The Invasion

The Invasion

By Arthur Adamov

Translated from the French by David Carter

Volume 7, Issue 2 (Fall 2018)

Popular throughout the francophone theatrical space, Adamov has exerted profound influence on the French stage, though his work suffers from a lack of exposure in the English-speaking world. Cited in Martin Esslin’s landmark, Theatre of the Absurd, Adamov’s works, though highly influential and recognized for their brilliance early on, have sustained an English-language silence excepting a few small plays translated decades ago.

When I first began translating The Invasion, the contemporaneous feel of the work caught me off guard. How could a play, written in the 1940s and later dismissed by the playwright in the 1960s, resonate so strongly in today’s world? While Adamov could never have anticipated (nor could many of us today!) our contemporary global political issues with the environment, immigration, refuge status and women’s rights, we find them bubbling up throughout the play. Never the direct focus of the work, within the play there lives a churning undergrowth of political discontent. It is important to remember that Adamov lived as a political refugee himself and directly witnessed the politics of Nazi Germany and Vichy France and the Armenian genocide.

Outside the political dimensions of the play, an almost meta-concern for any translator sits at the center of the work. The main character, Pierre, struggles with transcribing and preserving the writings of a (unknown?) writer and deceased friend. Throughout the work Pierre wonders and argues about the act of transcribing these writings: does he directly copy the writings, disregarding errors and preserving misspellings, or does he mine the work for the author’s intent and clean it up as he goes. Here we ask, do we value the writer or the reader and how do we faithfully display the genius of a work between languages, a concern squarely planted at the feet of any translator. In translating the script, I felt this tension, and attempted my best tightrope-walking with my choices. Highlighting these concerns of communication, the play focuses around themes of isolation and expression. There is a loneliness in this struggle to communicate correctly.

The piece, a mediation on artistic creation, the communication of ideas, and the power of language furthers the predominate concerns of the French Absurdist stage of the 1940s and 1950s and its fixation on existentialism and semiotics. The Invasion was first produced at the Studio Champs-Elysees in November 1950, directed by the acclaimed Jean Vilar, an early supporter of Arthur Adamov’s theatrical experimentation. Not only historically significant for its placement in and influence on the absurdist movement, the play remains a relevant force for today’s audiences.

 

Born in 1908 in Kislovodsk of the Russian Caucasus, Arthur Adamov moved to Paris, France with his family, spending his infancy and childhood in transit through Switzerland and occupied Germany. Beginning in 1922, Adamov remained in Paris—excepting his time as an internment camp prisoner in 1941—until his suicide in March of 1970.

Attracted to the power of languages and their abstraction of the human experience, Adamov began writing poetry and drama at an early age, influenced by symbolist writers and later surrealist dramatists. Once in Paris, he immediately attached himself to the Surrealist groups, editing and publishing the first edition of Discontinuité.

During World War II, Adamov was interned under the Vichy Regime. This internment radicalized his political ideals about language in political and personal spaces. Always attracted to the theatre, Adamov’s dramatic output during and after the War produced major successes and proved highly influential on writers such as Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, and Fernando Arrabal. Cited as a founder of the Theatre of the Absurd, his influence directly changed the course of French literature. Furthering his stage writing through publications on dramatic theory and criticism through the 1950s and 1960s, Adamov shifted his writing to directly engage in a political world.

At a time in French dramatic history when an abstracted fascination with existentialism and man’s ineffectual and nonsensical actions dominated the stage, Adamov broke from the mainstream and delved into a highly caustic political space, bringing alienation and Epic dramatic ideals to the French stage. The first dramatist to adopt absurdist tendencies in his work, he was also the first to abandon them.

Struggling with depression and alcoholism for much of his later life, Adamov committed suicide as a successful, though deeply impoverished writer. An eccentric and outsider, Adamov’s poetry and his plays enjoy continued success and sustained productions throughout the French speaking world.

David Carter is a dramaturg and theatre and visual artist interested in mining the connections between audience and art through a range of artistic mediums, from cross-cultural theatre and opera to site-specific sculptural landscapes. David holds an MFA in Dramaturgy and New Play Development from Columbia University, and has worked on productions in New York, Paris, Washington DC, and Santa Fe, including producing the second largest Fringe Festival in North America. As a teacher, David as taught courses on Shakespeare while in Paris to French language speakers, as well as brought French artists to America to speak on the significance of their work. Most recently, David has collaborated on the major Land Art project, Star Axis. David is currently engaged in translating the complete poetry and dramatic writings of Arthur Adamov, as well as an upcoming new translation and production of Molière’s The Miser, debuting in Santa Fe in March 2019.

 

The Invasion

Cast of Characters:

Pierre

Agnès

The Mother

The First Passerby

The Friend

Tradel

Madame Tradel

The Child

 

Act 1

Stage in dark

Man’s voice:  Agnès, Hey, do you hear me?

A Woman’s voice:  (Drowsy) What’s the matter?

Man’s voice:  I can’t find them. Where’d you put them? You promised never to touch them again.

The light gradually comes up. We see in the light a messy studio where Pierre—tall, lean, nervous—paces back and forth.

On the wooden floor, there are two different piles of paper arranged like decks of cards.

Hanging from the ceiling, a small lamp with a complicated system of pulleys.

Left, downstage, a sofa where Agnès is laying. At the head of the sofa, two folding chairs. Close by, a night stand also covered with papers.

Right, downstage, and turned three quarters to the left, a voluminous armchair upholstered in velvet: the armchair of the Mother.

Upstage to the left, a window. Close to the window, a table. On the table, a typewriter, and again papers. Upstage to the right, a chest of drawers: it is also covered in papers, and an overly full hat stand.

On almost the entire length of the walls, there are shelves of a library where some books are shelved with still, more piles of paper.

Here and there, chairs. On almost all the chairs, some papers, some laundry, some clothes.

Three doors: right, left, and upstage.

Agnès:  You must have put them under the bed. Look again, they must be there.

Pierre:  (Bending down) I can’t see a thing.

Agnès:  (Leaning on an elbow) Open up the curtains.

Pierre goes to the window clumsily attempting to open the curtains.

Agnès:  They’re caught in the sill. Pull the top. You’re tall, reach up, you can do it.

Pierre tries again to pull the curtains, but again without success.

Agnès:  Hold on.

Agnès throws off the covers, rises, putting on a robe. She is a young graceful woman, slightly pallid. She takes a chair and drags it to the window, climbs on top of it and pulls the curtain. Light shines in. Morning light, which will become brighter and brighter.

Agnès will sit on the sofa. Pierre stops himself before the laid-out piles of papers on the ground. He kneels down and shakes them out.

Pierre:  They’re not here. I did not put them on the floor. (He gets up) Ya’ know, it was the paper bearing the letter head of that hotel where you both lived. I forget the name now.

Pierre goes to the chest and searches through (still more) papers.

Agnès:  (She gets up, and, in a voice almost joyous) Oh yes, one day, you wanted to get a room but they had no rooms for you. So then we strolled down the boulevard, and the wind began to blow so strong that we just had to stop (Laughing) and then we had to stay there.

