Monday, January 08, 2007

A biography of the playwright

Tom Stoppard was born Tomas Straussler in Zlin, Czechoslovakia, on July 3, 1937. However, he lived in Czechoslovakia only until 1939, when his family moved to Singapore. Stoppard, his mother, and his older brother were evacuated to India shortly before the Japanese invasion of Singapore in 1941; his father, Eugene Straussler, remained behind and was killed. In 1946, Stoppard's mother, Martha, married British army officer Kenneth Stoppard and the family moved to England, eventually settling in Bristol.

Stoppard left school at the age of seventeen and began working as a journalist, first with the WESTERN DAILY PRESS (1954-58) and then with the Bristol EVENING WORLD (1958-60). Having developed a specialization in film and theatre criticism, in 1960 Stoppard became a free-lance journalist, writing critical articles and, for the DAILY PRESS, two pseudonymous weekly columns. By the end of the year, he had completed his first full-length play, A WALK ON THE WATER (later produced on stage in 1968 as ENTER A FREE MAN), and acquired an agent, Kenneth Ewing of Fraser and Dunlop Scripts. He also wrote a one-act piece, THE GAMBLERS, which was eventually performed by the University of Bristol drama department in 1965. Stoppard has referred to this as his 'first' play in that he claims A WALK ON THE WATER was an unoriginal composite of several plays he admired. Over the next few years, Stoppard wrote various works for radio, television, and the theatre. Among these were "M" IS FOR MOON AMONG OTHER THINGS (1964), A SEPARATE PEACE (1966), and IF YOU'RE GLAD I'LL BE FRANK (1966). A WALK ON THE WATER had been broadcast on ITV Television in 1963 and on BBC-TV in 1964, and Stoppard wrote many episodes of the radio serial A STUDENT'S DIARY: AN ARAB IN LONDON (1966-67). In addition, three short stories were published by Faber and Faber in the anthology, INTRODUCTION 2: STORIES BY NEW WRITERS (1964).

From September 1962 until April 1963, Stoppard worked in London as a drama critic for SCENE, writing reviews and interviews both under his name and under the pseudonym William Boot (taken from Evelyn Waugh's SCOOP). In 1963, he began writing his only novel, LORD MALQUIST AND MR. MOON. The names Boot and Moon recur in many of Stoppard's works, generally with Boot being a character who makes things happen and Moon being a character to whom things happen.

While participating in a colloquium sponsored by the Ford Foundation in Berlin in 1964, Stoppard wrote a one-act play that later became ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD. The play, which focuses on two minor characters from HAMLET, examines the ideas of fate and free will. In August 1966, ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD was performed by Oxford University students as part of the Edinburgh Festival fringe, and, at the same time, Stoppard's only novel was published; to Stoppard's surprise, it was the play that succeeded, establishing his reputation as a playwright. When the play, having caught the attention of Kenneth Tynan, was performed by the prestigious National Theatre Company at the Old Vic in London in 1967, it received immediate and widespread acclaim. Stoppard, at age 29, was a major success.

Of Stoppard's plays written over the next ten years, JUMPERS, produced in 1972, and TRAVESTIES, produced in 1974, are among the best known. DIRTY LINEN AND NEW-FOUND-LAND (1976) was written for Ed Berman, founder of the Inter-Action community arts organization, on the occasion of his being granted British citizenship.

By 1977, Stoppard had become concerned with human rights issues, in particular with the situation of political dissidents in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. In February 1977, he visited Russia with a member of Amnesty International. In June, Stoppard met Vladimir Bukovsky in London and travelled to Czechoslovakia, where he met Václav Havel. Stoppard became involved with INDEX ON CENSORSHIP, Amnesty International, and the Committee against Psychiatric Abuse and wrote various newspaper articles and letters about human rights.

Stoppard's political concerns surfaced in his work. EVERY GOOD BOY DESERVES FAVOUR (1977) was written at the request of André Previn and was inspired by a meeting with Russian exile Viktor Fainberg. The play, about a political dissident confined to a Soviet mental hospital, is accompanied by an orchestra using a musical score composed by Previn. PROFESSIONAL FOUL is a television play that Stoppard wrote over a period of three weeks as a contribution to Amnesty International's declaration of 1977 as Prisoner of Conscience Year.

Subsequent major stage plays by Stoppard include NIGHT AND DAY (1978), THE REAL THING, which was first performed in 1982 and is one of his most highly acclaimed plays, HAPGOOD (1988), ARCADIA (1993), INDIAN INK (1995), based upon his radio play IN THE NATIVE STATE (1991), THE INVENTION OF LOVE (1997), THE COAST OF UTOPIA (2002) and his most recent, ROCK 'N' ROLL (2006).

