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Title: A la recherche de l'Autre : l'oeuvre dramatique de Bernard-Marie Koltes
Authors: Starak, Grażyna
Keywords: Bernard-Marie Koltès
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego
Abstract: The monograph presents works of writing by Bernard-Marie Koltès, a French playwright who lived in 1948—1989. The author of the monograph sketches a portrait of the artist and outlines his writings as significant in the development of the contemporary drama, as well as provides a detailed analysis of issues which constitute the core of his works, namely, the notion of the Other (l’Autre), the Other’s presence in man’s life, and all possible relations that occur between „the I” and „the Other,” „the Stranger,” „the Unfamiliar.” The book comprises two parts. Each one is divided into chapters. The first part of the monograph, preceded with a preface, introduces Koltès’s works and sets them against the background of French dramaturgy of the second half of the 20th century. It depicts his writings and vision of the theatre as distinct and original on the one hand, but embedded in French and foreign language literary tradition on the other. However, what constitutes the innovative and original character of his works is his capability of drawing from the sources (French Classic theatre, Greek tragic dramatists) in order to produce highly original works with regard to their content, form as well as a unique way of presenting the plot, protagonists and the scenery. The second chapter unveils Koltès’s artisitc path meandering through various experiences brimming with plenteous journeys. Subsequent chapters deal with issues concerning his artistic work, e.g. creation of protagonists, setting and time. In view of general tendencies to reduce theatrical figures to mere letters, ordinal numbers, stripping them of any personal details, their pasts and future plans (the Theatre of the Absurd), Koltès’s theatre actually restores the meaning of theatrical characters and redeems the sense of recounting their stories. However, far be it from psychological concepts of protagonists; rather they seem to be carriers of certain values or functions (The Dealer, The Client). Special attention is given to black protagonists (in almost all the plays) who very often play the main part in dramatic conflicts. Space and time — the artist’s frequent inspiration — are fundamental to Koltès’s philosophy of the Other. Space shapes protagonists, it affects them and imposes roles which lead to conflicts with aggression, mistrust and hostility in the background. The creation of space is concomitant with the creation of time which favors night, dusk, dawn when feeble light incessantly mingles with darkness. The real, palpable and peculiar space that is physically experienced by the protagonists at the same time stands for the mental space — the setting of the drama. Space becomes a metaphor of life or at least one of its aspects. In Koltès’s theatre a story of the world is illustrated by means of space. The second part of the monograph provides an analysis of selected plays in which the concept of the Other is set in many contexts. In The Night Just Before the Forest (La nuit juste avant les forêts), a type of a soliloquy or semi-soliloquy of the Speaker (who throughout sixty-three pages, expresses a restless cry for the need to be in contact with others, to talk to them or be listened to), one can find a twofold interpretation of the Other — as the great Absent, an object of need and desire, or a part of ourselves, unknown yet longed for and feared at the same time. In Black Battles with Dogs (Combat de nègre et de chiens) the Otherness, Strangeness is revealed on many levels, discussed in the subsequent chapter of the second part. The issue of the Other as understood by Koltès is interwoven with such notions as solitude, desire, love, aggression as well as destruction. There are many points of intersection between Koltès and Jacques Lacan and his theory of the Other, which proved useful in the analysis. The most glaring example of the perception of the Other by Koltès is a play entitled In the Solitude of Cotton Fields. A chapter providing the analysis of this play focuses on various readings of the nature of transaction (deal) by means of which human relations are depicted these days. The concept of the Other depicted in works by Koltès is close to philosophy of Emmanuel Lévinas, who considers the Other as a sole, unrepeatable being as far as his alterity is concerned; reads him as an individual being and stresses the need to face the Other, accept him, start a conversation, be in contact, see into him and read all that is hidden within. However, in his reflections Lévinas focuses on the Other as a representative of the same race (white) and coming from the same culture, the European civilization. Conversely, Koltès — enraptured by Africa — extends the concept of the Other to the Other-Stranger — a representative of a different culture, tradition which have long been regarded as inferior by white representatives of Eurocentric civilization. Despite the fact that Koltès himself emerges from the same culture, he actually opposes it. Moreover, he is aware of differences underlying language. Any dialogue with a person who uses a different language, and thus perceives and understands the world from a different perspective, demands much greater effort and tolerance in building a dialogue. This endeavor is challenging. In many of Koltès’s plays it ends in failure, a complete inability to find a common ground for dialogue. The Other-Stranger is an alienated individual as well; strange to himself/ herself and to society where he/she is doomed to live. The Other-Stranger seems estranged in the face of the world, whose existence is led somewhere off its margins and off its values, comes from a place which escapes any definition, moreover, he/she does not find any place that would be his/her own. This Other-Unknown (unknown by himself/herself as well) — as Meursault in Camus — turns to be Koltès himself, and his literary reflection is found in the eponymous Roberto Zucco. The artist deals with concept of the Other, for he believes that literature and art may help understanding the Other. However, Koltès is far from formulating any didactic messages. This theme entails all his plays as it is a natural part of his life, his psyche, experience, and it concerns him directly, i.e. when he stands face-to-face with an armed team of black soldiers in Laos, he turns to be the Other then, the Stranger, the Unfamiliar arousing their curiosity, but also anger and hostility; or when he rejects traditional European values of a culture he was brought up in. Furthermore, the artist turns out to be the Other even in the face of his own self when he becomes aware of his sexual orientation. He is the one who holds the otherness inside and thus does not flee from the otherness of another man, the Other. Alas, all his protagonists are doomed to grope in a world where murder, seclusion and discrimination prevail, as though they were in a cell with no way out, where one is deprived of a single opportunity for a fortunate encounter with the Other.
ISBN: 9788322622841
Appears in Collections:Książki/rozdziały (W.Hum.)

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