Pierre:  (He has gone to the night stand with some papers) Again, you are messing it up. You don’t get it, I cannot waste time, not even a second. (Agnès begins to sit down at the typewriter and types, slowly, jerkingly) I stayed up all night trying to figure out these pencil scratchings, but I couldn’t do it. (Pause) It would have been better if I did not follow a chronological order. But I had to begin with the oldest, most faded paper, otherwise it would have been much more difficult. Who knew that pencil fades so quickly? But if I could just find a word scribbled like it somewhere else in the work.

Agnès:  You are working too hard, you will go blind like this.

Pierre:  I would be less exhausted if you would help a little more.

Pierre sits on the sofa and works with the papers on the night stand.

Agnès:  But why did you take all the papers from me? You know full well that if we stick together, I can figure out all kinds of things. We will eventually manage. Nobody knew him the way we did. I was, after all, his sister, and you were his best friend. (Pause) I know sometimes I am wrong and make a mistake with a word. But I always find Jean. (Pause) What hurts the most are the pages where the pencil point breaks or his lines run off the page. It is in those tattered pages where I see him clearest!

Enter the Mother, a newspaper and an electric iron in her hand. She is a fifty-year-old woman, robust and determined looking. She goes directly to Pierre and kisses him.

Mother:  What, already working? Did you at least sleep? Surely you are not sleeping enough. (Goes towards Agnès) Take this. You could iron Pierre’s shirts…after you wash them. (Whispering) Agnès take care of him. You know his eyes are fragile. Working like this for two years, he risks losing his vision. (Mother moves to her armchair and opens the newspaper. Agnès types.) Incredible! This immigration thing has been dragging on for months and we still cannot find a solution. It’s always the same: no one is capable of taking an initiative. (Pause) Naturally, they take advantage of it, but if they honestly have no work wherever they’re from, why must they come here looking for it?

Agnès:  But who else would do the work that nobody wants to do? And at half the rate as everyone else.

Mother:  You don’t understand: they are spreading the sin of their laziness, whoever they are.

Pierre:  (He gets up and goes towards Agnès) I’ve found it!

Agnès:  What? The word you were looking for?

Pierre:  Better, the whole sentence! I was stuck on this one word trying to understand it, so I tried to see what was written around it; it was so illegible. But, suddenly an incredible clarity: first, the words on both the right and left of it. And then, the sentence came to me. (Pause) If only Tradel had had half of my patience…

Mother:  I admit that I advised you to entrust him with this. But since I have seen him work, I realize it was not such a good idea.

Pierre:  He is not thorough enough in his work. When he can’t decipher a given word, he just makes it up. As long as he catches the idea, he is satisfied. I can’t get him to understand that we don’t have the right to do that. (He goes to look for a book positioned on the chest) Basically he is satisfied with an approximate word; it’s due to his lack of conceptualizing a focused idea. (Opening the notebook) Listen, for example, what he “deemed” incoherent: two parts of a sentence that he just threw together. Fine, he joined them together with the word “for,” but it makes no sense. Oh, I fully understand the temptation but it’s dangerous. Because he lacks discipline: how do we know if such errors were originally written intentionally, accidentally…or even out of fear? Obviously, nothing can be proved. What if all this was caused by working himself too hard.

Mother:  You know Tradel does nothing on his own. Remember way back in school he would be lost as soon as either you or Jean were not there to help him…to listen to him. (Pause) But after all, it’s not all bad, just think of his personal attachment to the work.

Agnès:  He will definitely come here again today. I only hope that he does not stay all day like yesterday.

Pierre:  I wonder if it was wrong to give him one of the notebooks. They were easier to read, but they do have their own difficulties. If Jean could have instructed us on exactly what he would do…but in those last months we lost sight of him.

He becomes absorbed with his papers.

Mother:  I have never understood why, Agnès, who was always so close to her brother cannot make more sense of it to you.

Agnès types faster.

Pierre:  I thought so! It is not “importantly” but “impotently.” If only I had more time I could be more patient. (Pause) I have to stop, I cannot see anything anymore. Agnès, the light, would you?

Agnès rises, turns the light on and returns to her place. She removes the papers from the typewriter and places the carbon copies backwards. She gets upset, and frustratedly replaces the papers with difficulty in the correct order and restarts her work on the typewriter.

Enter the Friend, a large hand bag under her arm. She resembles a parakeet: tall, lean, and speaks with an affected tone. She wears a frilly dress and a feathered hat with a half-risen veil. Without a care for those working, she enters the stage.

Friend:  (To the Mother) I just came from the Comité. All our friends are asking for you. (Pause) I knew I would find you at Pierre’s house.

Mother:  How insightful of you!

Friend:  We decided to get together before noon and write up the protest letters. Now is the time to act if we want to stop them from taking the best jobs. If they get them, we will never be rid of these people.

Mother:  I do doubt the effectiveness of your protest.

Pierre:  But if I made one idiotic mistake, I can very well have made others elsewhere, everywhere!

Friend:  (Going towards Pierre) It seems like things are not going well today, Pierre? (She waits expectantly for a response, steps towards Agnès, then, changing her mind, goes towards Mother) I see Agnès has adapted to her new line of work.

Mother:  She has no other choice.

Agnès types faster.

Friend:  May I sit? I should start on this.

She sits, pulls a packet of paper out of her briefcase and writes on her lap.

Agnès:  (Approaching Pierre, paper in hand) There is a word I don’t understand. What are you trying to say here? You should try to write clearer.

Pierre:  Listen. I have asked you to stop deciphering. I am fully aware that it is beyond your abilities. So now, all you need to do is copy the pages that I have already figured out. You should be able to handle that all by yourself. The pages that you are currently typing are not finished, of course if they were I would not have this anxiety. Don’t tell me it is difficult to competently type. (Pause) You know full well that I must have several successive versions so I can read each manuscript with fresh eyes.

Pierre rises, placing the lamp on the floor and hangs it by a nail above the night table. He kneels down under the lamp and closely examines his papers.

Mother:  Tell me, Agnès, is it true that your brother never wrote to you?

Agnès:  No. We never left each other. Whenever he left the house, I followed along.

Friend:  His death must have been terrible for you.

Mother:  It’s a pity that his handwriting is so unfamiliar to you.

Agnès:  He hated writing. (Pierre raises his head) I know that better than anyone. (Pause) There were moments, at the end, where to just hold a pencil was torturous for him.

Pierre:  (Rising) And yet, he must have written from time to time. (Showing the papers which are strewn about everywhere) The proof!

Mother:  Agnès says that he wanted to destroy his papers.

Agnès:  (Rising) Exactly! He hated them. They reminded him of his suffering.

Pierre:  (Gets up and walks) In any case, he did not destroy them. (Agnès sits down again) It’s useless to bring this up again. (Stopping himself in front of Agnès) You can imagine that even before starting, I assumed this responsibility. I thought we resolved this issue (Enunciating his words) once and for all. Of course, he spoke of destroying his papers, and quite often enough. But it was during terrible moments when all seemed so pointless. But if he had never experienced such moments I wonder whether he would have ever written. As long as I am around, the papers will neither be published nor destroyed.

Friend:  Death poses cruel dilemmas.

Friend rises, puts on her gloves and takes some steps while readjusting her hat. Pierre leans on the chest and examines the papers that he has kept in his hand. Enter Tradel. He seems like a caricature of Pierre, of whom he copies certain manners. He speaks very fast and often right in the face of people. He is dressed rather poor. Pierre continues to work. Agnès types anew. The Friend looks at Tradel and again sits in her chair. She follows Tradel with her gaze, mocking him with her eyes.

