- from Vlad Dracula: The Impaler by Marin Sorescu; p. 50-7:
Night in the Prince’s Palace
VLAD: Yes, that really was a comet. We’ve got problems with the sky as well. [After a moment] Have we any astronomers?
PAPUC: Yes, we have.
VLAD: You don’t seem very sure?
PAPUC: We have, but they’re not very efficient. [Secretively] Not very productive.
VLAD: Have your astronomers discovered any new stars?
PAPUC: Not one.
VLAD: Then what do they do all day long?
PAPUC: They sit around idle all day, saying there’s nothing they can see in daylight. But at night . . .
VLAD: At night?
PAPUC: They doze, feel bored, make pipes, create prayers to St. Anthony . . . and gossip. You can’t imagine what gossips they are, these scientists of the sky. I had to force one of them to climb down from the platform . . .
VLAD: From what?
PAPUC: A platform. Up a tree . . . that’s where they work.
VLAD: You mean where they sit.
PAPUC: Well, in a manner of speaking they ‘work’. There is a platform in a tree and they climb a ladder and stare at the sky. I’ve often warned them that I’ll take the ladder away if they keep being late.
VLAD: How many of them are there?
PAPUC: Fifteen. Well, now there are only fourteen because I made one climb down. He said it was no good without any women whether in the sky, on earth or in between . . .
VLAD: Who’s in charge?
PAPUC: A man called Dragavei. A beefy fellow. Like an oak! A good man . . . big, strong . . . That’s what makes me wonder why on earth we need such well-built astronomers?! When it comes to fighting a battle, it’s only the feeble ones that . . .
VLAD: Send him here. I hope he is up the tree.
PAPUC: Yes, they’re all there. All at their observation post. [Goes out but quickly returns] I’ve given the orders.
VLAD: [Pacing the room] You say the Turks are already on the way?
PAPUC: Not at the moment, but I’m informed they’re considering it . . .
VLAD: Are the men who informed you reliable?
PAPUC: The cream. They spot everything.
VLAD: What’s happening about Poienari?
PAPUC: What, the Citadel?
PAPUC: I have asked. They said they’d start work after St. Ilie’s day.
VLAD: Why after . . . ? It’s May now!
PAPUC: Who knows? That’s what they said.
VLAD: Tomorrow morning we’ll go to church. There is a service and then we’ll all dash to Poienari and gather up all the soldiers. We’ll dig new ditches, make bricks, carry stones. We’ll set them in a line on the hill and pass them hand to hand.
PAPUC: But tomorrow’s Easter. The people go to church.
VLAD: Fine . . . That means they’ll be in one spot. We’ll find them there and take them with us to build up the citadel.
PAPUC: Surely we could start the day after tomorrow.
VLAD: Too late.
PAPUC: The villagers will be in their Sunday best!
VLAD: What is more sacred than building a citadel on Easter Day; to knead clay for bricks and work until your clothes turn to rags. That’s what a feast day means. Do you know what a citadel really means, Papuc?
Enter the astronomer DRAGAVEI:
DRAGAVEI bows to the Prince
VLAD: Are you the astronomer?
DRAGAVEI: Yes. I am astrologer Dragavei . . .
VLAD: Your eyes are almost closed. Are you tired?
DRAGAVEI: Don’t worry about my eyes. In our profession they close themselves.
VLAD: Did you see the phenomenon?
DRAGAVEI: What phenomenon?
PAPUC: [Helping him out] A star with a tail. A comet appeared in the sky just now . . .
DRAGAVEI: Oh that. Yes, of course I saw it.
VLAD: What was it like?
DRAGAVEI: Well it had a tail . . . that long.
VLAD: What do you mean?
DRAGAVEI: That long. [Gestures with his hands]
VLAD: Was it blue, green, grey? Did it leave a trail behind, of iron filings, sulphur or lead? What was it like?
DRAGAVEI: [Disconcerted] To tell you the truth, I . . . I didn’t see it for myself. I happened to be looking in the other direction.
VLAD: [Clapping his hands in surprise] Well, well! Did you hear that, Papuc? He was looking in the other direction! There’s a comet in the sky once every hundred years and our astronomers are looking in the opposite direction. At some woman no doubt!
DRAGAVEI: You see . . . we have divided the sky into sections. Each is delegated to watch that particular part. Everything is then observed and duly noted down. Every small detail. [Proudly] No comet crossed my section.
VLAD: Then whose section did it cross?
DRAGAVEI: [Sadly] It was Mierlusca’s.
VLAD: And what did Mierlusca report to you, his boss?
DRAGAVEI: Nothing. He was dismissed. [Motions reproachfully to Papuc] So as he was no longer looking at the sky, his section wasn’t covered . . . and at that very moment the phenomenon occurred.
VLAD: [Laughing] What do you know? No one noticed it! Well, as it happens, we did notice it, so that the comet will not be able to boast it passed over Wallachia without anyone seeing it. Listen, when such things are due to occur why don’t you inform people a few days in advance? That’s why I summoned you here.
DRAGAVEI: But how could we let you know? Such things are the secrets of the universe. Nobody knows. Nobody can learn such things.
VLAD: How is it then that others manage to learn at least one week in advance?
DRAGAVEI: [Laughing] Others? You must mean a week later!
VLAD: No. In advance. [Seriously] Why don’t you work like scientists?
DRAGAVEI: [Determined] We haven’t any reels. We’ve asked time and time again. They’ve promised, we’ve asked, they’ve promised . . . and so far . . . nothing!
PAPUC: [Guiltily] It is our fault. We’ll see to it they get what they need.
DRAGAVEI: [Plucking up courage] Now if only we had reels, we could save our eyesight by peering through the holes.
VLAD: Because you failed to see the comet, for the time being we’ll just cut off that tail between your legs . . . !
DRAGAVEI: [Falling to his knees] Your Highness!
PAPUC: Shall we geld him as well?
DRAGAVEI: No, don’t cripple me. I’ve asked repeatedly to be sent to the army. I swear to God I’ve always wanted to fight for Your Highness! They forced me to climb that platform. I’d rather dance with a dead Turk between my teeth than . . .
PAPUC: He is very brave. He did once dance with a dead Turk between his teeth.
VLAD: Why did he leave the army?