In addition to his original stage plays, Stoppard has written original screenplays, teleplays, and radio plays, as well as adaptations for the stage and screen. His screenplay of BRAZIL, coauthored by Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1985. Other well-known screenplays by Stoppard include EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987, adapted from the novel by J. G. Ballard), THE RUSSIA HOUSE (1989, adapted from the novel by John le Carre), and BILLY BATHGATE (1991, adapted from the novel by E. L. Doctorow), as well as a film version of his own ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD (1991). Stoppard also sometimes reads and contributes to scripts by other writers as favors to directors Kathleen Kennedy, Mike Nichols, and Steven Spielberg. Among teleplays by Stoppard, the best known is SQUARING THE CIRCLE: POLAND, 1980-81, a fictional documentary about the history of Solidarity.

THE DISSOLUTION OF DOMINIC BOOT (1964), Stoppard's first radio play, was the basis for his teleplay "The Engagement" (1970). ALBERT'S BRIDGE, produced by the BBC in 1967, has been called Stoppard's finest radio play.

Tom Stoppard has established an international reputation as a writer of "serious comedy"; his plays are plays of ideas that deal with philosophical issues, yet he combines the philosophical ideas he presents with verbal wit and visual humor. His linguistic complexity, with its puns, jokes, innuendo, and other wordplay, is a chief characteristic of his work.

Stoppard has been married twice, to Jose Ingle (1965-72), a nurse, and to Miriam Moore-Robinson (1972-92), the head of a pharmaceutical company, and he has two sons from each marriage.

from Stage Door


This poem, written by Joyce, celebrates or defames (or both) the character created by Chicago-born newspaper writer Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936). "Mr. Martin J. Dooley" was his satirical mouthpiece. Dooley was a saloon-keeper whose pronouncements on current events, both local and international, couched in a vivid, albeit questionable "Irish" dialect, were as humorous as they were pointed." - Preston Neal Jones. It's curious that Joyce wrote "Dooleysprudence", which seems to celebrate (if also to parody) the character, when you consider that Dooley was so ill received by the native Irish. Immigrants in America loved him--he spoke from their vantage and portrayed them as multi-faceted, resourceful members of society--in contrast to contemporary stereotypes that labeled them drunks and bums.

'Who is the man when all the gallant nations run to war
Goes home to have his dinner by the very first cablecar
And as he eats his cantelope contorts himself in mirth
To read the blatant bulletins of the rulers of the earth?

It’s Mr Dooley,
Mr Dooley,
The coolest chap our country ever knew
‘They are out to collar
The dime and dollar’
Says Mr Dooley-ooley-ooley-oo.
Who is the funny fellow who declines to go to church
Since pope and priest and parson left the poor man in the lurch
And taught their flocks the only way to save all human souls
Was piercing human bodies through with dumdum bulletholes?

It’s Mr Dooley,
Mr Dooley,
The mildest man our country ever knew
‘Who will release us
From jingo Jesus’
Prays Mr Dooley-ooley-ooley-oo.
Who is the meek philosopher who doesn’t care a damn
About the yellow peril or problem of Siam
And disbelieves that British Tar is water from life’s fount
And will not gulp the gospel of the German on the Mount?

It’s Mr Dooley,
Mr Dooley,
The broadest brain our country ever knew
‘The curse of Moses
On both your houses’
Cries Mr Dooley-ooley-ooley-oo.
Who is the cheerful imbecile who lights his long chibouk
With pages of the pandect, penal code and Doomsday Book
And wonders why bald justices are bound by law to wear
A toga and a wig made out of someone else’s hair?

It’s Mr Dooley,
Mr Dooley,
The finest fool our country ever knew
‘They took that toilette
From Pontius Pilate’
Thinks Mr Dooley-ooley-ooley-oo.
Who is the man who says he’ll go the whole and perfect hog
Before he pays the income tax or license for a dog
And when he licks a postage stamp regards with smiling scorn
The face of king or emperor or snout of unicorn?

It’s Mr Dooley,
Mr Dooley,
The wildest wag our country ever knew
‘O my poor tummy
His backside gummy!’
Moans Mr Dooley-ooley-ooley-oo.
Who is the tranquil gentleman who won’t salute the State
Or serve Nebuchadnezzar or proletariat
But thinks that every son of man has quite enough to do
To paddle down the stream of life his personal canoe?

It’s Mr Dooley,
Mr Dooley,
The wisest wight our country ever knew
‘Poor Europe ambles
Like sheep to shambles’
Sighs Mr Dooley-ooley-ooley-oo.'

-James Joyce, 1916.

Maps of Zurich and Switzerland

A street map of Zurich:

Earnest quotations in Travesties

The correspondences between Earnest and Travesties are too numerous to catalogue here. To give you a taste, though, the following are passages that you can listen for in the performance:

ALGERNON: How are you, my dear Ernest? What brings you up to town?
JACK: Oh, pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring one anywhere? Eating as usual, I see, Algy!
ALGERNON: [Stiffly.] I believe it is customary in good society to take some slight refreshment at five o’clock.