Tradel:  So I was right. I saw it coming. The family has decided to take us to trial. They have begun the procedures.

Pierre:  They can do nothing against me.

Tradel:  But I’ve seen the lawyer. He told me. He is not at all so sure we are right.

Pierre:  We don’t have to worry about it until we know more. For now, do not stress about it.

Tradel:  All I know is that we must defend ourselves. What’s preventing them from coming and looking for the papers, today, tomorrow, I don’t know…And once they have taken them, they won’t know what to do with them. Will they go so far as destroying them…or sell them?

Agnès:  They will never sell them!

Mother:  Agnès is right. What parents would sell the cause of their child’s death?

Friend:  Assume nothing! They could use the money.

Tradel:  Something must be done, now.

Pierre:  Well, here it is, another day wasted. Like I could afford to be interrupted all the time. (Pause) I do not even dare to open my files anymore. I am constantly pulled away from a pile of work that still is nowhere near finished. (To Agnès) You know, I have found so many mistakes that I am deciding to begin again from start to finish.

Friend:  Work can be full of surprises!

Busily, she rearranges her papers.

Pierre:  (Appearing to leave, to Tradel) I will see the lawyer.

He is again absorbed into his papers.

Tradel:  (Approaching Pierre) Did you have a chance to look over the work that I did?

Pierre:  Hardly. I cannot talk about it now.

Tradel:  I need you to comb through it carefully. But first, I need to explain certain things about it. It is absolutely necessary…Our well…I am sure that we will agree on the essential. (Pierre goes to the door, Tradel follows) I’ll accompany you, we’ll talk on the way.

Pierre:  Excuse me, but I need to be alone.

He looks again at his papers.

Friend:  (Rising, to Mother) Should we go about our business as well?

Mother:  Yes, in a moment. (To Tradel) Tradel, why don’t we profit from Pierre’s absence and unravel the mysteries and difficulties of your work.

Tradel, at a loss looks at Pierre who goes towards the door, then to the Mother.

Agnès:  (To Pierre) Don’t come home too late.

Exit Pierre

Friend:  I have known this boy for…twenty years and he still manages to amaze me.

Agnès takes her work and exits by the door in the back. The Mother rises and begins looking at some clothes piled on the chair. Tradel stands motionless, arms dangling.

Mother:  (Bringing the clothes to Tradel who takes them) You can take these back. If they are not done to perfection, you report right back to me. This arrangement is still working for you, right?

Friend:  (She approaches Tradel and feels the cloth.) Oh Ravishing! Your wife is an excellent seamstress.

She sits close to the Mother. Tradel puts the clothes down.

Mother:  You will not have such a hard time selling them. Well, now that you have some free time since you’re out of work. (Pause) Assuming from what Pierre has told me of certain things which are not satisfactory.

Tradel:  What has he said?

Mother:  Oh, nothing big. Simply, he does not agree with your style of work. (The Friend raises her head) But don’t worry your little head over it. (Pause) You do not understand him, but you are not alone. His thoughts are so difficult, so deep…

Tradel:  But, why does he disagree with me?

Mother:  He suspects you of erasing away…or adding…or of inventing…I don’t know anything more…

Tradel:  He doesn’t want to understand that we will never finish this if we do not decide to recreate what is missing, that which escapes us. I have explained this to him a thousand times…

Mother:  Recreate?

Tradel:  Recreate, no, of course not recreate. But I have found passages absolutely impenetrable. I have been forced to…to fill in the gaps.

Mother:  I would never have guessed so many things were unclear to you, especially in the notes of your friend.

Tradel:  Obviously, for me, it is clear. But I don’t work just for me.

Mother:  True. What you want above all is to be published.

Friend:  If it would help, I know an editor. Only, these notes, they are very special, right?

Tradel:  I always wanted to fully compile the collected works of Jean. But doing it this way, it condemns them entirely to obscurity…

Mother:  If you desire to publish some of these pieces, I would advise you to speak about it with Pierre.

Tradel:  That is exactly what I wanted to do today. But you saw what happened. (Pause) Well, we have plenty of time to think about it…granting…we take immediate action…of this idea…(Pause) More importantly is what Pierre thinks of the work that I just finished.

Mother:  I don’t believe he will talk to you about it because for him it is…very painful to be at such odds with you…even on a point of detail.

Tradel:  Yes, my alleged errors. If only I knew where Pierre had put my notebook, I could show you one by one all those passages and then you would understand…

Mother:  (Designating the chair on which is positioned Tradel’s notebook) It is over there. (Tradel searches for the book with his eyes) On that chair.

Tradel quickly takes the notebook and returns towards the Mother, examining it.

Friend:  (Rising to the Mother) You coming, Blanche? They will die of impatience waiting for us!

She laughs, looks in the mirror and goes to the door on the right.

Mother:  Yes, we can go now.

She rises and brushes herself over. The Friend waits for her close to the door.

Tradel:  (Notebook in hand, he follows the Mother getting dressed to leave) I have not betrayed the text…I added nothing of my own…I have perhaps modified it, but it wasn’t arbitrary…I was guided by an infallible intuition…Okay and this intuition, it is utilized throughout with the most thorough logic…(Opening the notebook) here for example, I read “apparently” and at the side, without nothing “illusory.” If Jean had had the time to re-read this, he never would have allowed such a hole…

Mother continues to not pay attention to Tradel. Tradel stops abruptly, notebook in hand. The Friend laughs and pokes fun at Tradel with the Mother while pacing about waiting for the Mother to get ready. The Mother laughs in her turn. The two women prepare to leave. Enter, by the back door, Agnès, smartly dressed, holding her robe.

Mother:  (Turning her head towards Agnès) It is such a pity that you did not have the furniture delivered here yet. Believe me, this would all be better if you would finally move in.

The Friend laughs. Agnès looks desperate standing in the middle of the stage. Tradel continues to pace. The Friend turns politely towards the Mother to let her exit first.

Curtain.

 

Act 2

The same decor, but the room is now cluttered with various furniture thrown about: all in a disarray with one or two small tables, a coffee table, and some chairs. Some parts of a credenza, and on all the furniture: papers.

The armchair of the Mother is in the same place, at right, a little up stage.

Agnès takes a few steps, looks around. She seems to be looking for something.

The Mother is seated in her chair. Tradel, in an overcoat, paces back and forth. In a general manner, he stops, picks something up, and then begins pacing again.

Mother:  (Without raising her eyes from the newspaper) If it is the broom you are looking for, it’s behind you.

Agnès:  (Taking the broom) I never would have found it by myself.

She sweeps, at times the floor, the wall, and then the ceiling.

Mother:  (Positioning the newspaper on her knees) Of course, anxious, we just sit here idly. All this time and instead of facing the problem head on, we act as if we’re all asleep. Now that these foreigners have stolen all of our jobs, finally our men rouse themselves to discuss closing the border. But they know how ridiculous they are and nothing will happen.

Tradel:  (Approaching the Mother) Pierre’s ridiculous. He only comes to me when he needs me. So where is he? I am always waiting for him!

Mother:  We all wait for him. (Pause) You see, Pierre is a little disorganized at the moment. (Pause) To speak truthfully, I don’t know how he can support the weight of such work all alone.

Tradel:  If he’s alone, it’s his fault. And for that matter, if he wants me to help him redo all of this work starting from the beginning again he is going to do it my way by my rules.

