequestered of Altona"Edit

Margit Carlqvist and Ernst-Hugo Järegård in "The sequestered of Altona", Gothenburg City Theatre, Sweden, 1961

"The sequestered of Altona". Time: 1940s-1950s. Place: Germany.

An industrialist learns he has only a few months left to live. He wishes his younger son, Werner, to take over his boat-construction business. He also requests that he, his wife, Johanna, and his sister, Leni, remain together in the 32-room family mansion, watching over his eldest son, Frantz, who has been kept sequestered in the house for thirteen years. Werner and Leni agree to do so, but Johanna wants to move elsewhere alone, so that the father must explain why the three should remain together after his death. Several years ago, in 1941, he received an offer from Goebbel, Nazi minister, to sell his field and organize a concentration camp for Jews, an offer he accepted. During the persecution of the Jews, Frantz was caught harboring a rabbi inside his father's mansion. The rabbi was killed before his face by SS officers and the father forced to send him away in the march towards Russia. Johanna suspects that her husband tipped off the SS. In 1946, American officers were invited at the mansion, where Leni was in the habit of enflaming their desires and then dashing them with insults. One day, an officer attempted to rape her. She was able to defend herself by hitting him on the head with a bottle. To protect her, Frantz took the blame, and, thanks to a deal with an American general, was allowed to go abroad, but instead stayed home in hiding. Johanna hates that story. She does not change her mind, offering an ultimatum to her husband: either to stay or follow her. Over the years, Frantz has refused even to see his father, only allowing Leni to enter his room. The father tries to convince Johanna to speak with Frantz, at least to let him know he is dying. Frantz is not the humanist he first appeared from his father's anecdotes. Wearing an officer's uniform in shreds, he keeps Adolf Hitler's picture in his room and peppers it with oyster shells. Since the end of the war, he considers the entire country overrun with weeds, passing the time either drunk or engaging in an incestuous relation with his sister. Johanna obtains Leni's secret code from her husband to see Frantz. She reveals to him that his father is dying and that she would prefer to see him either free or dead than living in this manner. Learning she succeeded in seeing Frantz, the father asks to see him, too, but she refuses to help him, thinking it might lead to their son's death. Werner thinks his father's purpose is to place Frantz, the eldest son as head of the business. Eventually, Johanna changes her mind and tells Frantz his father's wish to see him. She has difficulty in enticing back to a normal life. "I will abandon at once my life of illusions....when I love you more than my lies, when you love me despite my truth," he says. He specifies that his sequestration is due not by something he did, but by what he failed to do: passively permitting a fanatic in his troup of soldiers to torture some civilians. Neither Johanna nor Leni are able to convince Frantz to leave his room, though he accepts at last to see his father. Frantz has read in the newspapers of his father's financial successes, he who has always played the game of "whoever loses, wins". The father is surprised to learn that Frantz accepts to run the business. While reminiscing of the past, Frantz reminds him of the time they once drove a car together at great speed, both wishing to relive that experience. They go out together. Leni is certain that they will die together.

"The master of Santiago"Edit

"The master of Santiago". Time: 1519. Place: Avila, Spain.

"The master of Santiago" text at ?

Members of the Order of Santiago meet at the house of the master of Santiago, Don Alvero. Three of the members decide to try their fortunes in the new world. To Alvaro, the present times are rotten, compared to the famous times when Spain ousted the Mores from Spain at the battle of Granada, when he "contemplated God in his cloak of war". The supposed purpose of converting Indians in the new world is "impurity and excrement", because the passion of lucre, instead of sending Indians to heaven, sends Spaniards to hell. When they leave, Alavaro, rejoicing in solitude, asks himself: "O my soul, do you still exist? O my soul, at last you and me!" His friend, Don Bernal, knows of the love-match proposed between his son, Jacinto, and Alvaro's daughter, Mariana. Because of Jacinto's expensive way of living, Bernal suggests that he enrich himself with others in the new world, a plan the master immediately and irrevocably refuses. Alvaro is not interested in acquiring money, even for his daughter's sake, whom he best loves in the world. "You will not steal my poverty," he says to his friend. Alvaro harshly accuses his daughter of dishonesty, calling love "monkeyshine". "To be the father of a daughter is it to be a father?" he asks himself rhetorically. In an attempt to help his son and Mariana, Bernal asks the count of Soria to mislead Alvaro into thinking the king commands Alvaro's presence as an administrator in the new world, at which point Mariana rushes in and admits the deception. Alvaro is fed up with the world, deciding to live in St Barnaby's convent, where there is a convent for women, too, where Mariana can live. She accepts. He covers her with the white robe of the Order of Santiago, and, with the snow falling outside, father and daughter seem ready to live buried in mystical snow.