PAPUC: You know . . . his father . . . a father’s love . . . he begged us to . . .
VLAD: [In kinder tones] Astronomer! You despicable parasite and layabout.
DRAGAVEI: [Rises in a dignified manner] My name is Dragavei.
VLAD: From now on your name’s Layabout.
DRAGAVEI: [On his knees] Don’t give me such a name.
VLAD: So you don’t want me for a Godfather and to christen you.
DRAGAVEI: [Rising] Oh well . . . that’s different. You can even give the bride away!
VLAD: In this country it’s me who christens people and cuts . . . umbilical cords . . .
DRAGAVEI: Well, that’s different. My name is Layabout! It suits! But please, I don’t want to be an astronomer anymore. Even if you didn’t punish me and I went on doing the same work, as soon as the country started to . . .
VLAD: [Tapping him on the shoulder] Take your men, Mierlusca too and go to the Danube. Make them climb the trees and leave the sky to itself for a while. Watch the earth instead, look at the ground beyond the waters of the Danube. Tell them to report each day what they’ve seen. Then mount your horses and return full speed to a place called Poienari and take over the Citadel.
DRAGAVEI: I know the place but it’s in ruins.
VLAD: My orders are to take charge of the Citadel.
DRAGAVEI: You want us to make it a stronghold. All right we will. And then . . .
VLAD: We’ll defend it.
DRAGAVEI: Against whom?
VLAD: Don’t worry. We’ll find someone. Now go.
DRAGAVEI: God be praised.
VLAD: What for?
DRAGAVEI: For the phenomenon . . .
Bows and starts to go
VLAD: What’s your name?
DRAGAVEI: I’m Private Layabout. From now on, I’m Private Layabout. [He exits]
VLAD: He seems a decent enough man. And he made me laugh.
PAPUC: Please, Your Highness, don’t tell his father. I promised him. I promised. He’s old and wants his son protected.
VLAD: How old is the old fellow?
PAPUC: About eighty. He’s a sort of uncle of mine.
VLAD: All right. We’ll impale him tomorrow, but I’ll keep your promise. I wouldn’t tell him for the world. [Papuc is silent] Tonight we must also send an envoy to Matthew, King of Hungary. Our kinsmen and friend! And also one to Suceava. Have we any reliable people?
PAPUC: You’ve put the fear of God into all of them. I don’t know whether or not they can be trusted. Can we make them love us if we’re always putting the fear of God in them?
VLAD: It’s possible.
PAPUC: Then we do have reliable people. Stephen of Moldavia seems pretty safe on his throne.
VLAD: Has he already forgotten that we helped him mount that throne?
PAPUC: No, not at the moment. He keeps sending us tokens of friendship.
VLAD: A good thing . . . friends. Inside the country and abroad. Besides, Stephen and I have always thought alike ever since we were children playing at war. How time flies! And yet thoughts remain the same.
TENEA: In this country there’s no shame in hanging anyone. We’re accountable to no one. Now why is that?
VLAD: I fight for absolute justice. While man, by his very nature, can never be just. He is begotten in sin.
TENEA: Greenish leaf of furze and heather.
Times were bad and they’re no better.
Do you know that rhyme?
VLAD: [Laughing It might be that some ill-wishers of mine wrote it for me. I knew I’d never become popular, for man’s used to having good things forced on him. Yet when you try to do him good by force he says . . .
TENEA: . . . that you forced him.
VLAD: That’s right! He can’t see the good. He only notices the force. Yes, that’s it.
TENEA: [Hands him a sheet of paper] Here are the pretenders. Those who would steal thrones.
VLAD: [Annoyed] Why is it always late at night that you show me those who’d take the throne from me?
TENEA: Those were your orders! The black list . . . at midnight.
VLAD: [Glancing at it] Look. Thirteen again. This time last year there were only eleven.
TENEA: It fluctuates.
VLAD: [Looking down the list in amazement] Gheorge Papuc? On this list?
TENEA: That’s what came out of the latest denunciations. Of course, there’s no proof yet, that’s why I’ve written PAPUC in large letters and Gheorge in small ones.
VLAD: [Tears up the paper] Get out of my sight. Villain! [Exit TENEA]
VLAD: I’m tired of all this.
PAPUC: Did Your Highness call?
VLAD: [Starting up] No, nothing . . . except . . . to say I’m tired of everything. Today, I walked about disguised as a tradesman.
PAPUC: Nobody could have recognised you, but you were lucky nothing happened.
VLAD: Those beggars demanding alms have left me covered in scratches. I tossed them coins and the whole town jostled and pushed each other to get at them. They’re all after something for nothing. There’s not one who wants to do an honest day’s work. Why are there so many beggars?
PAPUC: Epidemics . . . battles . . .
VLAD: By the end they’d stolen my purse.
PAPUC: [Laughing] That’s what I really call slight of hand.
VLAD: It was a keepsake from Mother! Go and get it back for me. [Indignantly] Dead dogs on the road side and it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone to bury them. Children covered in scabs throwing sand over their heads and fighting like dogs over bones.
PAPUC: Hard times.
VLAD: Who is responsible for them?
PAPUC: We are. But then that’s how we found the country. I don’t think it’s possible to get things right.
VLAD: Can we sit back, arms folded and do nothing?
PAPUC: I don’t know . . . perhaps we should.
VLAD: I asked a tradesman what he thought of the new ruling prince . . .
PAPUC: And . . . ?
VLAD: [Disgusted] And all he replied was, ‘That son of a bitch!’ He went on to say that no one could trade honestly in Wallachia because there were so many thieves, that the prince knew of it and did nothing. And he was right. I’ve turned a blind eye as long as I can. A madman pestered me for a coin to buy some nougat. [Horrified] After he’d eaten it, he said he was the prince and had great plans. First, he said, he’d send all those who were against him to hell, impale anyone around him and so rid himself of the lot. He’d sweep the country clean . . . make it shine . . . so shiny you’d slip on the polish. Then he’d lure Mohammed and his army into the country . . . for it's clean now . . . chop off Mohammed’s head and send his army packing into Poland or even as far as France, and let them fend for themselves. But we’d have to lure as many as possible . . . send them away as long as the road’s slippery enough. [Laughing] And in the end he didn’t eat the nougat, and my purse had gone. He said we should all learn Turkish so that we could imitate them. And then when Mohammed says ‘I want to conquer Wallachia’ we’d be able to jabber something in Turkish just to confuse them for a year or two.