Mother:  He who will force his conditions on Pierre has yet to be born. (Pause) Just between us, I don’t believe that he will let you work in the house again. Things have really changed over these two years. (Pause) Pierre is busy with…this article he found by accident in a newspaper. You published it, yes? And without telling anyone…

Tradel:  Pierre has long known my intentions. It is useless to continually revisit the past. What’s essential, is to complete the work right away.

Mother:  In any case, Pierre cannot count on Agnès anymore. Before writing to you, he had asked her to help him, and she refused.

Agnès:  (Stopping for an instant from sweeping) What could I have done? Since it seems that I am not as capable of typing on the typewriter!

Tradel:  I get it: after Agnès refused him then he resorted to me.

Mother:  Yes. (Pause) I suppose that he is willing to try again with you. So straighten up and do better this time around. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by, as there will not be another. (Agnès while sweeping, sweeps up a rubber ball.) Take this ball. It’s your little kid’s, Tradel, he must have left it here. (To Agnès) You really don’t sweep very often, do you Agnès.

Agnès, annoyed, positions the broom and goes to the window and opens it.

Noise of opening it. Enter the First Passerby in sport jacket, a briefcase in hand. Slick, He walks about confidently; one notices not only the ease by which he moves in his own body, but also that he enjoys his body and takes pleasure in looking well kept.

First:  Hello ladies. I’m looking to speak with Mr. Weisenhauer.

Tradel:  You are mistaken, this isn’t it.

First:  Well that’s surprising.

Mother:  The nerve, Mr. Weisenhauer is dead.

First:  Really? I must see him about his apartment.

The First Passerby notices Agnès standing at the window; he takes a step towards her.

Tradel:  (Approaching the Mother) You are not telling me everything. Don’t leave me in such suspense…

Mother:  (Disregarding Tradel, to the First Passerby) Are you looking to rent the apartment across the hall?

First:  (Serious) Is it big enough to move some desks in?

Mother:  Ah, so you run a successful company?

First:  (Mysteriously) Maybe…But tell me, did Weisenhauer die recently? Was it bad?

Agnès:  (Turning around) His wife let him die carelessly. And yet he loved her.

The First Passerby, very interested, takes a step towards Agnès. He does not stop looking into her eyes, so to speak, until the end of the act.

Mother:  Agnès, watch what you say. You speak too freely. (To the First Passerby) He was already dead.

Tradel:  (To Mother) But his letter, so, according to you, what is it that he has to tell me? (Searching his pocket) I know he wrote me, I didn’t dream it.

First:  This place works for me. But what’s with all the furniture laying about down the hall?

Tradel:  If you want to, go find out yourself.

Mother:  There’s nobody there. (To the First Passerby) Except maybe the nurse. I think she took over the apartment. But she went out for the newspaper. (Pause) Since it is raining, you should wait here for her. (Pause) Please, sit, you’re more than welcome.

She designates a chair for the First Passerby. The First Passerby sits down and straddles his chair which he will continually inch closer to Agnès who remains at the window. The Mother lets out a small self-satisfied snicker.

Tradel:  (To Mother) Well, did Pierre tell you anything specific? (The First Passerby rises, puts his hand on the back of his chair and begins to rock back and forth)

First:  (To Agnès) Such a beautiful view.

Agnès quickly closes the window and busies herself. She nervously looks for something. She eventually finds the electric iron, takes it and puts it on the table, but continues to look for something else. The First Passerby follows Agnès with his eyes. Following each of her movements, he turns on his heels. Tradel has taken the papers from the typewriter and examines them. The Mother dusts the arm of her chair. Tradel, after a moment of hesitation, abandons the papers and continues to walk around nervously.

Agnès, who has not found what she has been looking for, exits upstage. The First Passerby, who watches her leave, stands with his back to the audience.

Mother:  (She gets up and approaches the First Passerby) My, that’s a Medal, the Croix de Geurre.

First:  (Proud) No, it’s the Croix du Mérite.

Mother:  We need more men like you. (Pause) In your opinion,what do you think? Is our country ready to take charge, show the world what we are made of?

First:  I hope so.

Tradel:  (Stopping for a moment, furious) You know as well as I do that we will do nothing.

Agnès re-enters, a pair of pants on her arm. She plugs in a wire, then she kneels down, downstage left, to iron on the floor.

The First Passerby, after pivoting on his heels following her movements, takes a step towards her.

Mother turns around and sits on her armchair. Tradel stops and briefly observes what’s happening between Agnès and the First Passerby.

First:  (To Agnès) What? You don’t have an ironing board? This is no way to live! (Pause) You are not made for such…hardships.

Agnès:  (Ironing) I ask myself, for what am I made.

Agnès does something wrong. The wire becomes unplugged. The First Passerby goes to plug it in and returns to his place. Agnès grateful, nods her head and continues to iron.

First:  (To Agnès) Why are you so sad? Pretty as you are…you certainly have something weighing on you. Tell me what’s up! Something troubling your heart, something on your mind?

Agnès:  (Raising her head) I never talk about myself.

First:  But Why? A woman’s secrets are safe with me. (Pause) Who has made you sad?

Agnès:  (Ironing) It does not matter, the pain you have or the pain you give to others. It’s nothing, nobody is responsible for it. (Pause) I have no right to complain about Pierre.

First:  Pierre?

Agnès:  (In the same manner) My husband. I do not like to talk about him.

First:  Why?

Agnès:  (Same tone) Because nobody can judge him, me, least of all.

First:  Oh, oh! He’s that incredible, is he. Well I have the impression that you too are no ordinary girl.

He laughs.

Agnès:  (Same tone) I am an ordinary girl.

Tradel:  (Approaching the mother, in a low voice) She speaks about Pierre to the first person who comes along!

Mother:  Look Tradel, one can speak of Pierre however, whenever they want. Would it even bother him?

Sound of an elevator. Enter Pierre feverishly as he goes to kiss Mother, then Agnès, still on her knees, who does not turn around.

The First Passerby, intimidated, moves upstage left. He immediately finds the rubberball. He places it between his feet, and without dropping it, takes a few small steps, almost in place. Upstage, he observes everyone.

Pierre:  (To Tradel) I am grateful that you came, sir. (Tradel is startled at the ‘sir’) Don’t worry about the sir, from now on I am addressing everyone formally. (Pause) Except Agnès, of course.

He paces.

Mother:  Agnès, you have not done the introductions. (She signals to the First Passerby who leaves the ball and advances) Monsieur came to see Mr. Weisenhauer. Since there was no one there, we offered him our hospitality.

Pierre stops, the First Passerby goes to meet him. The two men shake hands.

First:  (To Pierre) Allow me to introduce myself…

He makes a gesture of digging in his pockets, but finds nothing. Pierre goes towards Tradel.

Pierre:  (To Tradel) Have you read my letter? I hope you are able to understand me. The work is done at last, we can consider it as if it were done…But I distrust my methods…We can properly sink into it right away…One becomes, when so confused…I can no longer see things clearly.

Tradel:  I understand…That is exactly that what brought me here two years ago, with the green notebook…I had to put it down and come to terms with the fact that I could not see anything anymore.

Pierre:  You finished? I knew this would come up again. (Changing his tone) You cannot understand the pain of questioning when you think all is finished and one can see, turning around, how little was actually achieved along the way.