André Gide, 1893

"The Vatican cellars"Edit

"The Vatican cellars". Time: 1890s. Place: Italy.

"The Vatican cellars" text at ?

People are abused by the rumor that the pope is kept in prison in the Vatican cellars

Anthimus, an atheist and a cripple, is angry at his wife, Veronica, for offering votive candles to the Virgin Mary to improve his health. But to his surprise, alone in the dark, he hears the Virgin's voice and is cured, joyfully throwing away his crutches and converting himself to the Catholic faith. His wealthy brother-in-law, Julius, a writer, is requested by his dying father, a count, to visit a youth named Lafcadio, a bastard son of his whom yet he has never met. To obtain information on Lafcadio, Julius proposes him some work as a secretary. In his will, the father leaves Lafcadio a large sum of money provided he promises not to bother other members of the family with his mere presence, so that he need not take the job offered him by Julius. On his way to Julius' house, Lafcadio saves two children from a house on fire, to the admiration of Julius' daughter, Jennifer. Lafcadio's description of his life-history to Julius is interrupted by news of the count's death. Meanwhile, Julius' other brother-in-law, Amadeus, has heard rumors that Pope Leo XIII has been abducted and kept in a dungeon at San Angelo's fortress, annexed to the Vatican, while an imposter takes his place. The rumor is false, perpetrated by Protos, a school-chum of Lafcadio, to obtain large sums of money from gullible Catholics. When Amadeus arrives in Rome, Protos, disguised as a priest, befriends him and takes him to Naples to an associate in crime, Bardoletti, pretending to be a cardinal, who requests him to change a bond of 6,000 francs into ready cash. At the same time, Julius is also visiting Rome to request the pope a compensation for the loss of revenues suffered by Anthimus, no longer protected by freemasons he once counted on in his career. However, he is unsuccessful at this task. Amadeus reveals to him what he knows about the missing pope, but Julius finds it dificult to believe such a story. Nevertheless, he helps him retrieve the money from the bank and gives him a train ticket in his name. By coincidence, when Amadeus takes the train from Rome towards Naples, he encounters Lafcadio, who do not know each other. Bored with his life but willing to dare fate to the utmost, Lafcadio throws him out the door to his death. He takes with him Amadeus' train ticket but not the 6,000 francs. While meeting Julius in Rome, Lafcadio is surprised to learn that the murdered man is Julius' brother-in-law. To tease his half-brother, he leaves on the table Amadeus' train ticket. On discovering this, Julius becomes very worried he will be the unknown murderer's next victim. Unknown to Lafcadio, his murder was observed by Protos, who proposes to his old friend that they blackmail Julius. Instead, Lafcadio refuses and discloses his crime to Julius, overheard by Jennifer. The murder makes her love him all the more. Lafcadio concludes: "Together, we'll know how to save ourselves."

"Evil runs"Edit

"Evil runs". Time: 1940s. Place: Fictional country of Shortland.

