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Authors: Tom Stoppard

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BOOK: Travesties
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TZARA
: Why not? You do exactly the same thing with words like
patriotism, duty, love, freedom
, king and country, brave little Belgium, saucy little Serbia –

CARR
: (
Coldly
): You are insulting my comrades-in-arms, many of whom died on the field of honour –

TZARA
: – and honour – all the traditional sophistries for waging wars of expansion and self-interest, set to patriotic hymns.
Music is corrupted, language conscripted. Words are taken to stand for their opposites. That is why anti-art is the art of our time.
(
The argument becomes progressively more heated
.)

CARR
: The nerve of it. Wars are fought to make the world safe for artists. It is never quite put in those terms but it is a useful way of grasping what civilized ideals are all about. The easiest way of knowing whether good has triumphed over evil is to examine the freedom of the artist. The
ingratitude
of artists, indeed their hostility, not to mention the loss of nerve and failure of talent which accounts for ‘modern art', merely demonstrate the freedom of the artist to be ungrateful, hostile, self-centred and talentless, for which freedom I went to war.

TZARA
: Wars are fought for oil wells and coaling stations; for control of the Dardanelles or the Suez Canal; for colonial pickings to buy cheap in and conquered markets to sell dear in. War is capitalism with the gloves off and many who go to war know it but they go to war because they don't want to be a hero. It takes courage to sit down and be counted. But how much better to live bravely in Switzerland than to die cravenly in France, quite apart from what it does to one's trousers.

CARR
: My God, you little Romanian wog – you bloody dago – you jumped-up phrase-making smart-alecy arty-intellectual Balkan turd!!! Think you know it all! – while we poor dupes think we're fighting for ideals, you've got a profound understanding of what is
really
going on, underneath! – you've got a phrase for it! You pedant! Do you think your phrases are the true sum of each man's living of each day? –
capitalism with the gloves off?
– do you think that's the true experience of a wire-cutting party caught in a crossfire in no-man's-land? (
Viciously
) It's all the rage in Zurich! – You slug! I'll tell you what's
really
going on: I went to war because it was my
duty
, because my country needed me, and that's
patriotism
. I went to war because I believed that those boring little Belgians and incompetent Frogs had the right to be defended from German militarism, and that's
love of
freedom. That's
how things are underneath, and I won't be told by some yellow-bellied Bolshevik that I ended up in the trenches because there's a profit in ball-bearings!

TZARA
(
Storming
):
Quite right!
You ended up in the trenches, because on the 28th of June 1900 the heir to the throne of Austro-Hungary married beneath him and found that the wife he loved was never allowed to sit next to him on royal occasions, except! when he was acting in his military capacity as Inspector General of the Austro-Hungarian army – in which capacity he therefore decided to inspect the army in Bosnia, so that
at least on their wedding anniversary
, the 28th of June 1914, they might ride side by side in an open carriage through the streets of Sarajevo! (
Sentimentally
) Aaaaah!
(
Then slaps his hands sharply together like a gun-shot
) Or, to put it another way –

CARR
(
Quietly
): We're here because we're here … because we're here because we're here … we're here because we're here because we're here because we're here …
(
CARR
has dropped into the familiar chant, quite quiet
.
TZARA
joins in, just using the sound
‘
da-da' to the same tune. The light starts to go. The chant grows. When
CARR
starts to speak
,
TZARA
continues the chanting quietly for a few more moments under
CARR
's
words
.)
Great days! The dawn breaking over no-man's-land – Dewdrops glistening on the poppies in the early morning sun! The trenches stirring to life!… ‘Good morning, corporal! All quiet on the Western Front?'… ‘Tickety-boo, sir!' – ‘Carry on!' – Wonderful spirit in the trenches – never in the whole history of human conflict was there anything to match the courage, the comradeship, the warmth, the cold, the mud, the stench – fear – folly – Christ Jesu!, but for this blessed leg! – I never thought to be picked out, plucked out, blessed by the blood of a blighty wound – oh
heaven!
– released into folds of snow-white feather beds, pacific civilian heaven!, the mystical swissticality of it, the entente cordiality of it!, the Jesus Christ I'm out of it! – into the valley of the invalided – Carr of the Consulate!
(
Lights to normal
.)

And what brings
you
here, my dear Tristan?

TZARA
: Oh, pleasure, pleasure … What else should bring anyone anywhere? Eating as usual, I see, Henry?

CARR
: I believe it is customary in good society to take a cucumber sandwich at five o'clock. Where have you been since last Thursday?

TZARA
: In the Public Library.

CARR
: What on earth were you doing there?

TZARA
: That's just what I kept asking myself.

CARR
: And what was the reply?

TZARA:
‘Ssssh!' Cecily does not approve of garrulity in the Reference Section.

CARR
: Who is Cecily? And is she as pretty and well-bred as she sounds? Cecily is a name well thought of at fashionable christenings.

TZARA
: Cecily is a librarianness. I say, do you know someone called Joyce?

CARR
:
Joyce
is a name which could only expose a child to comment around the font.

TZARA
: No, no, Mr Joyce, Irish writer, mainly of limericks, christened James Augustine, though registered, due to a clerical error, as James Augusta, a little known fact.

CARR
: Certainly I did not know it. But then I have never taken an interest in Irish affairs. In fashionable society it would be considered a sign of incipient vulgarity with radical undertones.

TZARA
: The war caught Joyce and his wife in Trieste in Austro-Hungary. They got into Switzerland and settled in Zurich. He lives in Universitatsstrasse, and is often seen round about, in the library, in the cafés, wearing, for example, a black pinstripe jacket with grey herringbone trousers, or brown Donegal jacket with black pinstripe trousers, or grey herringbone jacket with brown Donegal trousers, all being the mismatched halves of sundry sundered Sunday suits: sorts language into hands of contract bridge. His limericks are said to be more interesting, though hardly likely to start a revolution – I say, do you know someone called Ulyanov?