PAPUC: What more do you expect from a lunatic?
VLAD: No, I’m sure he knows something. His eyes were so bright I felt inclined to place him on the throne and eat the nougat myself (perhaps he’d achieve something).
PAPUC: [Evasively] Well . . .
VLAD: [Thoughtfully looking out of the window] Stars with tails and officials without heads. [Sighing. To Papuc] Let’s get to work.
- p. 27-9 (Act One, Scene 4):
PĪRVU: I’ve caught a whore, Your Highness.
VLAD: Well, well!
JOIŢA: [To Pīrvu] Who are you calling whore? You’ve never screwed me in your life. Bastard, pig, bloody executioner. I hope you rot, stuck upside down on a stake, with the ravens pecking your eyes out. Get to Hell with you, you lousy, bloody wretch. Go on . . . drop dead! [Spits on him. Turns to the Prince, incensed with rage] Is there no justice left around here? How can you sit there like some dummy letting all the vagabonds strut around playing the emperor and making a mockery of everyone? I’d a good mind to grab a sword and hack ‘em all to pieces.
VLAD: [Laughing] I like this woman!
JOIŢA: Every gypsy in fine feathers points the finger at us.
VLAD: And why do they do that, woman?
JOIŢA: For the food we’ve eaten and the fellows we’ve slept with . . .
VLAD: And who have you slept with, eh? Haven’t you a husband?
JOIŢA: [Weeping] You can’t call him a man, Your Highness.
VLAD: [Calmly] Why, what’s wrong with him?
JOIŢA: [Sobbing loudly] He’s a cripple.
PĪRVU: He lies in bed ill while she’s had nine kids.
CHIORU: Not even that. One at a time.
VLAD: Is that right, woman?
JOIŢA: I had ’em from spite, Your Highness. Don’t you go imagining it was fun! Just think, there was my man, ill in bed, no end to all the taxes we had to pay, nothing to be found, what else could we do, wretched women that we are? And besides we were always in terror of the Turks. One day they’re coming, the next they’re not! . . .
DOMNICA: Forgive her, Your Highness!
VLAD: You had best go away, dear.
DOMNICA: [Kneeling] Pardon her. [Exits]
VLAD: [Rising] And what is your opinion? Are they coming or not?
JOIŢA: Who, the Turks?
VLAD: Who else?
JOIŢA: Let ’em come, damn them, for they’ve been so bloody long they could have been at the back of beyond by now – off into Europe. Why should we be the only ones to resist them? And what do the people in the West do for us even though we defend them by standing our ground here? Stupid buggers!
JOIŢA: The Turks of course.
JOIŢA: They’re only eager to fight us when they know they’ll never defeat us. And it never dawns on them to attack you when your arses are out of your trousers!
PĪRVU: I’m sorry, Your Highness. There’s nothing one can do about her foul language.
CHIORU: It’s obscene.
JOIŢA: Obscene, my eye. Was your mother obscene having you! She’d have been better shoving out a pig!
CHIORU: Did you hear that?
VLAD: This woman deserves to live. At least she speaks her mind!
JOIŢA: Yes, I do. And I could say more, but I’m afraid. There are times when I keep my lips well buttoned.
VLAD: You’d do better to keep something else well buttoned. Why do you insist on whoring, bitch? Don’t you know where your debauchery could land you? [Solemnly] Such times as these call for restraint. A people who let themselves be overcome by lust, who fling aside all restraint, are worthless and deserve to perish. I don’t believe we’re all vile and bad. That’s why we’re harsh with those who make it look as though we are. Even yesterday I punished a woman who had sent her husband off to war with a button missing off his shirt. She was a lazy bone-idle creature who never sewed his buttons on or did his buttonholes. How could such a soldier fight a war knowing that at home he had a lazy slut of a wife who never even sewed on his buttons? Now if you were a soldier’s wife, carrying on with every Tom, Dick and Harry behind your husband’s back just because he was crippled in the wars, how could men go willingly to war then, eh? Knowing what was in store for them the moment they returned crippled? Eh? How could they fight then?
JOIŢA: They’d have to win – or die!
VLAD: [To the executioners] Where are her bastards?
CHIORU: There, among the weeds [Points at some place behind the scene]
VLAD: [Thinking it over] I think we should pardon her, at least let her live.
JOIŢA: [Falling to her knees] Your Highness . . .
VLAD: Cut off her nipples . . .
JOIŢA: [Shrieking] No, no . . .
VLAD: . . . and nail on the hands of her bastards there instead.
JOIŢA: Oh, God!
VLAD: And then let her be carried like that from village to village so that all the people can see.
JOIŢA: [Wailing and tearing her hair] Have pity!
VLAD: As long as there are whores in this country, the Turks will be encouraged to rush in on us.
JOIŢA: Is it the Turks you’re fighting or the Romanians? My little children, Lord, spare me . . .
VLAD: I don’t only fight Turks. I also fight people like you and anyone else who brings grist to the Turks’ mill.
- p. 17-23:
In the forest
Darkness. The figures of two men can be dimly seen. Silence, then the following dialogue is heard through the darkness.
‘I’m afraid you’re wrong about the cloud. It’s got nothing to do with your rheumatism.’
‘All right then, what other reason can you give for this agonising pain? Listen . . . it’s like this: mist rising from the ground forms a ball. The ball gets bigger and as it does so absorbs the vapour on your spine. Then . . .’
‘No, no, no! That’s got nothing to do with it! I’ll tell you why it hurts.’
‘[Curious] All right then, why?’
‘It hurts because you’re not going to win the war.’
‘What! You mean to say that my bones ache just because of Mohammed?’
‘Ache, my arse! Now you listen, I’m not on his side just because I believe in him, you know.’
‘I know, I know.’
‘And I’m not afraid of him . . . well, now I come to think of it, I am afraid . . . Have you ever felt fear? That’s how we were brought up you know.’
‘In fear. It’s something dim and you’re never sure where it’s coming from – like damp.’
‘We’re the same.’
‘No, you’re not afraid; or if you are now, you weren’t before you grew up.’