Alarica, princess of Shortland, must marry for political reasons Perfect, king of Occident. A knock is heard, with a voice stating that the king has arrived. The princess and king confer, but her lieutenant discovers that Ferdinand is an impersonator and as the intruder leaves shoots him. Ferdinand is brought in alive. While Alarica and her governess discuss the case, a second knock is heard, stating once again that the king has arrived, whereby it is discovered that this king is genuine. The king finds the princess attractive, but the cardinal in Occident reveals that the marriage prospects between them are annulled, as it is more in their country's interest for the king to marry the Spanish king's daughter."We will marry Spain and make her pregnant," declares the cardinal. But in his absence, the king proposes marriage to her. They set off for Occident, but when the subject of what to do with Ferdinand arises, Alarica proposes that he share their bed. The king is stunned and no longer knows what will become of him. Alarica and Ferdinand sleep in the same bed, but find it difficult to agree. "All that you deserve is for me to let you wade among your ideas like a comb in soup..." he says. Meanwhile, the king of Courtlande, Celestincinc, arrives, demanding to know what a stranger is doing in his daughter's bedroom. She behaves more and more strangely to the point that Celestincin suspects his daughter has gone mad. "Evil runs. A ferret! A ferret! At all costs let it run," she says. Celestincinc orders Ferdinand's arrest. Alarica says that her life has only served so far to "mask the present tornado of my ferocity". Inspired by Alarica, Ferdinand proposes great improvements in the land of Courtelande, to the astonishment of the marshal, who find his plans "totally prodigious". Alarica proposes that the lieutenant and the marshal abandon fidelity towards her father and submit themselves entirely to her and to her husband as queen and king of Shortland. They agree. "Evil runs," Alaracia concludes.

"The invasion"Edit

"The invasion". Time: 1950s. Place: France.

Peter works hard in trying to decipher writings by the dead brother of his wife, Agnes. While he slowly makes way in assembling the texts, she types them up. They are helped by a friend, Tradel, but the two men do not agree on the best method of proceeding. Peter believes in obtaining the most accurate word-for-word version, while Tradel believes in obtaining an approximate version completed by their instinctive knowledge of what was meant. Because of this disagreement, Peter is working alone, though Tradel warns that they must hurry, because the dead friend's family is seeking legal means of obtaining the documents for their own use. Peter thinks they can do nothing. An unknown man shows up to buy the apartment next door. The stranger takes pity on sad-looking Agnes, almost totally ignored by her preoccupied husband. Unable to pursue, Peter decides to leave the papers for awhile and live inside a secluded room in their apartment, to be bothered by no one. "I will not have peace so long as things do not show a certain perspective," says he. Agnes and Tradel do not believe this to be a good idea. Peter's mother will bring him meals as usual, but he warns her never to speak with him. With Peter in his little place, the stranger loses no time in declaring his love to Agnes. They go off together, to the amusement of Peter's mother, who laughs and slaps her thigh at this. When Peter emerges, he is ready to assume an ordinary life. He tears the papers he spent so much time on and learns his wife has left him. He expresses understanding of her decision in view of their disorded life together, but his mother blames her for the disorder. He leaves the room. Tradel returns to say Agnes' family is about to take away the papers, but then discovers them all torn. Unexpectedly, Agnes also returns, but only temporarily, since her friend is sick. After brief exchanges, the mother pushes her out. When Tradel looks for Peter, he discovers him dead. "I will never forgive myself," he declares. The mother is stunned and does not move.

Jean Genet, 1983

"The maids"Edit

"The maids". Time: 1940s. Place: France.

As mistress of the house, Claire commands the servant, Solange, to dress her up in all her finery. She incites her to fury to the point that Solange strikes her and threatens worse until the alarm-clock rings and Claire cries out: "Let's hurry. Madam will come back." In their play-acting, Claire blames her sister for always being late, so that they never reach the moment of their mistress' murder. Despite frustrations inherent in their servile state, Claire admits their mistress loves them. "Yes," comments Solange sarcastically, "like the pink enamel of her latrine." To avenge themselves, Claire has written an anonymous letter to the police, accusing her mistress' lover of robbery, causing his arrest. Solange reveals she was once tempted to kill their mistress as she slept, but her courage failed her when she moved. "She will corrupt us with her softness," she warns. To their consternation, Claire learns from a telephone call that the man was set free on bail. Claire blames her sister all the more for failing to kill her. Now they may be well be denounced as false accusers and imprisoned. "I have enough of being the spider, the stem of the umbrella, the sordid and godless nun with no family," Claire says despondently. They whip up further accusations against their mistress but no no practical avqil. "Yet we can't kill her for so little," admits Solange. Then she suddenly changes her mind and suggests dissolving barbiturates in their mistress' lime-blossom tea. Their mistress enters, distressed about her lover's state, ready to follow him to a far-away prison. "I will have newer and more beautiful dresses," she decides. She gives Claire her silk dress and Solange her fur-coat. Then she notices the telephone off the hook. Solange blurts out that her lover called. She is led on to reveal that her mistress is to meet him at a restaurant. The mistress wants to join him at once and leaves before drinking her tea. "All the plots were useless. We are damned," concludes Claire. Solange suggests that they should escape, but Claire finds the suggestion impractical, being poor with nowhere to go. They curse their servile state. In despair, they resume play-acting, Solange this time in the mistress' role asking for her tea. But then Claire resumes the mistress' role and swallows the tea while Solange's hands cross themselves as if already handcuffed.