ALGERNON: By the way, Shropshire is your county, is it not?
JACK: Eh? Shropshire? Yes, of course. Hallo! Why all these cups? Why cucumber sandwiches? Why such reckless extravagance in one so young? Who is coming to tea?
ALGERNON: Oh! merely Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen.
JACK: How perfectly delightful!
ALGERNON: Yes, that is all very well; but I am afraid Aunt Augusta won’t quite approve of your being here.
JACK: May I ask why?
ALGERNON: My dear fellow, the way you flirt with Gwendolen is perfectly disgraceful. It is almost as bad as the way Gwendolen flirts with you.
JACK: I am in love with Gwendolen. I have come up to town expressly to propose to her.


ALGERNON:Besides, your name isn’t Jack at all; it is Ernest.
JACK:It isn’t Ernest; it’s Jack.
ALGERNON:You have always told me it was Ernest. I have introduced you to every one as Ernest. You answer to the name of Ernest. You look as if your name was Ernest. You are the most earnest-looking person I ever saw in my life. It is perfectly absurd your saying that your name isn’t Ernest. It’s on your cards. Here is one of them. [Taking it from case.] ‘Mr. Ernest Worthing, B. 4, The Albany.’ I’ll keep this as a proof that your name is Ernest if ever you attempt to deny it to me, or to Gwendolen, or to any one else. [Puts the card in his pocket.]
JACK: Well, my name is Ernest in town and Jack in the country, and the cigarette case was given to me in the country.


JACK: I have lost both my parents.
LADY BRACKNELL: Both? To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.


CECILY: I knew there must be some misunderstanding, Miss Fairfax. The gentleman whose arm is at present round your waist is my guardian, Mr. John Worthing.

LADY BRACKNELL: What are your politics?
JACK: I am afraid I really have none. I am a Liberal Unionist.
LADY BRACKNELL: Oh, they count as Tories. They dine with us.


The Importance of Being Earnest, travestied

In 1895 Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest was first produced at St. James' Theater in London. In 1918 James Joyce and The English Players revived it in Zurich, Switzerland. And in 1975 Tom Stoppard took the play, used it as his raw materials and wrote a new one that reflects both events, called Travesties.

Below is a summary of the plot of Earnest. The reader will note just how closely the sequence of Travesties follows its course.

Jack Worthing, the play’s protagonist, is a pillar of the community in Hertfordshire, where he is guardian to Cecily Cardew, the pretty, eighteen-year-old granddaughter of the late Thomas Cardew, who found and adopted Jack when he was a baby. In Hertfordshire, Jack has responsibilities: he is a major landowner and justice of the peace, with tenants, farmers, and a number of servants and other employees all dependent on him. For years, he has also pretended to have an irresponsible black-sheep brother named Ernest who leads a scandalous life in pursuit of pleasure and is always getting into trouble of a sort that requires Jack to rush grimly off to his assistance. In fact, Ernest is merely Jack’s alibi, a phantom that allows him to disappear for days at a time and do as he likes. No one but Jack knows that he himself is Ernest. Ernest is the name Jack goes by in London, which is where he really goes on these occasions—probably to pursue the very sort of behavior he pretends to disapprove of in his imaginary brother.

Jack is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax, the cousin of his best friend, Algernon Moncrieff. When the play opens, Algernon, who knows Jack as Ernest, has begun to suspect something, having found an inscription inside Jack’s cigarette case addressed to “Uncle Jack” from someone who refers to herself as “little Cecily.” Algernon suspects that Jack may be leading a double life, a practice he seems to regard as commonplace and indispensable to modern life. He calls a person who leads a double life a “Bunburyist,” after a nonexistent friend he pretends to have, a chronic invalid named Bunbury, to whose deathbed he is forever being summoned whenever he wants to get out of some tiresome social obligation.

At the beginning of Act I, Jack drops in unexpectedly on Algernon and announces that he intends to propose to Gwendolen. Algernon confronts him with the cigarette case and forces him to come clean, demanding to know who “Jack” and “Cecily” are. Jack confesses that his name isn’t really Ernest and that Cecily is his ward, a responsibility imposed on him by his adoptive father’s will. Jack also tells Algernon about his fictional brother. Jack says he’s been thinking of killing off this fake brother, since Cecily has been showing too active an interest in him. Without meaning to, Jack describes Cecily in terms that catch Algernon’s attention and make him even more interested in her than he is already.

Gwendolen and her mother, Lady Bracknell, arrive, which gives Jack an opportunity to propose to Gwendolen. Jack is delighted to discover that Gwendolen returns his affections, but he is alarmed to learn that Gwendolen is fixated on the name Ernest, which she says “inspires absolute confidence.” Gwendolen makes clear that she would not consider marrying a man who was not named Ernest.