‘No, it isn’t. When you’re a child, a normal life and one of terror are two very different things. We never felt the serenity of childhood – that kind of safe wall – and when things got difficult, we had nothing to lean on.’
‘You should have leant on that cloud.’
‘All right, all right! Anyway that’s why I believe Mohammed is a great . . .’
‘Tyrant and a butcher.’
‘Well, if he is, he’s certainly an extraordinary one! I mean just think how he’s spiritually maimed a whole universe. It’s very easy to chop off a head – for instance mine’s been chopped off already – but to force yourself into the soul of half the world and change their way of thinking – now that’s really something.’
‘In other words – to make them stop thinking.’
‘To ruin the mechanism of thought. And that’s why you, you who are free people . . . [Bitterly] I don’t suppose you can understand us. [Admiringly] Ah, Mohammed will go down in history as the tyrant of all tyrants. A great man! And that’s why I think Vlad’s got it right . . .’
‘No, you listen to me. He’s wrong as well.’
[Annoyed] ‘Then how can one stop a wave of crime? By just sitting on your arse all day doing nothing?’
[Laughing] ‘I’d like to catch Prince Vlad doing that!’
[Admiringly] ‘I tell you, Vlad outshines Mohammed.’
The stage is now lit and the two men become visible: A TURK and a ROMANIAN are each impaled upon a stake. There is a brief silence.
ROMANIAN: Day’s breaking.
TURK: It’ll be us who’ll be breaking soon. Both of us. [Looking into the distance] You know there’s something familiar about all this. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that this is the place where I originally came from. Here.
ROMANIAN: [Deliberately] Did you return just to see your native country once again?
TURK: Longing for one’s country makes you pine away. [Still looking into the distance] What’s that, over there?
ROMANIAN: [Looking in the opposite direction as he is unable to turn his head] What?
TURK: Look straight ahead.
ROMANIAN: I am but I can only see forest.
TURK: I can see forest on this side too, but is there anyone in it?
ROMANIAN: Only the two of us. But it won’t be long before the others get a turn.
TURK: Then that means you’re strong and will take a long time to die.
ROMANIAN: You’re beginning to get on my nerves. It’s all right for you to keep on getting at us, you who took yourself off when you were young. It’s all a pack of lies! Why can’t you try seeing our good points for a change?
TURK: They’ve set you a bit higher than me. You’ve got a better vantage point. What are these good points you keep talking about? I wouldn’t mind seeing them for myself!
ROMANIAN: Oh it’s very easy for a man turned Turk to say bad things about his own country. You’ve no idea how difficult it’s been for us to manage – the sacrifices that poor Prince has had to make just to save face. For more than a century we’ve been sucked dry by this Turkish leech. [Spitefully] While you lot have reduced us to nothing more than beggars.
TURK: Turks . . . or Tartars . . . Where’s the difference?
ROMANIAN: That’s the problem . . . they all swoop down on us like vultures or crows.
TURK: [Scared] What, have the crows come then? That means we’re near the end.
ROMANIAN: That’s life!
TURK: I’ll tell you something. I didn’t turn Turk like you said. I was snatched from my mother’s breast when barely twelve months old and given away as part of the tribute. Now that’s not the same as turning Turk. I tell you, I loathe this ramshackle affair called Moslem power.
ROMANIAN: [Thinking aloud] He’s coming, no he’s not, yes he is, no he’s not . . .
TURK: Who’s coming?
ROMANIAN: He should’ve been here by now. He usually likes his breakfast near his victims, has a chat with them, gets a few things off his chest, asks their advice, and drinks their health. But he’s got a sharp tongue in his head. Them that are impaled can’t stomach him because of his lashing tongue.
TURK: [Trying hard to laugh] Ha!
The stage grows dark
ROMANIAN [Cheerfully]: Look it’s hiding behind the clouds, the old fool . . .
TURK: It’s going to get worse . . .
ROMANIAN: Well at least you can’t see what’s hurting you or how . . .
TURK: Why did you decide to cross the enemy lines?
ROMANIAN: Curiosity! [Pauses] I’d heard you’d solved some of your problems best you could. [Laughing] Tell me how does it feel to marry five women at the same time?
TURK: No different.
ROMANIAN: Go on, you’re having me on!
TURK: Well, there is ONE difference. You’ve got five nags instead of one giving you hell!
ROMANIAN: Still! [Changing the subject] You might’ve known they’d catch you.
TURK: I thought there’d be plenty of time to explain . . . I was afraid of my own people . . . and of drowning in the Danube . . . I’d been trying to learn to swim for the last five years . . . practised in the dust . . .
ROMANIAN: [Wickedly] And the moment you got to the other side they got you!
TURK: That’s about it. I mean I didn’t even try to steer clear of them. I kept saying to myself: I’ll explain that the Turks took me when I was very young . . .
ROMANIAN: [Groaning] Oooooh!
TURK: [Continuing] . . . and God wanted me to come back to see the house where I was born. I didn’t avoid them and that’s exactly what I said. If only I’d kept out of sight . . .
ROMANIAN: I did . . . and when I jumped in the water, there was a noose around my neck.
TURK: Well, things can usually go either way.
ROMANIAN: [Reasoning] I wasn’t going to stay with the Turks. Oh, no. Not me. I thought I’d just have a good look round, see what was going on and then come back . . . full of it.
TURK: God, how it hurts . . .
ROMANIAN: I felt better in the light.
The scene is lit again
ROMANIAN: Can you see any cloud on your side of the sky?
TURK: There’s another on its way.
ROMANIAN: The ravens will be here by nightfall. Are you afraid of them?
TURK: Well, I’ve never been raven-sick.
ROMANIAN: They go for the eyes first . . .
TURK: They’re almost plucked out already. Man suffers all his life.
TURK: In our country there used to be . . . I mean in their country, Turkey, there was a man who while still a child started to cut off pieces of his own skin. ‘Let’s suffer a bit today,’ he’d say and off came a bit of flesh! In fact, because he feared death, he thought he’d get used to pain a bit at a time . . . so that at that moment when he’d suffer most . . . do you follow me . . . ?
ROMANIAN: Of course. He was no fool! But nowadays . . .
TURK: He WAS a fool! He’d almost reached his neck when he was denounced by someone or other because he was supposed to have said something. He did moan . . .
