08. 13. 2004. 09:59

Juliet: A Dialogue About Love

András Visky

An Eastern European Juliet set during the times of darkest dictatorship and without a Romeo: this, in a single sentence, is the essence of András Visky's drama, a "dialogue" in which the Transylvanian writer has documented the true story of his parents. In 1939, his father fled from Rumania to Hungary, where he was to meet his future wife.

After World War II they decided to return to Transylvania, by then a part of Rumania again, because, as he said, a servant of God must always choose the hard way. His father was sentenced to 22 years in prison; his mother remained alone with the seven children without even a knowledge of the language. They were deported to the Rumanian Gulag a thousand kilometres from their home. But Juliet was not ready to give up her freedom and deny her love, and instead she decided to find a way out. Although Juliet is performed by just one actress, it brings alive a multitude of stories, objects, places and situations, with even God stepping onto the scene as the main protagonist in Juliet's escape. Juliet has been on the programme of the Thália Theatre in Budapest for three seasons, playing to full houses. Visky is working on the screenplay of Juliet for the company Eurofilm.



                                        Only then did I realise
                                        that during the five days
                                        they had transported us
                                        none of us had washed
                                        From truck to cattle train
                                        Cattle train to third-class carriage
                                        Third-class carriage to truck
                                        Then when we reached the Rumanian plain 
                                        Time, for us, just stopped

                                        Five days
                                        Or seven
                                        Or ten
                                        Who knows

                                       They passed us on hand to hand
                                       The family was under armed guard  

                                       Get out, my little lambs
                                       Get out and strip off
                                       On the double
                                       The whole family
                                       Back to Paradise

                                       We showered
                                       It was the first time since our eviction
                                       that I saw them laugh
                                       I laughed, too, loudly 
                                       Come here 
                                       Come here, my little sparrows
                                       They danced a little dance 
                                       Ran around in circles
                                       They chased me, too,
                                       with rainwater they had cupped in their hands
                                       to cheer me up

                                        I gave them a good scrubbing down
                                        By the time I had finished with them
                                        the sun had come out again

                                       Thank you
                                       You even think of a hair-drier
                                       Thank you

                                       The camp's other prisoners stood around the house
                                       and watched us
                                       as if they couldn't believe their eyes

                                       They waited for me to dress them
                                       in their soaking clothes
                                       and go out to the front of the barracks
                                       to greet them  

                                       Who are you?
                                       My eldest speaks for all of us
                                       in Rumanian
                                       Where is your mother?
                                       Our mother? That's her, Juliet, our mother
                                       They shook their heads in disbelief
                                       I could, at most, be their eldest sister
                                       if I could
                                       And where's your father gone?
                                       I don't know
                                      They took him away 
                                      Sentenced him
                                      To how many years?
                                      Twenty-two
                                      Twenty-two?
                                      The prisoners exchanged glances
                                      What was the charge?
                                      Father's a priest, my eldest replied
                                      A priest
                                      End of story 
                                      Is he still alive?
                                      The eldest looks me in the eye
                                      It's not a question he's ever heard before
                                      So dry and matter-of-fact
                                      As if they had asked,
                                      What time is it?
                                      But we didn't know
                                      what the time was
                                      A father has to be alive
                                      What are they talking about?
                                      Of course he's alive, he replied, greedily
                                      More to convince himself and the others

                                      I don't know, I don't know, I answered
                                      Why shouldn't he be alive?

They brought us straw
The prisoners brought us dry straw
 
So many children
Why did you bestow so many children upon me?
Or are they not from you?
Is it worth discussing?
You know how I know
that they are from you?
Well?
You don't know?
I knew, once
 
From the fact I had seven children
Seven
Aha! Shows you had your hand in it
You waited for the seventh, then
Then it all began
At dawn
Since then I've always woken up at dawn
I hear a dog barking wildly
The beat on the windows
The kick at the door
Speaking a language
I don't understand
 
My Rumanian has become quite good
But to no avail
I can't understand what I'm dreaming again
Deschideti!
Deschideti imediat!
Militia!*
 