"The blacks"Edit

"The blacks". Time: 1950s. Place: White-colonized Africa.

A group of black people prepare to present on stage the murder of a white woman before a court composed of blacks thinly disguised as whites, including a queen, a governor, a judge, a missionary, and a servant. Archibald Absalon Wellington is the master of ceremonies, guiding the spirit of the presentation towards greater hatred of white colonization. Before a hearse, Archibald asks Village what happened that morning. He answers he strangled a white woman named Mary with his own hands. The queen grieves at this news. "Be confident, your majesty, God is white," the missionary consoles her. Some of the blacks are distracted from contributing to any worthwhile cause, whereby Archibald reminds them that they must merit the court's reprobation. Diouf, a vicar, dresses himself up as Mary, a victim of rape and murder, Felicity, a whore, plays Mary's mother, and Bobo plays a neighbor. While Mary speaks to her eventual rapist and murderer, her mother constantly cries out for "pralines and aspirin" and reminds her it is time for prayers. The neighbor reminds her that her eyes may be ruined if she continues to work in the dark. Mary plays the piano, an art approved of by the queen: "Even in adversity, in a debacle, our melodies sing out," she declares enthusiastically. In the play-acting, Mary is about to give birth. The neighbor as the midwife takes out from beneath her smock dolls representing the five members of the court. She is murdered and the court is in session for the condemnation of the murderer. The missionary considers she should be beatified, but the queen hesitates about that matter. "After all, she was sullied, defending herself to the last, I hope, but she may remind us of her shame," she considers. At last, the blacks rebel and the court must escape their fury. On their way, to ease fatigue, the missionary approves of alcoholic drinks. They get drunk despite the threatening atmosphere. "Dances occur only at night, none of which do not intend our deaths. Stop. It is a frightening country. Each brushwood conceals a missionary's tomb," warns the missionary. The judge succeeds in re-organizing the court in session, whereby the blacks begin to tremble, but Felicity rises and challenges the queen. Ville de Saint-Nazaire reveals that a traitor in their midst has been executed, but that a new leader of the rebellion is found. Though surrounded, the queen admonishes the members of the court. "Show those barbarians that we are great by our attention to discipline and, to white people looking on, that we are worthy of their tears," she admonishes them. One by one, the members of the court are executed.

"The bald soprano"Edit

"The bald soprano". Time: 1940s. Place: France.

"The bald soprano". Time: 1950s. Place: London, England.

