Thursday, August 25, 1994

No Exit and Three Other Plays

by Jean-Paul Sartre

"No Exit," translated by S. Gilbert.  Three strangers, locked in a room.  Can't really say anything about this brilliant allegory without revealing too much.  It should be very widely read.

"The Flies," translated by S. Gilbert.  A reworking of the Orestes/Electra story.  I liked it better than Euripides'.  Sartre made the characters multi-faceted and real; he also added Zeus as an adversary of Orestes who feeds on remorse.  Orestes' refusing to repudiate his crime, create his own freedom and deny Zeus & nature, was very existential, I thought.  Plus, perhaps, the killing could be identified with the workers' violent revolt which creates their own justice maybe.  Anyway, a great, complex play, that also works as an anti-Nazi or anti-occupation message.

"Dirty Hands," translated by Lionel Abel. It was about an intellectual who yearns to act for the Communist Party, and is manipulated by them to such an extent that the man he is supposed to kill sees it all and even tries to reveal it to him.  There’s a great, well-crafted argument scene about the process of power-taking and political machinations between the intellectual (Hugo) and his target (Hoederer).  In the end, Hugo is convinced he acted for the right reasons, despite the party's re-writing of history.  Like Sartre’s Orestes, he too refuses to repudiate his crime and makes his own destiny.  A great, great play.

"The Respectful Prostitute," translated by Lionel Abel. It’s a short, very chilling, scathing attack on American corruption and racism.  I don’t remember it from my previous reading as being this powerful, but it is – a nasty little piece of work.

[read twice]

five stars

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