Lady Bracknell interviews Jack to determine his eligibility as a possible son-in-law, and during this interview she asks about his family background. When Jack explains that he has no idea who his parents were and that he was found, by the man who adopted him, in a handbag in the cloakroom at Victoria Station, Lady Bracknell is scandalized. She forbids the match between Jack and Gwendolen and sweeps out of the house.

In Act II, Algernon shows up at Jack’s country estate posing as Jack’s brother Ernest. Meanwhile, Jack, having decided that Ernest has outlived his usefulness, arrives home in deep mourning, full of a story about Ernest having died suddenly in Paris. He is enraged to find Algernon there masquerading as Ernest but has to go along with the charade. If he doesn’t, his own lies and deceptions will be revealed.
While Jack changes out of his mourning clothes, Algernon, who has fallen hopelessly in love with Cecily, asks her to marry him. He is surprised to discover that Cecily already considers that they are engaged, and he is charmed when she reveals that her fascination with “Uncle Jack’s brother” led her to invent an elaborate romance between herself and him several months ago. Algernon is less enchanted to learn that part of Cecily’s interest in him derives from the name Ernest, which, unconsciously echoing Gwendolen, she says “inspires absolute confidence.”

Algernon goes off in search of Dr. Chasuble, the local rector, to see about getting himself christened Ernest. Meanwhile, Gwendolen arrives, having decided to pay Jack an unexpected visit. Gwendolen is shown into the garden, where Cecily orders tea and attempts to play hostess. Cecily has no idea how Gwendolen figures into Jack’s life, and Gwendolen, for her part, has no idea who Cecily is. Gwendolen initially thinks Cecily is a visitor to the Manor House and is disconcerted to learn that Cecily is “Mr. Worthing’s ward.” She notes that Ernest has never mentioned having a ward, and Cecily explains that it is not Ernest Worthing who is her guardian but his brother Jack and, in fact, that she is engaged to be married to Ernest Worthing. Gwendolen points out that this is impossible as she herself is engaged to Ernest Worthing. The tea party degenerates into a war of manners.

Jack and Algernon arrive toward the climax of this confrontation, each having separately made arrangements with Dr. Chasuble to be christened Ernest later that day. Each of the young ladies points out that the other has been deceived: Cecily informs Gwendolen that her fiancé is really named Jack and Gwendolen informs Cecily that hers is really called Algernon. The two women demand to know where Jack’s brother Ernest is, since both of them are engaged to be married to him. Jack is forced to admit that he has no brother and that Ernest is a complete fiction. Both women are shocked and furious, and they retire to the house arm in arm.

Act III takes place in the drawing room of the Manor House, where Cecily and Gwendolen have retired. When Jack and Algernon enter from the garden, the two women confront them. Cecily asks Algernon why he pretended to be her guardian’s brother. Algernon tells her he did it in order to meet her. Gwendolen asks Jack whether he pretended to have a brother in order to come into London to see her as often as possible, and she interprets his evasive reply as an affirmation. The women are somewhat appeased but still concerned over the issue of the name. However, when Jack and Algernon tell Gwendolen and Cecily that they have both made arrangements to be christened Ernest that afternoon, all is forgiven and the two pairs of lovers embrace. At this moment, Lady Bracknell’s arrival is announced.

Lady Bracknell has followed Gwendolen from London, having bribed Gwendolen’s maid to reveal her destination. She demands to know what is going on. Gwendolen again informs Lady Bracknell of her engagement to Jack, and Lady Bracknell reiterates that a union between them is out of the question. Algernon tells Lady Bracknell of his engagement to Cecily, prompting her to inspect Cecily and inquire into her social connections, which she does in a routine and patronizing manner that infuriates Jack. He replies to all her questions with a mixture of civility and sarcasm, withholding until the last possible moment the information that Cecily is actually worth a great deal of money and stands to inherit still more when she comes of age. At this, Lady Bracknell becomes genuinely interested.

Jack informs Lady Bracknell that, as Cecily’s legal guardian, he refuses to give his consent to her union with Algernon. Lady Bracknell suggests that the two young people simply wait until Cecily comes of age, and Jack points out that under the terms of her grandfather’s will, Cecily does not legally come of age until she is thirty-five. Lady Bracknell asks Jack to reconsider, and he points out that the matter is entirely in her own hands. As soon as she consents to his marriage to Gwendolen, Cecily can have his consent to marry Algernon. However, Lady Bracknell refuses to entertain the notion. She and Gwendolen are on the point of leaving when Dr. Chasuble arrives and happens to mention Cecily’s governess, Miss Prism. At this, Lady Bracknell starts and asks that Miss Prism be sent for.