While Mrs Smith prattles on domestic affairs, Mr Smith clicks his tongue. He reads in the newspaper a mention about Bobby Watson's death. Mrs Smith specifies that it is his wife, Bobbie Watson, she is now thinking about. The Smiths suggest that the Watson children, Bobby and Bobbie, may be taken care of by an uncle and aunt, Bobby and Bobbie Watson, respectively, so that the widow may remarry. "Has she anyone in mind?" asks Mrs Smith. "Yes, Bobby Watson's cousin," affirms Mr Smith. "Who? Bobby Watson?" queries his wife. "Which Bobby Watson are you talking about?" he queries back. "The son of old Bobby Watson, other uncle to the dead Bobby Watson," she answers. "No, not that one," he says. "Bobby Watson, son to the old Bobbie Watson, Bobby Watson's aunt." After settling that matter, their invited guests arrive, a man and a woman who do not know each other. While conversing, the two guests are astonished to discover the many things they in common, until realizing they are man and wife. The doorbell rings. Mrs Smith gets up to see who it is, but there is no one. The same thing happens twice more, until an angry Mr Smith gets up and sees a fireman at the door, who has been waiting there for 45 minutes. Interrogated on the subject of how can that be, the fireman reveals that he had seen no one when the bell had rung the first two times, but it was he who had rung the third time, then hid, as a joke. He recites experimental fables, such as "The dog and the bull": Another bull asked another dog: why did you not swallow your trunk?- Sorry, answered the dog, it's because I thought I was an elephant. Before leaving, he asks about the bald soprano. "She covers herself as usual," answers Mrs Smith. After the fireman leaves, the two couples have an increasing amount of difficulty in understanding each other, then run about confusedly.

"Rhinoceros"Edit

"Rhinoceros". Time: 1950s. Place: Paris, France.

Human beings are inexplicably transformed into this animal

John scolds his friend, Berenger, for his excessive drinking and disordered life, a conversation interrupted by a rhinoceros running in the streets. They discuss where the animal could possibly have come from, but each suggestion seems implausible. Berenger's fellow office worker, Daisy, comes over to talk about the same subject. Once again, the conversation is interrupted by a rhinoceros running in the streets. A housewife moans because the rhinoceros crushed her cat. They discuss whether it is the same rhinoceros or a different one. A grocer thinks it is the same, but John does not, explaining that the previous one had two horns, therefore an Asian one, whereas the other one had only one, and thus of African origin. Taken into consideration the speed with which they were running, Berenger casts doubt on whether his friend could reliably count the number of horns. "In addition, it was covered with dust," adds Berenger, who calls his friend pretentious and a pedant, at which John is offended. An old man questions which rhinoceros has one horn: the Asian or the African? John and Berenger quarrel about that subject, too. According to Daisy, both are wrong. "The Asian rhinoceros has one horn, the African one, two, and vice versa," pronounces the grocer. After John leaves angrily, Berenger has qualms about his own attitude, but also that of his friend. "The least objection makes him froth at the mouth," says Berenger. A logician declares that even if the first rhinoceros had two horns and the second only one, that is no conclusive evidence the two were different, because the first one might have lost one. In the office where Berenger works, there is difference in opinion concerning the existence of the rhinoceros. Botard considers them an invention, offending Berenger and Daisy. Another office worker, Dudard, in love with Daisy, believes her eyewitness account. "He does not even know how many he saw," says Botard of Berenger. After viewing a rhinoceros, another office worker, Mrs Beefsteak, rushes in panic. One of them damages the staircase in the office building. Botard continues to believe all this is just an illusion, but then sees one with his own eyes. Mrs Beefsteak recognizes one of them as her husband. Berenger sees that the animal has two horns, but is unsure whether it is an Asian or an African one. Meanwhile, the department head, Butterfly, encourages them back to work while calling for help. At last, firemen arrive to get them out of the building. After work, Berenger visits John's home to apologize, but is horrified on seeing his friend turn into a rhinoceros before his very eyes. Eventually, Butterfly and Dudard also turn into rhinoceros, as does Daisy, yielding to their growing numbers, especially after hearing them on the radio, despite her promise to stay on Berenger's side. Against all odds, Berenger remains firm never to become one.

Samuel Beckett, 1970

"Waiting for Godot"Edit

"Waiting for Godot". Time: 1950s. Place: France.