ROMANIAN: He was brave.
TURK: And when they got round to chopping off his head, they did it rather slowly so that he kept screaming out at the top of his voice that the pain was nothing in comparison to what he’d suffered already. Never before had he experienced such torture. All that training for nothing.
ROMANIAN: Well, after all, death is death.
- from The Thirst of the Salt Mountain by Marin Sorescu; p. 53-7 [The Matrix: A two-act play in six scenes (Act 1 Scene 1)]:
Rain. Thunder, lightning, wind. A slithery country road. Many a tree torn from its roots blocks the path. A primeval setting from any props the theatre possesses. IRINA, going towards home, seems the only woman in the world, or the last pregnant woman, whose shoulders are weighed down with the great responsibility of continuity. Her homeward footsteps are immediately obliterated by mud; this frightens her: she leaves no trace. It seems to have been raining since the world began.
IRINA: [She runs carefree, hair and clothes wet, somehow revelling in a shared natural event. She shelters under a tree.]: So wet! It makes your mouth water. Your mouth is full of clouds and when it thunders your teeth chatter . . . and their enamel cracks . . . This extraordinary storm must have pulled out so many . . . We’ll have to hang on tight to our wisdom teeth . . . [Looking around her] How I long for a dry word. [Searching] ‘The Flood’ . . . [Laughs. Imitating a storyteller] “It hadn’t dried up after the first flood, beds of seas and oceans were still hazing mirrors, when the devil this time decided to unleash the second deluge. First, to act as kin to the other, and second, because the world had become too holy . . .” Perhaps that’s how a future Bible will tell the story. [She laughs, revealing her white teeth] It’s a good thing to laugh in a storm, your teeth shine if they’re beautiful. It’s good to laugh in a storm if you’ve got good teeth . . . Oh, how childish I am [A little angry at herself] In fact I’m just being wild and silly. [Softening a little] A goose . . . a wild goose. [Seriously] Something’s happening all around me . . . I don’t know what on earth’s going on, and I . . . it’s as if I’m floating on waves, on seas and oceans . . . psst! – Hush! Ssh! Something moved. I heard it with my own ears . . . [Listens] [Shouts] Who’s there? [Afraid] Again . . . like that, like a leaf or an eye opening . . . you feel the eyelid. [She starts back afraid] Don’t move or . . . don’t move or I’ll shoot [Imitates a hunter’s movements] It might be a hare . . . I’ll call the hunters . . . [Loudly] Hunters, there’s something moving over here . . . over here, close by . . . It’s as if it’s in the earth . . . a mole? . . . I can feel some very . . . very frightened . . . movements . . . of something alive . . . Listen, just then . . . Oh, that frightened me . . . Who on earth . . . takes advantage of this weather like a pig . . . who knows what’s brewing . . . the truth is I’m happy . . . yes, that’s the word. I feel a strange happiness . . . quite inexplicable . . . of such an extraordinary intensity . . . almost like the time when I was small, forgetful, spoilt, and in my mother’s womb . . . Yes, yes, spoilt – but not forgetful. [Moves her hand impatiently] Now’s not the time for memories. For such memories . . . But I can’t explain my feelings . . . very similar to . . . anyway . . . it’s not important! Let’s get home. It’s getting dark. I mean the sky’s electricity is running out. [Lightning flash] Look, it’s started to flicker already. [She sets off, taking a few steps with difficulty. A huge oak tree with a large hollow appears before her. A hollow in which one can sit quite comfortably. Studying the opening.] From this tree . . . a coffin’s just flown away, flown in time to leave just the right amount of space . . . for life’s abundance. [Laughs and only now can it be seen that she’s pregnant. She inclines her ear as if trying to listen to her womb.] Who are you in there? [Laughs and carefully gets into the space. Enacting humorously.] If this is the flood . . . please enter the ark. [Holding out her hand] It’s still raining. It hasn’t stopped yet. I was worried that once I’d got in here the phenomenon would change its course . . . and leave me to float on dry land like this. [Holds out her other hand] Oh, God, what rain! [Thoughtfully] Maybe it’ll never stop. [Nestling into the hollow] Now we’ve time to consider a little philosophy. Idealistic inside – materialistic outside . . . [Laughing, she shivers with the cold] Really, what luck to find this hollow! Is that what they call . . . now how does that saying go? “In Mother Nature’s bosom”. [Sadly] No, I was in Mother Nature then . . . in mother’s womb . . . Now, I’m in an old hollow from which something has just flown . . . [Remembering] Everything was like a sweet light . . . which I ate . . . with the tips of my toes . . . and fingers, and all my skin . . . I was floating . . . [Sadly] I haven’t floated since then . . . Since then I haven’t floated . . . nor eaten light . . . with my elbow or with both knees . . . Nor have I flown easily through infinite space. I haven’t . . . [Laughing] I think I’m the only one in the world . . . any way the only one in the village . . . well at any rate the only one in this hollow tree . . . who has memories . . . from a mother’s womb . . . [Prosaically] That’s what’s strange about me . . . I even told my husband, before we married: “You see I have visions from before . . .” He said, “Do you have them often?”