When the governess arrives and catches sight of Lady Bracknell, she begins to look guilty and furtive. Lady Bracknell accuses her of having left her sister’s house twenty-eight years before with a baby and never returned. She demands to know where the baby is. Miss Prism confesses she doesn’t know, explaining that she lost the baby, having absentmindedly placed it in a handbag in which she had meant to place the manuscript for a novel she had written. Jack asks what happened to the bag, and Miss Prism says she left it in the cloakroom of a railway station. Jack presses her for further details and goes racing offstage, returning a few moments later with a large handbag. When Miss Prism confirms that the bag is hers, Jack throws himself on her with a cry of “Mother!” It takes a while before the situation is sorted out, but before too long we understand that Jack is not the illegitimate child of Miss Prism but the legitimate child of Lady Bracknell’s sister and, therefore, Algernon’s older brother. Furthermore, Jack had been originally christened “Ernest John.” All these years Jack has unwittingly been telling the truth: Ernest is his name, as is Jack, and he does have an unprincipled younger brother—Algernon. Again the couples embrace, Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble follow suit, and Jack acknowledges that he now understands “the vital Importance of Being Earnest.”

The play in its three act entirety.

Lenin's speeches in Travesties

The dialogue surrounding the characters of Lenin and Nadya in Travesties are all taken from primary historical documents. Stoppard pulled selectively from Nadya's memoirs, essays and articles published by Ulyanov and even a eulogy penned by the leader's friend, Maxim Gorky. Below are links to the various texts (excepting Memories of Lenin, which is out of print):

"Party Organization and Party Literature".

"V.I. Lenin" by Gorky.

"Leo Tolstoy as the Mirror for the Russian Revolution".

Collected Works of Lenin


V. I. Lenin (1870-1924)

Vladimir Illich Ulyanov (later known as Lenin) was born in Simbirsk, Russia, on 10th April, 1870. His father, Ilya Ulyanov, a local schools inspector, held conservative views and was a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church. Lenin was deeply influenced by the revolutionary political views of his older brother, Alexander Ulyanov, who introduced him to the ideas of Karl Marx.

Lenin was educated at the Simbirsk Gymnasium. His headmaster was F. I. Kerensky, the father of Alexander Kerensky. Although Lenin despised the conservative views of his teachers he still managed to do well in his examinations.

At the of seventeen Lenin read the utopian novel, What is to be Done? by Nikolai Chernyshevsky. Along with Alexander Ulyanov and Karl Marx, Chernyshevsky was the greatest influence on his early political development.

In 1887 Lenin's brother, Alexander Ulyanov, a member of the People's Will, was executed for his part in the plot to kill Tsar Alexander III. As the brother of a state criminal, attempts were made to stop Lenin from entering university. Eventually he was allowed to study law at Kazan University.

While at university Lenin became involved in politics. After one protest demonstration he was arrested and taken to the local police station. One of the police officers asked: "Why are you rebelling, young man? After all, there is a wall in front of you." Lenin confidently replied: "The wall is tottering, you only have to push it for it to fall over."

. . . When Lenin returned to Russia, Lenin and a group of friends, including Jules Martov and Nadezhda Krupskaya, formed the Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class.

In 1896 Lenin was arrested and sentenced to three years internal exile in Siberia. Nadezhda Krupskaya joined Lenin in Shushenskoye and they married in July, 1898. While living in exile Lenin wrote The Development of Capitalism in Russia, The Tasks of Russian Social Democrats, as well as articles for various socialist journals. Lenin and Krupskaya also translated from English to Russian, The Theory and Practice of Trade Unionism by Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb.

Released in February, 1900, Lenin, Nadezhda Krupskaya and Jules Martov decided to leave Russia. They moved to Geneva where they joined up with George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod and other members of the Liberation of Labour to publish Iskra (Spark). The paper was named after a passage from a poem: "The spark will kindle a flame". Others who joined the venture included Gregory Zinoviev, Leon Trotsky and Vera Zasulich. Another revolutionary, Clara Zetkin, arranged for Iskra to be printed in Leipzig.

Iskra now became the official journal of the Social Democratic Labour Party, an organization that attempted to unite all socialist groups in favour of the overthrow of the autocracy in Russia.

In 1902 Lenin published a pamphlet, What Is To Be Done? where he argued for a party of professional revolutionaries dedicated to the overthrow of Tsarism. He continued to argue the case for a small party of activists with a large fringe of non-party sympathizers and supporters at the Second Congress of the Social Democratic Labour Party held in London in 1903.

His long-time friend, Jues Martov, disagreed believing it was better to have a large party of activists. Martov won the vote 28-23 but Lenin was unwilling to accept the result and formed a faction known as the Bolsheviks. Those who remained loyal to Martov became known as Mensheviks . . .

. . . In 1913 Lenin moved to Galicia in Austria. He organized a conference of Bolshevik leaders in Zakopane in August. It was later discovered that of the twenty-two men who attended, five, including Roman Malinovsky, were Okhrana agents.