An anguished Lucky played by Jules Irving (1925-1970), San Francisco, 1957

Vladimir and Estragon, two vagabonds, wait for a man named Godot on a country road, who promised to be there, but has not yet arrived. The two friends attempt to amuse themselves while waiting. Time passes and Godot still does not show up. Why? Have they mistaken the agreed-on day? Are they at the right place? Estragon is hungry but it is Vladimir who takes out a carrot and eats most of it. "I'll never forget this carrot," he remarks amid his almost constant state of boredom. Pozzo and Lucky enter, the first a boss of some sort, the second his servant if not slave, tied to the first with a rope. This relation seems scandalous to Vladimir and Estragon, but they do nothing to interfere. Worse than this, Vladimir and Estragon begin to inflict the apparently mute Lucky with the same abominable treatment. But Lucky is not mute. He eventually bursts out with an unpunctuated monologue incoherent in many parts and leading to nothing, after which he leaves with Pozzo. A young boy appears, sent by Godot to say he will drop by tomorrow. Vladimir is under the impression of having once experienced this event, but the boy denies it. The next day, nothing has changed except a tree has grown some leaves. Similar vaudeville-style exchanges are repeated to no avail. Although Vladimir mentions their waiting at the same place on the previous day, Estragon does not remember it. Pozzo and Lucky enter and fall, but are not helped by either tramp, though Vladimir says it is necessary to do so and Estragon is willing to in exchange for money. Pozzo is now blind and Lucky mute, though the former does not remember when that misfortune occurred. They leave. The boy returns and leaves with the same message, but with no memory of the previous day. As the only one seeming to remember, Vladimir's existence seems all the more futile. The two friends decide to hang themselves on the tree. After that, they will have an erection. For this purpose, Estragon takes off his belt and, vaudeville-like, his pants fall down. The belt snaps off before they get a chance to try it out. They give up. They decide to go but do not move.

"Endgame"Edit

"Endgame". Time: 1950s. Place: France.

Endgame in chess when pawns increase in importance

Clov, unable to sit, is the servant of the blind Hamm, unable to stand. While yawning, Hamm wonders: "Is there misery loftier than mine?" He is frightened at the thought that perhaps he has not made Clov suffer enough, but is relieved to know he has. His father, Nagg, lives in a trash-heap and asks for his pap. "Accursed progenitor!" cries out Hamm. He commands Clov to give him a biscuit. Hamm despairs that nature has forgotten them, but Clov corrects him by saying there is no more nature. Nagg lifts up his lid and tries to kiss his wife, Nell, in the bin next to his, but is unable to. Nagg laughs at Hamm's comments, and is scolded for it by Nell. "Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that, but-" she remarks. Hamm decides he wants to be placed in dead center of the room. With great difficulty, Clov at last accedes to that desire. Hamm next asks his servant to look outside with a telescope, but the only thing visible is a grey landscape. In the midst of the ensuing conversation, Hamm has a frightening thought. "We're not beginning to mean something?" he wonders aloud. A crablouse is bothering Clov" Hamm commands him to kill it. "Humanity might start from there all over again," he warns. He asks for a catheter but before obtaining one, urinates on himself. He then asks Clov to set the correct positioning of an imploring black toy dog. Soon after, Nell dies, at which Nagg weeps. After asking Clov several times whether it is time for his pain-killer, Hamm discovers there is none. It is useless to go on any further. Clov goes away. After whistling for him with no response, Hamm throws down the whistle and puts a bloody handkerchief over his face.

"Happy days"Edit

"Happy days". Time: 1960s. Place: France.

Sketch of Winnie half-buried in her sandheap by an anonymous artist, 2011

Winnie is half-buried upright on a mound of earth. A bell of unspecific source is the signal to start her day, in which she takes out comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, handkerchief, lipstick, nail file, appetite stimulant, glasses, and revolver. After taking it out, she kisses the revolver. Her husband, Willie, lives in a cave behind the mound, reading newspapers and postcards and pouring a soothing solution on his penis, so that she hears but does not see him. Under a parasol to protect her from excessive sunlight, she goes about her orderly habits throughout the day, including singing a song at the same hour. As she chatters, Willie does not appear to be listening, so that he must be struck sometimes to get his attention. Music of unspecified origin sounds before Willie speaks a little, at which she rejoices. He defines the word "hog" for her. The parasol ignites from the excessive heat, but she remains optimistic that the day may yet end well. At the end of the day, before the closing bell sounds, she puts each item back inside the bag except the gun. Winnie is content with little. “This will have been another happy day," she concludes. On a subsequent day, started by the same wakening bell, she is now buried up to her neck and so can no longer manipulate any item, though still confident this will be another of her happy days. She has not heard Willie for quite a while but thinks he can still hear her, or if not, to her he remains there in any case. "Oh, no doubt you are dead, like the others, no doubt you have died, or gone away and left me, like the others, it doesn’t matter, you are there," she says. Willie shows up at last, heading towards her, or else towards the gun, but he falls from the mound. He nevertheless call out her name, at which she rejoices. "Win! Oh this is a happy day, this will have been another happy day! After all. So far," she concludes again.