Tradel:  But one doesn’t need to look back! I don’t know, I see things a lot simpler…

Agnès rises, takes some steps, then goes to sit down, and takes a book that she flips through distractedly. The First Passerby wants to follow her, but thinks again and stays in his place. Agnès drops her book on the sofa. The First Passerby advances towards her.

Pierre:  (To Tradel) Listen to me. I have arrived at the point where I arrange, for each questionable word, various hypotheses. Before, I did not want to choose. But now, it is necessary that I establish the correct word.

First:  (Taking a step towards Pierre) Excuse me. I am not fully aware of the situation. But my advice…

The Mother signals to the First Passerby to check himself. He slowly obeys and comes to position himself behind Agnès where he tries in vain to make himself noticeable. He takes the book off the sofa and glances through it. Observing throughout, Agnès, who does not notice him.

Pierre:  (To Tradel) Unfortunately, I myself am too familiar with all the varying possibilities. The right word is choked, it won’t come out. In working with you, I could become indifferent to each possible word. It is the only way for me to find the truth.

Tradel:  I know that working together, we can do this again.

Pierre:  Nothing is finished. We still have long work ahead of us. For once I will ask you to be patient.

Pierre goes to the chest and looks through the papers which are wrapped up. Tradel follows.

The First Passerby holds the book out to Agnès.

First:  (To Agnès) I have heard some things about this. It’s got some good reviews.

Agnès:  I have not read it.

The First Passerby slightly deflates then begins to pick at his fingernails. He begins to busy himself: adjust his clothes, his hat, etc.

Pierre takes a paper from the chest and comes to show it to Tradel.

Pierre:  Take this, there is a missing word between the others. You don’t even want to know the suffereing I have endured over this one. I’ve cried trying to figure the thing out. However, I can see four possibilities. (Pause) Is it ‘pleading’? is it ‘torturing’?…

Tradel:  (Leaning on the paper) Wait…it seems familiar. Of course…it’s the page stained with ink at the top. But I remember…there is no problem here. (Pause) If I had a little quiet, I could reconstruct all of the sentence, and even more, all of the conversations we had on this subject, it left such a strong impression on me…

Pierre:  Listen, I don’t want impressions, or approximations, or maybes. I need the right word.

Tradel:  But who would know it? Who would recognize it? And then, who would dare argue with us on the errors that nobody can prove, and nobody would even know that there are errors. What counts, before all else, is the reader, that’s the beauty.

Mother:  The reader? Do you always keep the reader in mind?

Pierre:  (Wearily) So, after all my effort, we begin again to argue on an already absolutely established point. We will not publish. At least not until there is here or elsewhere, a worthy man to receive this work for which I am responsible.

First:  (Leaning towards Agnès) Your husband is completely right. In life it is necessary to know what one wants.

Agnès rises, takes some steps, hesitates, then goes to the window. The First Passerby follows her, Pierre watches Agnès and the First Passerby.

Tradel:  (To Pierre, infuriated) Of course, you are full of responsibility. And this responsibility will be catastrophic if you let the chance pass by to find this man of whom you speak and who may not even exist…how do you even know? In any case, I will not follow you down this dead-end. (He takes a large step to the right door, then turning) Apparently, you agree with the family: like them you too are scared of yourself.

He exits

Mother:  Poor Tradel! This time, I think he went too far.

First:  (Approaching Pierre with a light step) Your friend is nervous.

Pierre:  (He hesitates, then going towards Agnès who remains at the window) Did you remember to go and buy paper?

Agnès:  No.

Pierre:  Do you even want to work with me anymore?

Agnès:  (She turns around, hesitates) No.

Pierre:  Well, it seems that I must go and look for the paper myself.

Mother:  Pierre, since you are going out, bring me back the newspaper, would you?

Pierre:  Fine.

Instead of leaving, he goes towards the chest.

Mother:  You must not leave without your coat at such a time.

The Mother goes to look for an overcoat hanging on the coat rack, returning towards Pierre, he holds it. He wants to throw it over his shoulders, but she forces him to put it on, while slightly pushing him to the door on the right. Agnès takes a step towards Pierre. The Mother turns her head towards Agnès.

Pierre:  (He puts his coat on at the door) Thanks.

He exits.

The Mother stays before the door. Agnès does not move.

First:  (He advances, with a pompus air, towards Agnès, juggling the ball) I am sorry for you. You didn’t tell me that your life was so complicated.

He puts his hand on Agnès’ shoulder, she disengages herself.

Agnès:  I will go and catch up with him.

Mother:  (Barring access to the door from Agnès) It is not a good idea. You are already in so much pain. You do not need to catch a cold on top of it all.

Agnès stays a minute immobile, then she does a half turn to go towards the door on the left and finds herself face to face with the First Passerby. The First Passerby begins to laugh. Mother laughs in her turn. Agnès is surrounded.

Curtain.

  

Act 3

The same decor, but the papers are no longer all over the furniture: they are arranged in piles on the chest.

Upstage left, Agnès is up on a stepladder, cleaning the window panes. The window is opened, the First Passerby is on the arms of the chair standing behind Agnès with his legs slightly apart, hands behind his back.

The Mother reads her newspaper, seated within her armchair, remaining in the same place, at right.

First:  (One foot now the top step of the stepladder, to Agnès) Leave it like that. (Low) Since the two of us will leave together…

Agnès turns around and stays a moment with her arms raised, the rag in her hand.

First:  You will see at my house, all your worries will be taken care of. And all of your time will be devoted to yourself…and to me.

He laughs.

Agnès:  I don’t understand, Pierre should have returned by now.

She leans on the window; the First Passerby descends from the stepladder.

Mother:  He set up camp down at the café to work. Per usual. (Pause) Soon they will start to get annoyed. I can just see him now, alone, occupying three tables.

She laughs.

First:  (Positioning a foot on the first step of the stepladder, low to Agnès) It’s fine if he doesn’t return. You wouldn’t even like it if he came back anyway. We don’t have time.

Agnès:  I don’t know what I want.

First:  Luckily, for me, I know it for you.

He raises his shoulders, descends the stepladder and takes some steps to the right.

Mother:  (Dropping the newspaper. To the First Passerby) Between us, how do you think this will play out?

First:  (Mysteriously) I can’t really say.

Mother:  Yet you should have an inside scoop.

First:  Hap…Of course.

Mother:  If you want my opinion, they will do absolutely nothing. When push comes to shove, no one will have the courage to use force even though it is the only solution to returning employment back to as it was before all this.

First:  Sure, sounds good to me!

The First Passerby turns his head towards Agnès who has not moved. She continues watching for Pierre from the window. The Mother, rises, taps the shoulder of the First Passerby and laughs indicating Agnès. The First Passerby shakes his head, laughs in his turn and with an air about him, goes resolutely towards the stepladder. He grabs Agnès by the waist and places her on the ground. The Mother sits down again, laughing.

Agnès:  (To the First Passerby) What do you want?

First:  I don’t want you to catch cold, that’s all…

The First Passerby leans on a step of the stepladder, with a conquering air and watches Agnès. Agnès takes some hesitating steps, then returns to the window and leans her forehead against the window. The First Passerby flexes his muscles.

Enter, at right, Tradel. He takes one or two steps then stops.