On the outbreak of the First World War Lenin was still living in Galicia in Austria. He was arrested in August, 1914 as a Russian spy, but after a brief imprisonment he was allowed to move to Switzerland. At a meeting at Berne he outlined his views on the war. He branded the conflict as imperialist and claimed that those socialists who supported the war were betraying the proletariat.

Lenin was appalled by the decision of most socialists in Europe to support the war effort. He now devoted his energies to campaign to turn the "imperialist war into a civil war". This included the publication of his book, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. Along with his close collaborators, Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, Lenin arranged for the distribution of propaganda that urged Allied troops to turn their rifles against their officers and start a socialist revolution . . .

More on Spartacus.

Images of Lenin.

Tzara on Dada


Art is a PRETENSION warmed by the
TIMIDITY of the urinary basin, the hysteria born

We are in search of
the force that is direct pure sober
UNIQUE we are in search of NOTHING
we affirm the VITALITY of every IN-

-"Proclamation without Pretension"

'Everything one looks at is false. I do not consider the relative result more important than the choice between cake and cherries after dinner. The system of quickly looking at the other side of a thing in order to impose your opinion indirectly is called dialectics, in other words, haggling over the spirit of fried potatoes while dancing method around it. If I cry out:

Ideal, ideal, ideal,

  • Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge,
  • Boomboom, boomboom, boomboom,

    I have given a pretty faithful version of progress, law, morality and all other fine qualities that various highly intelligent men have discussed in so manv books, only to conclude that after all everyone dances to his own personal boomboom, and that the writer is entitled to his boomboom: the satisfaction of pathological curiosity; a private bell for inexplicable needs; a bath; pecuniary difficulties; a stomach with repercussions in life; the authority of the mystic wand formulated as the bouquet of a phantom orchestra made up of silent fiddle bows greased with philtres made of chicken manure.'

  • -"Dadaist Manifesto", 1918

    'Dada is a state of mind. That is why it transforms itself according to races and events. Dada applies itself to everything, and yet it is nothing, it is the point where the yes and the no and all the opposites meet, not solemnly in the castles of human philosophies, but very simply at street corners, like dogs and grasshoppers.

    Like everything in life, Dada is useless.

    Dada is without pretension, as life should be.

    Perhaps you will understand me better when I tell you that Dada is a virgin microbe that penetrates with the insistence of air into all the spaces that reason has not been able to fill with words or conventions.'

    -"Lecture on Dada", 1922

    Tristan Tzara (1896-1963)

    Romanian-born French poet and essayist known mainly as a founder of Dada. The Dadaist movement originated in Zürich, Switzerland, during World War I; Tzara wrote the first Dada texts - La Premiére Aventure cèleste de Monsieur Antipyrine (1916; "The First Heavenly Adventure of Mr. Antipyrine") and Vingt-cinq poémes (1918; "Twenty-Five Poems") - and the movement's manifestos, Sept manifestes Dada (1924; "Seven Dada Manifestos"). In Paris he engaged in tumultuous activities with André Breton, Philippe Soupault, and Louis Aragon to shock the public and to disintegrate the structures of language. About 1930, weary of nihilism and destruction, he joined his friends in the more constructive activities of Surrealism. He devoted much of his time to the reconciliation of Surrealism and Marxism and joined the Communist Party in 1936 and the French Resistance movement during World War II. These political commitments brought him closer to his fellow human beings, and he gradually matured into a lyrical poet. His poems revealed the anguish of his soul, caught between revolt and wonderment at the daily tragedy of the human condition. His mature works started with L'Homme approximatif (1931; "The Approximate Man") and continued with Parler seul (1950; "Speaking Alone") and La Face intèrieure (1953; "The Inner Face"). In these, the anarchically scrambled words of Dada were replaced with a difficult but humanized language.

    DaDa Online

    Excerpts from Ulysses by James Joyce.

    Ulysses was published in 1922 in Paris. It was simultaneously hailed as a work of genius and obscenity. In fact it was not allowed into the UK or the USA until 1933.

    The novel is experimental, and yet it follows a very clear pattern. Each chapter or "episode" has a distinct formal style, ranging from newspaper column to monologue. Each episode also corresponds to a section of Homer's Odyssey, of which Ulysses is meant to be a relfection and a retelling in modern terms.

    Episode 14, "The Oxen of the Sun", which, as Joyce says in the play, "by a miracle of compression, uses the gamut of English literature from Chaucer to Carlyle to describe the events taking place in a lying-in hospital in Dublin."


    Send us, bright one, light one, Horhorn, quickening and wombfruit. Send us, bright one, light one, Horhorn, quickening and wombfruit. Send us bright one, light one, Horhorn, quickening and wombfruit.

    Hoopsa, boyaboy, hoopsa! Hoopsa, hoyaboy, hoopsa! Hoopsa, boyaboy, hoopsa.