Fernando Arrabal

"The automobile cemetery"Edit

"The automobile cemetery". Time: 1950s. Place: France.

People live inside automobiles in an abandoned field

An energetic Lasca encourages an exhausted Tiossido to jog around a junkyard, while an elegant-looking butler, Milos, is taking orders for next morning's breakfast to assorted people living inside old and discarded automobiles. On noticing the reluctance displayed by his wife, Dila, to kiss their customers, Lasca smacks her on each hand with a ruler. Dila next goes inside each car to offer sexual favors, at the end of which Emanou, born in a manger, son of a carpenter with a woman named Mary, expresses a desire to lie with her. "We will turn about, embracing, like two underwater squirrels," he proposes. She accepts. The next morning, Emanou announces that the police are out to arrest him for playing the trumpet to the poor. Incensed on seeing Dila with a customer, Milos grabs her by the hair and throws her down. On this day, Lasca and Tiossido's roles are reversed from the previous one, the latter being now the more energetic one. When Emanou's friend, Topé, learns there is a reward out for his arrest, he offers to betray him to Lasca and Tiossido with a kiss. Undisturbed, Emanou offers Topé and Dila almonds from a bag. "If ever the cops capture you, later, we'll eat almonds in memory of you," she says. Topé kisses him, whereby Lasca and Tiossido arrest him. After Tiossido wipes his hands, they take him out to be whipped. He is next seen on a bicycle with his arms stretched out, on which Dila wipes the sweat off his face before he is taken away. The next day begins as any other, with Milos and Dila at their chores.

"Guernica"Edit

"Guernica". Time: 1960s. Place: Paris, France.

Time: 1930s. Place: Guernica, Spain.

On her way to the bathroom, Lira is buried as a result of a bombardment under mounds of rubble, from which her husband, Fanchou, cannot extricate her. He seeks to encourage her, but a fall of stones hurts her arm, which bleeds profusely. Accompanied by a journalist, a writer surveys the damage throughout Guernica. "Add that I am preparing a novel and perhaps even a film on the civil war in Spain," he declares. They go out together. To help pass the time, Fanchou suggests he might tell her a story. "Do you want the one about the woman who was in the bathroom and who remained buried under mounds of rubble?" he asks. To amuse her further, he grimaces like a clown, but his wife is unable to see him. She asks whether the tree nearby is still intact; he answers it is. While seeking yet again to save her, Fanchou is pushed by an army officer, impeding his progress and then leaving without a word. Unable to do more, Fanchou gives her a child's balloon. A woman and a little girl pass by, the former pushing a wheelbarrow containing dynamite. The balloon bursts. Lira complains about her condition. The officer returns, only to laugh while eating a sandwich, then goes away again. Fanchou asks her why she never had lovers. "That would be chic," he says. "You never think of me," he adds. "When I take off your clothes in front of my friends, you always look disgruntled." When suggesting she would perhaps be comforted by the presence of a priest, Lira reminds him that they are atheists. "Who, us?" asks a surprised and frightened Fanchou. The woman with the girl passes by again, this time carrying on her back arms of various sort. Fanchou is progressively more frustrated at being unable to help out his wife. "It's your fault. Such a mania you have, reading in bathrooms!" he blurts out. The woman with the girl passes by a third time, pushing a cart containing old guns. Fanchou suggests Lira might write down her will. While attempting one last time to save her, he is buried underground himself, a victim of yet another bombardment. The woman returns, this time without the little girl, carrying a coffin. Two balloons rise heavenward. The officer tries to shoot them down, but is unable to, at which the voices of Fanchou and Lira, are heard above, laughing.