CARR
: I'm finding this conversation extremely hard to follow.

And you still have not told me what you were doing in the public library. I had no idea that poets nowadays were interested in literature. Or is it that your interest is in Cecily?

TZARA
: Good heavens, no. Cecily is rather pretty, and wellbred, as you surmised, but her views on poetry are very old-fashioned and her knowledge of the poets, as indeed of everything else, is eccentric, being based on alphabetical precedence. She is working her way along the shelves. She has read Allingham, Anon, Arnold, Belloc, Blake, both Brownings, Byron, and so on up to, I believe, G.

CARR
: Who is Allingham?

TZARA
: ‘Up the airy mountain, down the rushy glen, we daren't go a-hunting for fear of little men …' Cecily would regard any poem that came out of a hat with the gravest suspicion. Hello – why the extra cup? – why cucumber sandwiches? Who's coming to tea?

CARR
: It is merely set for Gwendolen – she usually returns at about this hour.

TZARA
: How perfectly delightful, and to be honest not unexpected. I am in love with Gwendolen and have come expressly to propose to her.

CARR
: Well, that is a surprise.

TZARA
: Surely not, Henry; I have made my feelings for Gwendolen quite plain.

CARR
: Of course you have, my dear fellow. But my surprise stems from the fact that you must surely have met Gwendolen at the Public Library, for she has left here every morning this week saying that that is where she is going, and Gwendolen is a scrupulously truthful girl. In fact, as her elder brother I have had to speak to her about it. Unrelieved truthfulness can give a young girl a reputation for insincerity. I have known plain girls with nothing to hide captivate the London season purely by discriminate mendacity.

TZARA
: Oh, I assure you Gwendolen has been in the Public Library. But I have had to admire her from afar, all the way from Economics to Foreign Literature.

CARR
: I had no idea Gwendolen knew any foreign languages, and I am not sure that I approve. It's the sort of thing that can only broaden a girl's mind.

TZARA
: Well, in this library Foreign Literature includes English.

CARR
: What a novel arrangement. Is any reason given?

TZARA
(
Impatiently
): The point is, Henry, I can't get to speak to her alone.

CARR
: Ah, yes-her chaperone.

TZARA
: Chaperone?

CARR
: Yes – you don't imagine I'd let my sister go unchaperoned in a city largely frequented by foreigners. Gwendolen has made a friend in Zurich. I have not met her but Gwendolen assures me that they are continuously in each other's company, and from a description which I have elicited by discreet questioning she cannot but be a wholesome and restraining influence, being practically middle-aged, plainly dressed, bespectacled and answering to the name of Joyce, oh good heavens. Is he after her money?

TZARA
: Only in derisory instalments. He claims to be writing a novel, and has made a disciple out of Gwendolen. She transcribes for him, looks things up in works of reference, and so on. The poor girl is so innocent she does not stop to wonder what possible book could be derived from reference to Homer's
Odyssey
and the Dublin Street Directory for 1904.

CARR
: Homer's
Odyssey
and the Dublin Street Directory?

TZARA
: For 1904.

CARR
: I admit it's an unusual combination of sources, but not wholly without possibilities. Anyway, there's no need to behave as though you were married to her already. You are not married to her already, and I don't think you ever will be.

TZARA
: Why on earth do you say that?

CARR
: In the first place, girls never marry Romanians, and in the second place I don't give my consent.

TZARA
: Your consent!

CARR
: My dear fellow, Gwendolen is my sister and before I allow you to marry her you will have to clear up the whole question of Jack.

TZARA
: Jack! What on earth do you mean? What do you mean,
Henry, by Jack? I don't know anyone of the name of Jack.

CARR
(
Taking a library ticket from his pocket
): You left this here the last time you dined.

TZARA
: Do you mean to say you have had my library ticket all this time? I had to pay a small fine in replacing it.

CARR
: That was extravagant of you, since the ticket does not belong to you. It is made out in the name of Mr Jack Tzara, and your name isn't Jack, it's Tristan.

TZARA
: No, it isn't, it's Jack.

CARR
: You have always told me it was Tristan. I have introduced you to everyone as Tristan. You answer to the name of Tristan. Your notoriety at the Meierei Bar is firmly associated with the name Tristan. It is perfectly absurd saying your name isn't Tristan.

TZARA
: Well, my name is Tristan in the Meierei Bar and Jack in the library, and the ticket was issued in the library.

CARR
: To write – or at any rate to draw words out of a hat – under one name, and appear at the Public Library under another is an understandable precaution – but I cannot believe that that is the whole explanation.

TZARA
: My dear Henry, the explanation is perfectly simple. One day last year, not long after the triumph at the Meierei Bar of our noise concert for siren, rattle and fire-extinguisher, a bunch of the boys were sinking a beer at the Cafe Zum Adler – myself, Hans Arp, Hugo Ball, Picabia … Arp, as usual, was inserting a warm croissant into his nose, I was quietly improving a Shakespeare sonnet with a pair of scissors.

CARR
: Which one?

TZARA
: I believe it was the Eighteenth, the one beginning ‘Vergleichen solle ich dich dem Sommertag, Da du weit lieblicher, weit milder bist?'

CARR
: But surely, in German it's hardly worth the trouble.

TZARA
(
Cheerfully
): Oh, completely pointless. If it weren't, it wouldn't be Dada. Well, who should come in but Ulyanov, also known as Lenin, with a group of Zimmerwaldists.

CARR
: That sounds like the last word in revolutionary socialism.

TZARA
: It is. At Zimmerwald in 1915 we called on the workers of the world to oppose the war.

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