Mother:  Agnès, Tradel came to look for that old overcoat of Pierre’s. Remember, he set it aside for him.

First Passerby laughs.

Agnès:  (Turning around slightly) Which overcoat? I am a little out of it these days.

Mother:  (To Tradel) Honestly these last few days we have had other things on our mind.

Tradel has an annoyed look signifying: “Leave it, it is not about that.”

Tradel:  (Going towards the Mother) I came to warn Pierre. We must immediately arrange for the papers to be secure. Whatever they intend to do, we will not be able to stop them. They have the law on their side.

First:  (Placing a hand on Tradel’s shoulder, paternally) Do not worry over such things: it will all work out!

Tradel:  (Disengaging himself) Pierre’s not here?

Mother:  As you can see.

The First Passerby laughs.

Tradel:  (To Mother) I am sorry if I was a bit anxious the other day. But after all this time, Pierre knows me. I lose my temper quickly, but I calm down quickly…But realize I have not changed my opinion…

Mother:  You came too late. Oh, it’s not of importance. Thank god, he has succeeded in finishing his work, and I must say, to complete satisfaction.

Agnès:  You are always satisfied with everything!

Mother:  Yes! I am even satisfied before being so.

Tradel:  (Approaching Agnès) In any case, you seem to bear his absence rather well.

First:  (To Tradel) One does all that one can. (Pause) You are not satisfied?

He advances threateningly on Tradel.

Tradel:  (Cowering away) I did not expect to meet the new guy here.

The First Passerby newly advances on Tradel, but very quickly, turns around, raising his shoulders. Tradel paces back and forth.

Agnès:  (Turning around) What noise you all make!

She nervously takes a few steps. The First Passerby goes towards her.

Mother:  You should go take a walk for now, Agnès. The air would do you good. But don’t go out alone. The streets are full of soldiers. Unless you’re not afraid that…

The First Passerby laughs.

Noise of an elevator. Agnès and Tradel stop. Enter Pierre. He slowly walks, head lowered. Tradel and the First Passerby go to meet him. Agnès stays in her place and watches Pierre. The Mother does the same.

Tradel:  (Who has moved away from the First Passerby to Pierre) I apologize for the other day. I should not have been so angry. But you will see why, just let me explain.

First:  (Interrupting) Have you had a good walk M. Pierre?

Pierre, absent, continues to walk slowly. Tradel follows him. The First Passerby watches Agnès.

Agnès:  (She goes towards Pierre and mumbles) Your friend came to accompany you. He was scared that the news had frightened us. (Pause) He got ahold of some information…Apparently, though we don’t know yet, but the negotiations are moving along.

The First Passerby shakes Pierre’s hand who continues to walk without paying attention to him. He seems disengaged, putting his hands in his pockets. Agnès takes a step towards Pierre, then takes a step towards the First Passerby.

Tradel:  (Face to face with Pierre) The news that was given to me is not reassuring. This time, they seem prepared to act. (To Agnès) I am convinced that it is your father who has put all this into motion…you should have warned us.

Agnès:  You are fully aware that I never see him.

Pierre goes to take Agnès by the hand and guides her near the Mother who remains in her chair. Agnès lets him. Tradel follows Pierre. The First Passerby turns towards the Mother looking at her knowingly. She disregards him, he postures: hands on his hips, torso extended, etc.

Pierre:  (To Agnès and the Mother) I must speak with you both.

Tradel:  (To Pierre) Should I go outside?

Pierre:  (Continuing) I have made a very determined choice. I would like for you to understand the reasons which pushed me to it. But for the moment I am incapable of explaining. I need you to trust me. I am sure that soon all will be well. (Pause) I cannot continue to work under these conditions, it is crucial that I leave. That is to say…that I be alone for a certain time…it is necessary.

Agnès:  But in all senses of the word, you are alone. I don’t even feel like we live together.

The Mother takes Pierre’s hand and holds it to her breast.

Tradel:  So this is your way out. Fine. I hoped that there was another way.

The First Passerby, downstage, seems to listen attentively to the conversation.

Pierre:  (In a weary voice) I leave you to understand my difficult position. But, to return at each stage of my work, to expose you to each obstacle, all the problems that I have had to resolve, and that I still have to resolve even now. I have no more will. I can simply tell you this: all that I have drawn out from the shadows, called up to me, and recovered, all is so tiresomely boring. Flat. (He repeats the word ‘flat’ several times like a man who does not understand the sense of words, but who is hypnotized by their sounds, as if he has never heard a word.) Do we ever understand why a thing is suddenly discarded? Disposed? Suddenly rejected out of hand?

The Mother releases Pierre’s hand. One has to feel that Pierre’s words provoke a general terror.

Tradel:  But you are crazy! Now you are insulting Jean like a…critic.

Pierre:  I will not rest in peace as long as these things remain unfinished.

Tradel:  But these things have nothing to offer; they are as they are, that’s all. If you’re disappointed, it is because you no longer have faith in the work.

Pierre:  It was not so long ago that I could not even work till the end of a sentence; I torture myself during these hours with the simplest questions. (Detaching his words) Why does he say: ‘he appears’? who is this ‘he’, what does he want from me? Why does one say ‘on the ground’ rather than ‘at’ or ‘over’? I have lost too much time thinking of these things. (Pause) I don’t want the meaning of words, but their shape and movement. (Pause) No longer will I hunt them down. (Pause) I will wait within the silence, motionless, I will become very attentive. (Pause) I must leave at once.

Agnès:  But not right away.

Tradel:  You can’t leave now when the papers could be taken from us at any moment.

Mother:  Will you be absent for a long time?

Pierre:  Rest assured. I do not want to go far. I want only to spend some days there. (He points to the back door) In the crawl space.

Agnès:  But you cannot live there. You will suffocate.

Mother:  We can make the room more hospitable.

Tradel:  But where will you put the papers?

Pierre:  I will not take them. It is the only way for me not to fall back into desperation.

Tradel:  (He rushes towards Pierre and he grabs his arm) Stay! I beg you to stay! I feel, I am sure, that together, we will find a better solution.

Pierre listens to Tradel and begins to pace. Tradel stands stupefied in his place. Agnès goes in front of Pierre, as if to speak to him, but the First Passerby advances resolutely towards her. Pierre stops and watches Agnès and the First Passerby.

First:  (Low, to Agnès) Do you have anything to say to him?

Agnès:  (Making a half turn, in a whisper) No, it’s all been said.

Agnès goes to sit down again. Pierre follows her for a moment with his eyes. The First Passerby approaches Agnès. The Mother makes a sign to him to distance himself. He goes to the window, opens it and leans against it.

Pierre:  If anything has yet to be done, it can only be done in there.

Agnès rises. Pierre goes to kiss the Mother, then Agnès who is unresponsive. Pierre heads towards the back door.

Tradel:  (Barring the way to Pierre) You don’t know what you are doing!

Agnès:  (She goes to put her hands on the shoulders of Pierre who does not decide to exit) Do not go in there.

The First Passerby turns around and closes the window. Tradel has stayed in front of the door in the back.

Pierre:  (Cautiously escaping Agnès’ grasp) You can wait for me with peace of mind.

Agnès distances herself.

Mother:  I will arrange for heating in the room.

Pierre:  Not now, thank you. Later we will see.

Mother:  I will bring you your meals regularly.