“No, don’t worry, they’re not what you think . . . sometimes . . . I can’t explain it, but when it’s quiet . . . Or when it’s raining . . .” [Laughs] He says I’m playing make-believe while everything around me is advancing constructively! As if imagination isn’t also constructive energy. He says “Intra-uterine pamperings, dear. It’s about time you grew up . . . grow up with the times” [Laughs] And look how I grew! I grew up and so did my tummy . . . It’s incredible how grown up it’s become . . . it’s raining again and all sorts of pranks spring to mind . . . things that have actually happened . . . that I’ve lived . . . [Sadly] How intensely I lived before I was born . . . That’s why I’m afraid . . . of ageing too fast, wearing out, if perhaps, there were too many excesses . . . there in heaven . . . [Loud and clear] I’ve been to heaven . . . We all come from there . . . On foot . . . Crawling . . . [Hugging the tree’s hollow] Mother! Mother! No: Mother Nature! How beautiful to be in your house when it’s raining . . . [Dryly] But I’ll have to leave you to get home. Home, sweet home . . . Let’s rest here just a little longer, and then we’ll set off walking through this deluge. [For a time she listens to the rain] I think the happiness which came over me just now wasn’t mine but his . . . [She strokes her large round womb, which she can almost feel breathing under the wet clothes.] I’m flooded with happiness . . . that’s why I feel so well . . . [Lightning and thunder] What does it matter if the deluge has begun? What does it matter that the dam’s about to burst . . . Everyone’s at the river . . . at the dam . . . I laid a brick as well . . . [Thunder and lightning] Actually it was cow dung, the first thing I could lay my hands on. People wouldn’t let me lift anything else . . . They all nagged me to, “Go back home. We’ll manage . . . There’s plenty of people who can build . . . You’ve got another mission . . .” As if giving birth was a mission . . . They’re strange, those peasants . . . Maybe my mission was to stay there on the wave of earth and stones . . . to fight the floods . . . [In a different tone] Anyway, exercise is supposed to help birth . . . I’ve certainly had a lot of it today. If I had to give birth today . . . [Sadly] it’d be the end of happiness for him who’s going to be my son, and I’d be sad, very sad . . . distressed! [Concentrating as if in a trance] Then . . . a few days before it happened I felt something . . . in fact I was measuring time by other means, perhaps with my eyelashes on mother’s womb, notching as on a tally. I felt that something was happening . . . something; like an illness . . . [Shudders] unknown until that very moment . . . [Terrified] They were the shudders of death! Because until then I had been immortal . . . Something seemed to be circling me . . . I lost the ability to float free in space . . . I was falling . . . falling . . . falling . . . and suddenly disaster struck . . . total collapse . . . [Sighing] They say it was a difficult birth for my mother . . . Yes, I remember it clearly, that catastrophe . . . Maybe instinctively I fought against it . . . I was used to heaven . . . and immortality . . . What rubbish! As my husband would say, “Intra-uterine nonsense, dear!” But here, in this hollow tree I can talk quite openly . . . [Smiling] Nature is also a mother and understands . . . the situation . . . [In a different tone] I saw myself just now in a drop of rain by a flash of lightning. [With sadness] I’m not beautiful any more – and it’s a pity. A woman should be beautiful until the very last moment . . . My dying father will see me in this sorry state and die with a bad impression of the world . . . The boy, when he first opens his eyes will just see a hag that frightens him . . . yet I’m not that frightening . . . Until quite recently men would turn their heads to look at me . . . all except my own man . . . who turns his head to look at others! . . . At least that’s what I think because I’ve not actually seen him do it . . . And now he’s fighting the waves . . . I begged him not to go too far out in his boat . . . He knows it won’t be long now and the state father’s in . . . poor, poor father . . . If he hadn’t been so ill, I would have stayed longer at the dam. But things are so desperate . . . except him . . . [She feels a contraction and puts her hand to her abdomen] God! How everything suddenly happens at once! I can feel him getting restless . . . eager to come into the world, to have a purpose . . . a destiny . . . It’s as if he’s struggling and turning [his] face to his wall . . . not wanting to die . . . [Explaining] Now I’m talking about father . . . until then it was the baby . . . Good God, am I mixing them up? Such pains have started . . . I seem to be losing track of what I’m saying . . . no, they’ve gone again . . . But I’d better move from here, even though it is nice and warm. Anyway, we have a tub I can get into . . . no, a roof above which might be the tub . . . where worries await us . . . let’s look outside again . . . [Looking] It makes you shiver. [Bravely] The rain seems never-ending. Thousands of gutters implanted in clouds. Our village found itself under such a gutter which runs on and on and on. The hooves of cattle have softened. Cows’ udders have thinned with the water. Clouds are so low, that wild geese wanting to rise above, swim through them, but drown. The depth of a cloud is ten kilometres . . . You slip at every step . . . Is the earth sliding downwards? I must look after my breasts in case water gets into the milk. That’s all we’d need. I can tell that his first worry is going to be . . . the food supply. [Examining herself anxiously] What if I’ve not got enough milk? They could be only for show, just a matter of form! [Laughs] I once heard a woman complaining that she’d no bust. How stupid I am! [She hesitates to go out but then plucks up courage. Outside, the rain is still drumming. She takes shelter near another tree. A flash of lightning. The oak tree with the hollow burns like a candle. She watches the flames.] Unbelievable! . . . It waited for me to leave before setting itself on fire . . . or letting itself be struck by lightning . . . and so pass into oblivion. Such huge candles – who are they lit for? [With certainty] All this fury in vain . . . Nothing can touch me . . . as long as this job remains to be finished . . . There exists a unity between things which once started have to be finished . . . a unity of pregnant things . . . If I was still in the hollow . . . the lightning would have avoided us. Yes, oh yes, I’m sure of that. [Caressing her abdomen] Come on, little one . . . [Loudly, above the noise of the storm] Unity of all things about to give birth . . . help me! [Thunder, lightning. Irina begins to leave, slipping on the mud]
From The Youth of Don Quixote by Marin Sorescu:
THE MARKS [p. 14]
The walls of my house are covered
where my friends see nothing.
They think I have put them there
to upset them.
There is still one spot free
over the bed
and I woke up with the strange
someone is watching me . . .
Certainly on that spot
a light is playing,
spherical in shape.
There is no bulb nearby,
nor any open keyhole,
nor any phosphor mine.
over the bed
someone is breathing, breathing.
Who knows what star
is burning now somewhere, and
in the incredible system of reflections
its spirit strikes my walls
at this moment.
Tomorrow I will have to
place a mark on
CAPRICE [p. 15]
Evening after evening
I bring all the available chairs
in the neighbourhood together
and I read poems aloud to them.
Chairs are very
receptive to poetry
when the seating order is correct.
I fly into a passion
and for hours and hours
how beautifully my soul
are almost always to the point,
free of any needless
In any case
it may be said that
each one of us has
done his duty
and we can carry
Every night I collect from my neighbors
All the available chairs
And I read verses to them.
The chairs are very receptive to poetry
If you know how to arrange them.
That’s why I get excited and during a few hours
I tell them how beautifully my soul died
During the daytime.
Our meetings are usually sober
without any stupid enthusiasm.
In any case that means –
That each of us performs his duty
and that – we may go on.
