6 January 2018

Bernard-Marie Koltès: La Nuit juste avant les forêts (1988)

No work by Bernard-Marie Koltès is a comfortable read. Here we have a sixty-three page play, or short 'story' (a questionable term in this case) which is in effect a monologue by an unnamed narrator to an unnamed and unknown person. There is just one sentence, punctuated by commas, dashes, and occasionally parentheses.

A man, possibly drunk or sobering up, possibly maddened by loneliness or fear or any other emotion, waylays another person (called by the familiar 'tu') and tries to prevent him passing by his breathless talking. The reader can have few ideas of the man's age, even of his background, although he speaks in slang, and often speaks of events in the past, recent or distant.

We can perhaps surmise that the place is Paris as the man speaks of the métro and of many bridges. He is out of work, has very little money now because he has just been robbed on the métro, helpless to shout for help because (this piece was written in 1977) his attackers have called him a 'queer'.

But he tells his listener that he's not 'a queer', that's not his reason for stopping him, he wants to sober up, or spend some time talking. And he talks of prostitutes, of women he's known (and a particular one he's had sex with on a bridge), of wanting to buy the other person a coffee: anything to shrug off the fear, the despair, the agony of being for a short time. Comforting read, no, but quite fascinating, outsider writing par excellence.

My other Bernard-Marie Koltès posts:
Bernard-Marie Koltès: Quai ouest
Bernard-Marie Koltès: Sallinger

Bernard-Marie Koltès: La Fuite à cheval très loin dans la ville
Bernard-Marie Koltès: Une part de ma vie
Bernard-Marie Koltès: Dans la solitude des champs de coton | In the Solitude of Cotton Fields

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