Pierre:  I will ask of you never to speak to me. (He goes towards the chest and designates the papers) I am confiding this to you; I know that you will take care of them.

Mother:  Just you relax.

Tradel:  (He erupts) You know what you’re risking. I warn you. I can do nothing else to stop you. (He goes to the door) Oh well, let them take it. When they take it all, then you will realize what you truly lost!

He exits.

First:  (Advancing towards Pierre in a rolling gait) Finally we are rid of that moron!

Agnès:  (To Pierre) Can I come see you?

Pierre:  (Still near the chest, visibly indecisive) Later, we will see.

Agnès:  Fine.

Pierre goes briskly to the door upstage center and exits. Agnès at first remains in the same place, puts her hand to her face and remains thus.

The First Passerby questions the Mother. They fix eyes. The Mother responds to him with a gesture that signifies “You can go to her.” The First Passerby approaches Agnès.

First:  (Advancing towards Agnès his arms open) And me, who only dreams of you.

Agnès:  (Showing her face, heartbroken) You are nice.

Mother:  I did not want to oppose Pierre’s will. Nobody, for that matter, has the right to, or will.

The lights quickly go out. Total blackout. One hears the First Passerby murmur, then speaking in a whisper. During the last words, the voices become again definitively distinct.

Agnès:  No, not now. I can’t leave like this, without anything.

First:  We will find your things. I will help you.

Agnès:  I will never be able to write a letter in this darkness. I want to leave him at least a word.

First:  You could write to him tomorrow, relax.

Agnès:  I cannot leave without my notebook.

First:  Which notebook?

Agnès:  The notebook that Jean gave to me, I am never without it. That promise, at least, I want to keep.

First:  Remember you are mine Agnès.

A long silence.

Agnès:  The overcoat. You’re keeping it?

First:  Yes…and you with it.

Agnès:  (In one breath) Say, you will take me far from here. We will go to the edge of the Nive. I only went once with Pierre, the first time…it was hidden by fences along both coasts. But, nevertheless, I saw it. (Pause) It rained, we were soaked. (She laughs nervously) I ask myself, if there was always this work. (Pause) I would like so much to see it again, and at the same time, I am scared.

First:  Not of me, I hope.

Agnès:  No, with you I have never been scared. You lift me up in your arms. I will come to see this as a good thing. You are so big…

First:  And you so small!

Agnès:  Hold me in your arms.

The lights come back on. Bright lights. One sees the First Passerby, Agnès in his arms, heading towards the right door. Agnès holds the overcoat that she leaves trailing along the ground. The First Passerby is grabbing the two coats.

The Mother explodes into a coarse laugh while hitting her thighs.

Curtain.

 

Act 4

Same decor. But order and comfort reign: The furniture is in order, there are no more papers. Lots of rugs and drapes.

The Mother’s armchair is now front and centerstage, facing the house.

The typewriter is no longer in the same place and it is covered by a dustcover. On the chest, an electric stove with a kettle. At the side, a rolling table with a tray on it on which is arranged a tea service. At the front of the stage, a little left, a large mirror. The floor is completely covered in a rug.

The Mother is seated in her chair. She no longer has her newspaper. She is wearing a comfortable house robe. One must feel, as the curtain is rising, that she has become the mistress of the house.

The Friend, before the mirror, looks at herself complacently from head to toe. She holds her hat: she is visiting.

Mother:  (She gets up, goes to the chest and prepares the tea) It has been so long since I have been so happy.

Friend:  In any case, we have escaped it beautifully.

Mother:  I knew that all would end well. (She pours the tea in the cups) Only, I can’t imagine when all will return to normal.

Friend:  We have not had a moment of relaxation.

Mother:  (Pushing the rolling tea set upstage) I just wanted peace, no matter the price. (Pause) Get this, you won’t believe me, but yesterday, regarding the immigration problem, on which I am now an expert, it finally stopped, and what a relief, more than a relief, an expanse of joy.

The Mother takes the cup from the Friend, who is approaching her. The Friend sits, the cup in hand.

Mother:  (Sitting in her chair) Pierre returns today.

Friend:  It’s not possible! Really! (She rises) Let me kiss you!

She leans towards the Mother, kisses her, then sits down again.

Mother:  He announced it earlier, when I gave him his meal. He could appear at any moment.

Friend:  I ask myself how he could have held on after fifteen days under such conditions!

Mother:  Fifteen days! Really, it was only fifteen days. It seems to me so much longer.

Friend:  And Agnès? Have you any news?

Mother:  For all I know, her situation has become more and more precarious.

Friend:  How is that possible? I thought her friend successful?

Mother:  All is in order. We can only wait to see how it will unfold.

Friend:  He was such a beautiful boy, but oh so naughty! (She has a good laugh) Naturally, Pierre knows nothing?

Mother:  (Changing her tone) Not yet.

Enter upstage, Pierre, very weary, absentminded. His clothes are unkempt, he has a beard of fifteen days. He slowly takes a few steps, looking all around him. Visibly he looks for something.

Mother:  (Rising) I could not be happier, all is finished. Come so that I can kiss you.

Pierre goes to his Mother and kisses her mechanically.

Friend:  (Stretching out her neck) And me, no one kisses me anymore?

Pierre does not seem to notice the Friend, he paces.

Mother:  Promise me, from now on, to spare your strength.

Pierre:  (Stopping) Be quiet. I am no longer excited by either my research or my work.

Friend:  But…

The Mother signals her to be quiet.

Pierre:  You are content. I have fully decided to live like everyone. That is what I have understood there. (He points to the upstage door) I will understand nothing unless I find a way of leading a completely ordinary life.

Pierre looks one more time around him, takes a step towards the Mother, seems to want to speak with her, but changes his mind. The light begins to lower.

Mother:  Are you looking for your papers? I rearranged and placed them in the box. (She points out a voluminous object covered by a red drape) There, behind you; you only have to raise the drape. (To the Friend) Oh, the light, this electricity…

The Friend rises and goes to the right.

Pierre:  I see. You have put them in order.

Pierre goes to the chest, opens and stays before it. The Friend turns the switch.

Friend:  If at least we could see clearly!

The Friend goes to sit down.

Pierre still stays in front of the open chest, back to the audience. He kneels, sorting slowly through the papers from the box, looking at them for some minutes and placing them on the floor. He contemplates them, immobile, for at least a minute, then collecting several of them, he tears them, first very quickly, but soon very slowly. The debris of the papers accumulates. Pierre is as if drowning in the middle of them.

Since Pierre’s entrance, the Mother has not stopped watching him. The Friend, who is observing him from the side, briskly rises and goes anew to try to fix the light. The light is not going back to normal.

Friend:  Always this light, it’s insufferable.

Pierre:  (Interrupting himself from tearing papers for a moment, he whispers) Excuse me for not having understood you earlier.

Pierre takes the last papers that he has before him, he rises and tears them all while walking about as a sleepwalker. The torn papers are strewn about now over the greater part of the stage.

Friend:  (To the Mother) I would have so much wanted to stay. But, excuse me, you know? I am already very late.

She goes towards the right door.

Mother:  Of course, of course.

The Friend prepares to leave.

Pierre:  (Dropping himself into a chair, a little withdrawn, stage left) Where is Agnès? I want to see her.

The Friend stops in the doorway, then positions herself close to the window where she observes Pierre.