THE SACRED FIRE [p. 16]
Fling more twigs
on the sun,
because it’s going to go out, they say,
within a thousand million
And if there are no more twigs,
fling onto the sun
the plains which could well have been
mountains, moon and sky
which do not even know for sure
if they are woods.
In any case,
throw something more on,
a few twigs,
a few lives.
Because, just watch, it’s beginning
to flicker on our faces,
making them magnificent, horrible,
making them nights and days
and seasons and years.
PASSPORT [p. 17]
To cross the frontier
between the sunflowers
and the flowers of the moon, to cross
that of the alphabet
between the accidents of the hand
and the accidents of print:
to feel oneself a friend of all the atoms
that go to form the light,
to sing with atoms that are singing
with the atoms that are dying:
to enter into the days of one’s life
without any restriction
though days fall on either side
of the word
is written on my bones,
skull, phalange, femur, spine
arranged in such a way
that my right to be a man may be
read very clearly.
PAPER [p. 18-19]
They have announced the apocalypse
— if I remember rightly —
as a great paper hurricane
approaching from the N.E.
and from all directions.
The hurricane will destroy everything in its passage
and everything will be converted into paper.
The trees, transformed into paper,
the animals into paper,
the gold into paper.
Men will shout aloud with fright
and their screams
will become, on the spot, paper snakes
and then, they themselves will shed paper:
packing paper, paper for envelopes,
paper for bags, paper for Bibles
and, above all, for diaries.
Some will be converted into currency material,
Others will go into industrial
and agrarian problems,
others will go onto the foreign page,
the writers who have not yet failed
because of pressure on space
will fail in the first five columns.
And why go on:
a hurricane will dash in, and a global
the earth will open up
and swallow everything with relish
cleaning off its mouth
with men transformed
into paper serviettes.
ILLNESS [p. 21]
Doctor, I feel something mortal
here, in my insides;
all my organs give me pain,
by day the sun
by night the moon and stars.
I’ve got a pain in the cloud in the sky
which I had not noticed before this
and I wake up every day
with a sensation of winter.
I’ve tried, in vain, all the remedies;
I’ve hated, loved, and learned to read,
I’ve even read some books,
chatted with people, I think
I’ve been important, good . . .
And all of these, doctor, without effect
though I paid for them with a stack of years.
I think I took ill with death
the very day
on which I was born.
SHAKESPEARE [p. 22-3]
Shakespeare created the world in seven days.
On the first day he made the sky, the mountains and the
precipices of the soul.
On the second day he made the rivers, lakes and oceans, along
remaining emotions and
gave them to Hamlet, to Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and Ophelia,
Othello, and to others, to
lord it over them with their children and their childrens’ children
and for all time.
On the third day he called unto himself the several peoples
and taught them the different kinds of taste, that
of fortune, and of love, the taste of despair,
of jealousy, of fame etc., until
there were no more left to be bestowed. Behold
a few stragglers then showed up.
The creator, in sympathy, scratched them behind the ears and
now there was nothing else left over for them
except to become the literary critics and to hold his work up
The fourth and fifth days he set side for laughter, gave
a free hand to the clowns, told them
to turn their somersaults, and in this way offered
Kings and Emperors and other Un-
fortunates a little diversion.
On the sixth day he settled questions of administration,
contrived a storm
and taught King Lear
how one might wear a crown of straw.
From the work of creating there was wastage too, which he took
and out of it made Richard III.
On the seventh day he looked about him, to see there was nothing
more to be done.
Already, theatre managers had the world
all pasted over with posters, and
Shakespeare told himself, after so much labour
he could allow himself to see a performance, but
in the meantime, being tired from his efforts,
he went away to die for a while.
SHAKESPEARE [other translation by A. Deletant & B. Walker]:
Shakespeare created the world in seven days.
On the first day he made the sky, the mountains and the depths of the soul.
On the second day he made rivers, seas, oceans
And other emotions—
And he gave them to Hamlet, Julius Ceasar, Anthony, Cleopatra and Ophelia,
To Othello and others,
To be master over them, with their descendants,
For ever and ever.
On the third day he gathered all the people
And taught them to savour:
The taste of happiness, love, despair,
The taste of jealousy, fame and so on,
Until all tasting was finished.
Then some late-comers arrived.
The creator patted their heads with compassion,
Saying the only roles left for them were
The literary critics
Who could then demolish his work.
The fourth and fifth day he reserved for laughter.
He allowed clowns
He allowed kings, emperors
And other unfortunates to amuse themselves.
On the sixth day he completed the administration:
He set up a tempest
He taught King Lear
How to wear a straw crown.
As there were a few leftovers from the creation of the world
He designed Richard III.
On the seventh day he took stock to see what else might be done.
And Shakespeare thought that after so much effort
He deserved to see a performance;
But first, as he was overtired,
He went to die a little.
ATAVISM [p. 29]
Looking out the window has become a tic,
everyone looks out the window.
They read, wash, love, they die
and from time to time they run
to stick their heads out the window.
What do you want to see?
Whom are you looking at?
Calm down, he who had to come has come,
he who had to go has gone,
what had happened before us has happened.
Bring down the curtains,
draw the blinds,
and again take up the strain.
Having seen it all: rains, wars,
sun, squirrels and events
always repeated, always the same,
I don’t think humanity seriously wants
to see anything else.
And yet, look at them glued to the window
with empty spaces in their eyes.
SUPERSTITION [p. 31]
My cat is washing herself
with her left paw,
there will be another war.
Because I have noticed
whenever she washes herself
with the left paw
international tension mounts
How on earth can she survey
all five continents?
Perhaps that Pythia
now has her abode
in the pupils of her eyes,
who is capable
all of history
without full-stop, without comma?
It makes me howl,
when I think that I
and Heaven with all its souls that I
have saddled myself with,
in the final analysis
depend upon the humours
of a cat!
Go, catch mice,
unleash no more
ABYSS [p. 32-33]
God is deaf.
If then I have anything to say to him
I have recourse to paper.
That’s how one deals with all
who are deaf.
But he cannot read my writing;
and when I see how he,
considering a conjunction,
scratches behind his halo, I ponder
how much easier it would be
to bellow it all into his ear.
And so I do.
But the dear Lord shakes his head,
makes me a sign that I write down
everything I want to bring
to his attention.
