The Eiffel Tower Wedding Party

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Marriage on the Eiffel Tower

Transcript of The Eiffel Tower Wedding Party

  • THEEIFFELTOWER

    WEDDINGPARTY

    ^ translated by

    DUDLEY FITTS

  • PREFACE

    Every work of the poetic order contains what G id ^ in his preface to Paludes, so aptly calls Gods share. ^ i s Share, which eludes the poet himself, can surprise him. Such and such a phrase or gesture, which originally meant no more to him than the third dimension means to a painter, has a hidden meaning that each person will interpret in his own way. The true Symbol is never planned: it emerges by itself, so loh ^ s~ th e bizarre, the unreal, do~^ ^ n t g r jn tof l i A r p r * K n n T n f f

    In I fairyfand, the fairies do not appear, iR ey walk invisibly there. To mortal eyes they can appear only on the terra firma of everyday. The unsophisticated mind is more likely than the others to see the fairies, for it will not oppose to the marvelous the resistance of the hardheaded.I might almost say that the Chief Electrician, with his reflections, has often illuminated a piece for me.

    I have been reading in Antoines memoirs of the scandal provoked by the presence on the stage of real quarters of beef and a fountain of real water. But now, thanks to Antoine, we have come to such a pass that the audience is displeased if real objects are not used on the stage, an if it is not subjected to a plot precisely as complex precisely as tedious, as those from which the theater should serve as a distraction.**

    Writing of OrphSe in 1926, Antoine called it a studio-farce, not even funny (sic).

  • 154 T H E E IF F E L TO W ER W EDDING PARTYThe Eiffel Tower W edding Party, because of its candor,

    was first of all mistaken for a bit of esoteric writing. The mysterious inspires in the public a sort of fear. Here, I renounce mystery. I illuminate everything, I underline everything. Sunday vacuity, human livestock, ready-made expressions, dissociation of ideas into flesh and bone, the fierce cruelty of childhood, the miraculous poetry of daily life: these are my play, so well understood by the young musicians who composed the score for it.

    A remark of the Photographers might do well for my epigraph: Since these mysteries are beyond me, lets pretend that I arranged them all the time. This is our motto, par excellence. Your prig always finds a last refuge in responsibility. Thus, for example, he will go on fighting a war after the end has been reached.

    In W edding Party, Gods share is considerable. To the right and left of the scene the human phonographs (like the ancient Chorus, like the compere and commere of our music-hall stage), describe, without the least literature, the absurd action which is unfolded, danced, and pantomimed between them. I say absurd because instead of trying to keep this side of the absurdity of life, to lessen it, to arrange it as we arrange the story of an incident in which we played an uncomplimentary part, I accentuate it, I push it forward, I try to paint more truly than the truth. f~ l!h e poet ought to disengage objects and ideas from their veiling mists; he ought to display them suddenly, so nakedly and so quickly that they are scarcely recognizable. It is then that they strike us with their youth, as though they had never become official dotard^.

    * This is the case with commonplaces old, powerful, generally esteemed after the manner of masterpieces, but whose original beauty, because of long use, no longer surprises us.

    Gin my play I rejuvenate the commonplace. It is my con- em to present it in suciTaTigKTfhat it recaptures its teens. A generation devoted to obscurity, to jaded realism, does not give way before the shrug of a shoulder. I know that

  • 155

    my text has too obvious an air, that it is too recdahly written, like the alphabets in school. But arent w e in school? Arent we still deciphering the elementary symbols?

    The young music finds itself in an analogous position.It employs a clarity, a simplicity, a good humor, that are new. The ingenuous ear is deceived; it seems to be listening to a cafe orchestra, but it is as mistaken as would be an eye which could not distinguish between a loud garish material and the same material copied by Ingres.

    In W edding Party w e employ all the popular resources that France will have none of at home, but will approve whenever a musician, native or foreign, exploits them outside.

    Do you think, for example, that a Russian can hear the Petrouchka just as w e do? In addition to the charms of that musical masterpiece he finds there his childhood, his Sundays in Petrograd, the lullabies of nurses.