Mother:  (She rises and stands, her hand positioned on the back of her chair) Pierre, it is time that you heard the truth, Agnès is gone.

Friend:  (Raising her voice) With the first person to come along!

Pierre:  What do you mean, left? You mean to say that she went out?

Mother:  No. She is gone, right after your departure.

Pierre:  Right away!

Mother:  (Laughing) There have been some troubles. I suppose that she profited by the occasion.

Pierre makes an effort to rise, but stays seated.

Pierre:  She could not do it anymore, of course. Where could she have drawn the strength to support such a disordered life?

Mother:  (Going to Pierre) But the trouble, it was her and her alone who was responsible for it. It was her who intruded on our life.

Pierre:  She left too late, or too early, if she would have had a little more patience, we could have started anew.

Mother:  Oh well, this is better. Your sensitivity will support you in your loneliness. And then…you will restart your work.

Pierre rises and heads towards the upstage door.

Friend:  (To Pierre) Have you forgotten something in there?

Pierre:  Yes.

Pierre exits. The Mother goes slowly to sit down again in her chair. Pause

Friend:  (To Mother) You always had been too lenient on her.

The Friend take a few steps. The Mother does not move. The light lowers again. It is now rather somber. Suddenly a small noise. Tradel appears on the doorstep. A suitcase in hand. The Friend is immediately amused again. She will not stop turning and laughing around Tradel.

Tradel:  Nobody came?

The Mother makes an evasive movement. Tradel makes a gesture towards offstage as if to invite someone to enter.

Enter Mme Tradel, a young woman very thin and very pale, followed by the Child, a boy of seven years and a dull disposition. They are both poorly dressed and carry under each of their arms, a canvas bag.

Tradel:  (Very quickly) They could arrive at any minute. Don’t you understand? I told them to come. Yes, it’s really happening, but I will not be here, and they will find that we are not interested anymore. (Pause) What have I done? All this for a moment of vengeance. (Pause) Where is Pierre? Where are the papers?

Mother:  Look under your feet. You are walking on them.

Tradel bends over, feverishly collecting the paper debris, seeing others further off and others even further away, panicking, he runs to get them all, and almost ends up on all fours.

The Friend bursts out laughing. Mme Tradel, stationary, watches Tradel. The Child sits on the ground.

Mother:  You’ve come five minutes too late. Pierre just tore them.

Tradel and Mme Tradel collect the papers and place them in the suitcase and bags. They position their bags on the chair at left, the other bags and the suitcase at the chair’s feet.

Friend:  (To the Mother) You are letting them do this?

The Mother makes a gesture signaling “This is ridiculous.”

Tradel:  (Holding Mme Tradel’s bag) Go head. I’ll catch up to you.

Mme Tradel:  (Taking back the bag) But if I meet them, what would I do? I’d rather wait for you.

Sound of the elevator. Tradel grabs the drape which covered the case were the papers were and throws it on the suitcase and the bags. The chair disappears under the drape. The lights come back.

Friend:  Finally.

She goes to sit close to the Mother.

Agnès appears on the doorstep of the stage right door. She is dressed in her overcoat. Mme Tradel takes a step towards Agnès, then stops.

Mother:  (Turning her head towards Agnès) But come in, Agnès.

Agnès:  (She advances timidly, looking around her, as if scared) Nothing has changed. (Pause) Yet, one could say, that it does seem clearer.

Agnès takes some steps upstage, the Mother rises briskly, but Agnès changes direction, the Mother sits down again. Tradel watches the Mother’s movements. He paces.

Agnès:  (Walking at random with hesitating steps) I don’t see the typewriter. (To Mother) I apologize for speaking so openly but I am so accustomed to seeing it there. (She looks where the typewriter once was) Otherwise…I only came to rent it from you…I have tried to rent it from different offices but…

Mother:  I know, you cannot find them anywhere.

Agnès:  (Mumbling) Yes…we are in such a predicament that I promised myself…Pierre uses it a lot, I know. But we were not going to keep it for a long time. Just a few days…

Friend:  We wish to see you no more.

She rises and goes to look at herself in the mirror

Mme Tradel:  (Going to kiss Agnès) I have been thinking of you ever since your departure.

Mother:  (To Agnès) Actually, Pierre spoke to me of you.

Agnès:  How is he doing?

The Friend laughs. Mme Tradel distances herself. Agnès paces.

Mother:  He asked of you. (Agnès is startled) But without much insisting. (Agnès wants to speak) To tell the truth, the typewriter is not in good shape. It will have to be repaired. I believe that it did not cost you much and that you could procure another one.

Agnès:  (Mumbling) I thank you.

Friend:  (Still in front of the mirror, turns around) Your friend still has his position?

Agnès:  (To the Mother) I wanted to ask another thing of Pierre. Do you think that he will return soon? I could wait. I have a little time.

Mother:  (Rising) You know very well that Pierre never tells anybody of his comings and goings. (She takes a steps towards Agnès.) You risk waiting for nothing, and since you are pressed…

She takes another step towards Agnès, who does not move.

Mme Tradel:  (To Agnès) Promise me you’ll come see us.

Agnès:  (Absently) I will come.

Agnès takes a step towards the stageright door. The Mother, still standing, does not move. The Friend approaches Agnès.

Friend:  Do you still have some time?

Agnès:  Oh no! I need to leave. I have to be returning…visit from the doctor…He has fallen ill. I administer the needles…

Friend:  What, is your friend suffering? Such a strong man…

Agnès:  He fell ill suddenly. There were no warnings.

Friend:  But that’s terrible! Who takes care of his business?

Agnès:  Nobody for the moment. I am not capable of doing it myself. I have never been able to learn accounting. The figures, for me, they are a mystery…

Mother:  (She walks up to Agnès and pushes her towards the stage right door) You have always been a quick learner.

The Mother takes Agnès by the arms and pushes her outside, slamming the door behind her. The Friend chuckles.

Mme Tradel:  (In a whisper) Poor Agnès!

The Friend, laughing, pats the shoulders of the Mother. The Mother brushes herself off and painfully sits down into her armchair. She sits and positions her hands on the arms.

The Child abandons his game. He has lifted a corner of the curtain which covered the chair and the bags. He opens the bag and places on the ground all around him some of the paper debris. Tradel continues to pace back and forth.

Tradel:  (Briskly stopping, to the Mother) You lied! (Pointing to the upstage door) Pierre is there, I know it.

Mother:  Yes, he is there.

Tradel, who has hastily gone towards the upstage door, exits. The Mother does not move. Mme Tradel takes a step as if to follow Tradel, but stops. The Friend glues her ear to the door. The Child continues to empty the bags at the feet of the chair and scatters the papers around him. Nobody watches him.

Tradel:  (He reappears at the door, knocking into the Friend) Pierre…Pierre is dead. I will never forgive myself!

Mme Tradel holds her face between her hands. The Friend stops, immobile, her mouth is open: we see her profile. The Mother turns her head slowly leaning against the back of her chair: she keeps her hands positioned on the arms. The Child continues to play with the papers. Tradel, after standing still a moment, hurriedly goes to the stage right door and exits. Mme Tradel follows him with the Child, who at first resist a little, then gives in. He has had some time to gather some bits of paper which he carries. The Friend bustles around the Mother.

Friend:  (Wrapping her arms around the shoulders of the Mother, in a voice more false than ever) I know how it feels.

Curtain

The End.

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