    Universally that person's acumen is esteemed very little perceptive concerning whatsoever matters are being held as most profitable by mortals with sapience endowed to be studied who is ignorant of that which the most in doctrine erudite and certainly by reason of that in them high mind's ornament deserving of veneration constantly maintain when by general consent they affirm that other circumstances being equal by no exterior splendour is the prosperity of a nation more efficaciously asserted than by the measure of how far forward may have progressed the tribute of its solicitude for that proliferent continuance which of evils the original if it be absent when fortunately present constitutes the certain sign of omnipollent nature's incorrupted benefaction. For who is there who anything of some significance has apprehended but is conscious that that exterior splendour may be the surface of a downwardtending lutulent reality or on the contrary anyone so is there inilluminated as not to perceive that as no nature's boon can contend against the bounty of increase so it behoves every most just citizen to become the exhortator and admonisher of his semblables and to tremble lest what had in the past been by the nation excellently commenced might be in the future not with similar excellence accomplished if an inverecund habit shall have gradually traduced the honourable by ancestors transmitted customs to that thither of profundity that that one was audacious excessively who would have the hardihood to rise affirming that no more odious offence can for anyone be than to oblivious neglect to consign that evangel simultaneously command and promise which on all mortals with prophecy of abundance or with diminution's menace that exalted of reiteratedly procreating function ever irrevocably enjoined . . .'

    Episode 17, "Ithaca", "cast in the form of the Christian Catechism!" as Gwendolen exclaims.

    Starting united both at normal walking pace from Beresford place they followed in the order named Lower and Middle Gardiner streets and Mountjoy square, west: then, at reduced pace, each bearing left, Gardiner's place by an inadvertance as far as the farther corner of Temple street, north: then at reduced pace with interruptions of halt, bearing right, Temple street, north, as far as Hardwicke place. Approaching, disparate, at relaxed walking pace they crossed both the circus before George's church diametrically, the chord in any circle being less than the arc which it subtends.

    Music, literature, Ireland, Dublin, Paris, friendship, woman, prostitution, diet, the influence of gaslight or the light of arc and glow-lamps on the growth of adjoining paraheliotropic trees, exposed corporation emergency dustbuckets, the Roman catholic church, ecclesiastical celibacy, the Irish nation, jesuit education, careers, the study of medicine, the past day, the male-cent influence of the presabbath, Stephen's collapse.

    Both were sensitive to artistic impressions musical in preference to plastic or pictorial. Both preferred a continental to an insular manner of life, a cisatlantic to a transatlantic place of residence. Both indurated by early domestic training and an inherited tenacity of heterodox resistance professed their disbelief in many orthodox religious, national, social and ethical doctrines. Both admitted the alternately stimulating and obtunding influence of heterosexual magnetism . . .'

    Go here for full text versions, the whole novel and more commentary than even a dramaturg can stomach! The Internet Joyce

    James Joyce (1882-1941)

    Joyce, an Irish novelist, was noted for his experimental use of language in such works as Ulysses (1922) and Finneganns Wake (1939). Joyce's technical innovations in the art of the novel include an extensive use of interior monologue; he used a complex network of symbolic parallels drawn from the mythology, history, and literature, and created a unique language of invented words, puns, and allusions.

    James Joyce was born in Dublin, on February 2, 1882, as the son of John Stanislaus Joyce, an impoverished gentleman, who had failed in a distillery business and tried all kinds of professions, including politics and tax collecting. Joyce's mother, Mary Jane Murray, was ten years younger than her husband. She was an accomplished pianist, whose life was dominated by the Roman Catholic Church. In spite of their poverty, the family struggled to maintain a solid middle-class facade.

    From the age of six Joyce, was educated by Jesuits at Clongowes Wood College, at Clane, and then at Belvedere College in Dublin (1893-97). In 1898 he entered the University College, Dublin. Joyce's first publication was an essay on Ibsen's play When We Dead Awaken. It appeared in the Fortnightly Review in 1900. At this time he also began writing lyric poems.

    After graduation in 1902 the twenty-year-old Joyce went to Paris, where he worked as a journalist, teacher and in other occupations under difficult financial conditions. He spent a year in France, returning when a telegram arrived saying his mother was dying. Not long after her death, Joyce was traveling again. He left Dublin in 1904 with Nora Barnacle, a chambermaid who he married in 1931.

    Joyce published Dubliners in 1914, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1916, a play Exilesin 1918 and Ulysses in 1922. In 1907 Joyce had published a collection of poems, Chamber Music.