I am in despair;
I take myself out onto the street
and stop the passers-by,
displaying my script so beautifully,
so legibly inscribed for the eye of God,
while the people, no way deaf
but simply in a hurry,
shove away the sheets
and ask me to state, briefly,
concisely, what it’s all about.
I bellow then,
as if out of an abyss,
bellow as God bellows,
when he offers up his prayers.
And in dismay that I myself could be already deaf
what I had meant to say to them
TOYS (p. 34):
We who are awfully grown-up
and who never slipped on the ice
between both wars, or if
once, mistakenly, we fell
fracturing a year, one
of our important years, plaster-
hard . . .
O yes we, awfully grown-up,
that we are short of toys.
We have everything we want
but we are short of toys.
Nostalgia fills us for the optimism
of the rag-filled hearts of dolls
and of our ship
with its three rows of sails
moving as well on firm ground
as on water.
We would love to ride a cock-horse
and that horse and wood might neigh
saying: “Let’s be off in any
direction, place doesn’t count,
whatever spot in life
we intend to accomplish
How often do we miss these toys!
Nor are we able to be sad
because of that and weep
out of deep emotion,
resting our hand on the leg of a chair,
for we are grown-up people now
and there’s no-one left who is more grown-up
to comfort us.
We who are awfully grown-up
Who did not fall on the ice
Since between the two wars,
Or if by fault we slipped once,
We broke an year,
One of our important and rigid years
Of plaster stone...
Oh, we the awfully grown-up
That we miss our toys.
We have all we want,
But we miss our toys.
We miss the optimism
Of the cotton heart of the dolls
And of our three-sailed ship,
That used to float on the water
As well as on the ground.
We wish to ride on a wood horse
And the horse would neigh once with its whole wood,
And we tell him: "Carry us away
No matter where,
Because everywhere in life
We think to do
Oh, how much we miss sometimes our toys!
But we are not even allowed to be sad
Because of it
And cry out of our soul,
Holding the leg of the chair,
Because we are very grown-up people
And there is no other person more grown-up than us
To comfort us.
PERPETUUM MOBILE (p. 37):
Between the ideals
and their realization
there is a drop
than in the highest
The energy gained from this,
even if we only
light up our cigarettes with it,
is after all
since, while one is smoking
one can, very seriously,
more extravagant ideals.
EACH ONE (p. 43):
The old, old dead
are invigorating, it is
comforting to look at them;
it is they who are old, not you,
it is they who have filled out their death
papers, and not you.
after an unexpected death,
after who knows what burial, and are
the mad solicitude of lovers
to go on living.
And when no one seems to leave
from among us
men look anxiously at the sky.
If a star falls headlong it will mean
they can go and make up their bed
Who will have died when I
was being born?
Let each one ask himself that question.
ADAM (p. 45):
Distressed at being in Paradise
Adam, preoccupied and sad, strolled about the paths
not knowing what it was he was still missing.
Then God manufactured Eve
out of one of Adam’s ribs.
This miracle pleased the first man so much
that straight away
he touched the rib next to it
feeling his fingers beautifully warmed
by firm breasts and smooth thighs
well rounded out by notes of music.
A new Eve had risen before him.
Primly she had taken out a little mirror
and was painting her lips.
“This is life!” Adam had sighed
And created yet another.
And so on and on, whenever the official Eve
turned her back
or went to the market for gold, frankincense and myrrh,
Adam brought a new odalisque to light
from his inter-rib harem.
this immoderate creation of Adam,
called him and, divinely reproaching him,
threw him out of paradise for committing
- from Born in Utopia: An Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Romanian Poetry; p. 138:
Born in Dolj, southern Romania, Sorescu graduated from the department of literature at University of Iaşi. A poet, playwright, novelist and essayist, he was appointed Minister of Culture in 1993. The author of more than twenty collections of poetry, he has been translated by Seamus Heaney, W. D. Snodgrass, Michael Hamburger, Ted Hughes, and Paul Muldoon, among others. He was awarded the Herder International Prize. Sorescu’s fundamental poetic attitude is anti-mythical. Turning absolute values into relative values is the main focus of his poetry. This “deconstruction” is the expression of an ironic, and distant spirit, realized through parody, caricature, grotesque, miniature, and play. Sorescu is a key figure in the rise of Romanian Postmodernism.
when all things, tired of meaning,
fall asleep over it,
with their chins resting
on their lances.
Walls, rafters, skies and universe,
please don’t rest too heavily
I too rest on a thought,
indeed on a single word
at one of its ends
to cease to be.
—translated by Michael Hamburger
None of them was guilty
But they were all executed one Sunday, round eight.
The setting sun flashed on risen blades.
Afterwards came the bang that usually follows lightning,
a do-it-yourself effort by the home firing squad,
or was it the butchers’ squad? — I can’t recall.
All executed, on a Sunday — I’ve said that,
actually, haven’t I? — and just for fun.
They say the condemned had a terrific time.
Unaware of any guilt, they could afford
the luxury of a gratuitous demise.
How agreeable to enjoy a death like that —
and how fortunate executioners were found.
Upright, sober executioners, family men, with good records.
You have to give the people
what they want. Agreed?
—translated by John Hartley Williams and Hilde Ottschofski
There comes a time
When we have to draw a line under us
A black line
To do the summing up.
The few moments when you are about to be happy,
The few moments when we were nearly beautiful,
The few moments we were almost a genius,
Occasionally we’ve met
Mountains, trees, water
(What happened to them? Do they still exist?)
each adds up to a brilliant future — which we’ve lived.
A woman we’ve loved,
Plus the same woman who didn’t love us
A quarter of year of studies
Makes several million fodder words
Whose wisdom we have gradually eliminated.
And finally, a fate
Plus another fate (Now where does that come from?)
Equals two (Write one, carry one,
Perhaps, who knows, there is a life hereafter).
—translated by Andrea Deletant and Brenda Walker
The snail carefully seals his eyes
And tucks his chin tightly to his chest.
Is his shell —
His perfect creation,
Which disgusts him —
Arrayed about the shell
Is the world,
All the rest of the world,
According to irrefutable laws,
Which disgust him —
And in the center of this
Is himself —
Which disgusts him.
—translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Lidia Vianu