"The grand ceremonial"Edit

"The grand ceremonial". Time: 1960s. Place: France.

The modern Casonova collects such life-size dolls as these

A hump-backed Cavanosa meets in the park a stranger named Sil. Though Cavanosa appears rough and rude, she agrees to stay with him. Her boyfriend, kind and considerate, shows up to take her away, but she prefers to stay with Cavanosa, until the latter tells both to go away. Nevertheless, Sil returns with a whip. He becomes ruder, kicking her and trampling over her, then asks her to wait outside his house for a light signal, where she may help him move his mother's body whom he recently murdered, but his mother is not dead. She pleads with him not to have anything to do with women, who would only steal his money. He sits on her knee, then brings her a small coffin as a gift, containing a doll. She calls him monster, which he deprecates. She asks to see his knife and then requests him to strike her with it, but he cannot. They appear to be reconciled a little. She bites him on the mouth and reminisces. "Another time, when you did not want me to go out without you, you nailed your hand on the door leading outside, threatening to stay like that until my return," she reminds him. She notices legs beneath his bedcovers, which he explains as being one of his dolls he is in the habit of caressing. When the mother leaves, Sil knocks and enters. Cavanosa dresses her up as a Christ-like figure and she agrees to die. As did the mother, she also notices the legs beneath the bedcovers, not a doll but a dead woman dressed exactly as she is, whom she helps to carry behind a screen. Her boyfriend shows up again. To prove her story, she sets aside the screen, but the dead body has disappeared. Cavanosa grabs the boyfriend unexpectedly, ties him up, and threatens him, but at last lets him go. The mother returns and watches outside the window while the police take away a body, explained by Cavanosa as the one he killed the day before yesterday. "I told you not to leave her in the cellar," she reproaches him. Cavanosa wants Sil to go away, but she insists on staying until he agrees to turn her into her mother's slave. The next night, he meets another woman named Lys, with a similar disposition. He is rude to her but yet she wants to remain with him, retrieving for him a whip taken out from beneath her skirt. He decides to take a doll out from his car and go away with her.

"The dialogue between Mr Descartes and the young Mr Pascal"Edit

"The dialogue between Mr Descartes and the young Mr Pascal". Time: 1647. Place: Paris, France.

Portrait of René Descartes (1596-1650) from a drawing by Frans Hals (1580-1666)
Drawing of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

René Descartes meets Blaise Pascal, two mathematicians and philosophers with a particular interest in religion. Descartes mentions that so far in his life, knowing the dangers inherent in expressing opinions about religion, he has "advanced masked". Unlike Descartes and despite his achievements, Pascal is beginning to lose interest in science, because he is looking for certainties only religious faith can supply. Pascal is outraged at Descartes' faith in numbers. "Can a Christian reason thus?" he asks rhetorically, "Don't you see that reason will make God superfluous to you?" Descartes denies that. Fearing God and his swaying lack of faith, Pascal wishes to work only for his salvation, while Descartes is confident of that while at the same time working on scientific subjects. Pascal asks him to write a letter in support of a fellow Jansenist unjustly accused by Jesuits, the dominant movement of the time. Descartes refuses, for he has no wish to be involved in superfluous religious quarrels. Pascal is disappointed and accuses him of cowardice, which the other denies. Another subject of controversy is Madame de Sablé's decision of dancing the night of the same day she had received communion, which Descartes considers a trivial matter, to Pascal's astonishment. Pascal further alienates his fellow philosopher by declaring that he welcomes tribulations, for physical pains "unite me with Christ". Dismayed at Pascal's austerities, Descartes tells him of a man who had saved his life while being trapped under a horse and likely to freeze to death. That man, despite his charity and goodness, lost his position as an ecclesiastic because of Pascal's accusations of eccentric beliefs and is now a pauper: is this serving God? He concludes by opining that matters relating to the dangers of damnation are debatable and that no certainty is possible. Pascal does not agree. "The all I aspire to is beyond mathematics," he declares.

Last modified on 15 March 2014, at 12:56