    At the outset of the First World War, Joyce moved with his family to Zürich. In Zürich Joyce started to develop the early chapters of Ulysses, which was first published in France because of censorship troubles in the Great Britain and the United States, where the book became legally available only in 1933. In March 1923 Joyce started in Paris his second major work, Finnegans Wake, suffering at the same time chronic eye troubles caused by glaucoma. The first segment of the novel appeared in Ford Madox Ford's transatlantic review in April 1924, as part of what Joyce called Work in Progress. The final version was published in 1939.

    Some critics considered the work a masterpiece, though many readers found it incomprehensible. After the fall of France in WWII, Joyce returned to Zürich, where he died on January 13, 1941, still disappointed with the reception of Finnegans Wake.

    -The Literature Network

    Joyce's grave in Zurich.

    The Origins of the Play

    "The reader of a play whose principal characters include Lenin, James Joyce and Tristan Tzara may not realize that the figure of Henry Carr is likewise taken from history. But this is so. In March 1918 (I take the following information from Richard Ellman's James Joyce), Claud Sykes, an actor temporarily living in Zurich, suggested to Joyce that they form a theatrical company to put on plays in English. Joyce agreed, and became the business manager of The English Players, the first production to be that of The Importance of Being Earnest. Actors were sought. Professionals were to receive a token fee of 30 francs and amateurs to make do with 10 francs for tram fare to rehearsals. Joyce become very active and visited the Consul General, A. Percy Bennett, in order to procure official approval for the Players. He succeeded in this, despite the fact that Bennett 'was annoyed with Joyce for not having reported to the Consulate officially to offer his services in wartime, and was perhaps aware of Joyce's work for the neautralist International Review and of his open indifference to the war's outcome. He may even have heard of Joyce's version of "Mr. Dooley", written about this time . . . ' --I quote from Elmman's superb biography, whose companionship was not the least pleasure in the writing of Travesties.

    "Meanwhile, Sykes was piecing together a cast . . . 'An important find was Tristan Rawson, a handsome man who had sung baritone roles for four years in the Cologne Opera House but had never acted in a play. After much coaxing Rawson agreed to take on the role of John Worthing. Sykes recruited Cecil Palmer as the butler, and found a woman named Ethel Turner to play Miss yet, however, there was no one to take the leading role of Algernon Moncrieff. In an unlucky moment Joyce nominated a tall, goodlooking young man named Henry Carr, whom he had seen in the consulate. Carr, invalided from the service, had a small job there. Sykes learned that he had acted in some amateur plays in Canada, and decided to risk him.'

    Carr's performance turned out to be a small triumph. He had even, in his enthusiasm, bought some trousers, a hat and a pair of gloves to wear as Algernon. But immediately after the performance the actor and the business manager quarrelled. Joyce handed each member of the cast 10 or 30 francs, as prearranged, but succeeded in piquing Carr, who later complained to Sykes that Joyce had handed over the money like a tip.

    The upshot was disproportionate and drawn out. Joyce and Carr ended up going to law, in two separate actions, Carr claiming reimbursement for the cost of the trousers, etc., or alternatively a share of the profits, and Joyce counter-claiming for the price of five tickets sold by Carr, and also suing for slander. These matters were not settled until February 1919. Joyce won on the money but lost on the slander, but he reserved his full retribution for Ulysses, where 'he allotted punishments as scrupulously and inexorably as Dante...originally Joyce intended to make Consul General Bennett and Henry Carr the two drunken, blasphemous and obscene soldiers who knock Stephen Dedalus down in the "Circe" episode; but he eventually decided that Bennett should be the sergeant-major, with authority over Private Carr, who, however, refers to him with utter disrespect.'

    From these meagre facts about Henry Carr--and being able to discover no others--I conjured up an elderly gentleman still living in Zurich, married to a girl he met in the Library duing the Lenin years, and recollecting, perhaps not with entire accuracy, his encounters with Joyce and the Dadaist Tzara.

    Soon after the play opened in London I was excited and somewhat alarmed to receive a letter beginning, 'I was totally fascinated by the reviews of your play--the chief reason being that Henry Carr was my husband until he died in 1962.' The letter was from Mrs. Noel Carr, his second wife.

    From her I learned that Henry Wilfred Carr born in Sunderland in 1894 and brought up in County Durham. He was one of four sons, including his twin Walter, now also dead. At 17 Henry went to Canada where he worked for a time in a bank. In 1915 he volunteered for military service and went to France with the Canadian Black Watch. He was badly wounded the following year and--after lying five days in no-man's land--was taken prisoner. Because of his wounds Henry was sent by the Germans to stay at a monastery where the monks tended him to a partial recovery, and then as an 'exchange prisoner' he was one of a group who were sent to Switzerland.

    Thus Henry Carr arrived in Zurich where he was to cross the path of James Joyce and find himself a leading actor in both onstage and offstage dramas, leading to immortality of a kind as a minor character in Ulysses . . . "

    from "Henry Wilfred Carr, 1894-1962" by Tom Stoppard, in the 1993 edition of Travesties

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?