    Why should I deny myself this double pleasure? I assure you that the orchestra of The Eiffel Tower W edding Party moves me more than any number of Russian or Spanish dances. It is not a question of honor rolls. I think I have sufiiciently exalted Russian, German, and Spanish musicians (to say nothing of Negro orchestras) to permit myself this cri du coeur.

    f ^ J t is curious to observe the French everywhere repulsing I bitterly whatever is truly French and embracing unreserved- \ ly the local alien spirit. It is curious, too, that in the case of

    W edding Party an audience at a dress rehearsal should have been outraged by a classic blockhead character whose presence in the wedding cortege was neither more nor less

    . controversial than the presence of the commonplaces in the

    U2?t-Every living work of art has its own ballyhoo, and only

    this is seen by those who stay outside. Now in the case of new work, this first impression so shocks, irritates, angers, the spectator that he will not enter. He is repelled from its true nature by its face, by the unfamiliar outward appear-

    T H E E IF F E L TO W ER AVEDDING PARTY

  • 156 T H E E IF F E L T O W E R W EDDING PARTY

    ance which distracts ^him, as would a clown grimacing at the door. It is this phenomenon which deceives even those critics who are least slaves to convention. They forget that they are at a performance which must be followed just as attentively as a popular success. They think that they are watching a sort of street carnival. A conscientious critic who would never think of writing, The Duchess kisses the Steward instead of The Steward presents a letter to the Duchess in his review of one of these legitimate dramas, will not hesitate, reviewing W edding Party, to make the Bicycle Girl or the Collector come out of the camera which is absurd enough. Not the organized absurdity, the desirable, the good absurdity, but simply the absurd. And he can never see the difference. Alone among the critics, M. Bidou explained to the readers of Debats that my piece was a composition of active wit.**

    /"^ e action of my piece is pictorial, though the text it- /self is not. The fact is that I am trying to substitute a the- I ater poetry for the usual poetry in the theater. Poetry

    , in the theater is a delicate lace, invisible at any consider- I able distance. Theater poetry should be a coarse lace, a

    lace of rigging, a ship upon, the sea. W edding Party can be ^ as terrifying as a drop of poetry under the microscope. The -scenes fit together like the words of a poem.

    The secret of theatrical success is this: you must set a decoy at the door so that part of your audience can amuse themselves there while the rest are inside. Shakspere, Mo- liere, and the profound Chaplin know this well.

    After the hisses, confusion, and applause which marked the first performance of my piece by the Swedish dancers at the Champs-Elys^es, I should have set it down as a failure if the audience of the informed had not given place to the real public. This pubhc always gives me a hearing.

    Only he could write of Orphee that it was a meditation on death.

  • T H E E IF F E L TO W ER W EDDING PARTY 157

    After the performance a lady complained to me that the piece did not carry beyond the footlights. Seeing that I was astonished by her criticism (for masks and megaphones are more effective beyond the footlights than ordinary voices and make-up), she went on to explain that she so greatly admired the ceiling of Maurice Denis, who decorated the theater, that she had engaged the highest seats in the house which necessarily lessened her command of what was going on on the stage.

    I cite this as an example of the criticism offered by that little group with neither intelligence nor sympathy, the little group that the newspapers call the elite.

    Moreover, our senses are so unused to reacting together that the critics even my publishers found it hard to believe that this complicated machinery did not entail two or three pages of text. This faulty perspective must also be blamed upon tbe absence of the development of ideas: a development thatjjthe ear customarily perceives, since the symbolic drama and the drama d these. (Jarrys Ubu and Apollinaires Les mamelles de Tiresias are both symbolic dramas and dramas d thdse).

    The diction of my human phonographs, Pierre Bertin and Marcel Herrand, also comes in for its share in the general misunderstanding: a diction black as ink, immense and clear as the lettering of a billboard. Here, surprisingly enough, are actors who are content to follow the text, rather than force the text to follow them: still another lyric novelty to which the audience is not accustomed!

    Let us touch on the accusation of buffoonery, which has often been hurled at me by our age an age preoccupied with the false-sublime, an age (lets admit it) still in love with Wagner.

    If Cold means Night, and Hot means Light, Lukewarm means Dusk. Ghosts love the dusk. The crowd loves the lukewarm. Very well: aside from the fact that the buffoon attitude brings with it a clarity that is ill-suited to ghosts

  • (by ghosts I,mean what the crowd calls poems ); aside from the fact t