We gave a jump
My husband, still half-asleep
said
I remember perfectly
Hurry, let's open the door
The Messiah has come again
(Laughs)
In an official jeep
(Laugh)
Then he automatically began
to translate for me
(Lifelessly)
Open up!
Open up this minute!
Police!
He was a man of precision
He didn't waste any time
(Laughs)
Open up!
Open up!
Police!
As if he had said:
Juliet, let's get ready,
they're taking me away now, and…
No! No! No!
I won't tell you the rest!
I still hear it each dawn
they're taking me away now, and…
(Does say it, but with difficulty)
and…
and we will never see each other again, don't worry
 
No
It's not true
I don't believe it
You heard it too, don't deny it
 
I am not Job, you understand?
You hear me?
No, and no
 
The truth will come out at the trial, I told him
Whose truth: theirs or ours?
We don't have our own truth
It wasn't us who invented God
The truth will come out, you hear?
Yes, that's right, it will come out
Yes, that's right, don't be afraid
 
The seven children made me suspicious
from the start
To whom do you give seven?
To whom?
To someone you have unfinished business with?
Job, I get the signs, don't worry
Haha
You gave him seven, twice
lest he had any illusions and so he might prepare for
 
the visit
 
You sent one of your devoted, dutiful
angels
armed from head to toe
and butchered them
All fourteen of them
Seven boys, seven girls
Two times seven
"The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away"
say the Scriptures
Beautiful
Too beautiful
Picking someone for the job
I can tell you
 
I'm no Job
I don't understand a word of Job
Not a damn word
At least there is your voice in it
I can hear that coming out
Your voice
At least that
 
Are you there?
 
Come on, I said, open it
Before they break the door down and wake up
the children
The children
Everything reminds me of the children
The seventh was one then
while the eldest…
Wait, wait a minute
The eldest was eleven
And as bright as the rising sun
As my husband
A big sleeper, at least
I've got that to thank you for
Slept like a log
The seventh, too
Another big sleeper
I give thanks for this, too
He didn't awaken, either
Not then
 
They burst in
How many, I can't remember
They stalked up and down the room
always reminding us they had a written order
An order they never showed us
House search
My husband offered them a seat
A seat
Take a seat, gentlemen, he said
with supreme restraint and strictness
Gentlemen
That's what he called them
Nice word, Domnilor
 
(...)
Take a seat, gentlemen
my husband said
I thought they wouldn't even hear
amidst all that searching
But then something happened
The officer, the official in charge of the operation
Some kind of major
sat down facing us
The others lined up obediently
behind him
They were possessed by obedience
That's how my husband spoke to them
Like someone with power
Thank you, my husband said then
First we have to observe
our morning devotions
They don't understand
We have to say our morning prayer
They understand
Just go on, go on
Don't mind us
Like we weren't even here
Oh but you are here
said my husband
as if he wanted to encourage them
 
Then he took out his bible
and read out the following passage,
listen carefully:
"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers:
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
 
(annoyed)
Entertain what?
Angels?
Now forgive me, but
let us pray
 
He cheated
That wasn't the passage due for that day
Was he reading the Scripture for my sake?
That they were angels
sent from the heavens
and I was blind to this
 
We bowed our heads
He prayed out loud
After the amen he said
A warm welcome, gentlemen
Do with us what you will
 
Do their will they did
No shortage of that
They concentrated on his desk
They put away everything
they found in the drawers
then handcuffed him and took him away
 
The angels!
The angels have gone with my husband!
My husband has gone with the angels!
With your angels!
The angel in a leather coat
The chief angel looked me over, all over
before stepping out of the house
 
(Silence)
I don't know how to cry
I'm good at being distrustful
but no good at crying
Not much good at laughing, either
but my children
persistently teach me how to
 
When they cried
my heart hardened
With a stone-hard heart I thought:
They are crying to you, not to me
Think of something
 
"Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?
and one of them shall not fall on the ground
without your Father.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear ye not therefore,
ye are of more value than many sparrows."
Do you hear?
The little sparrows are crying!
My children want the end of you!
And I couldn't stand it
if you weren't 

Translated by David Robert Evans 
  
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* Pronunciation: Deskidets imediat! Militsia!
 

Tags: András Visky