3 January 2018

Bernard-Marie Koltès: Quai ouest (1985)

Although the place is unnamed, Bernard-Marie Koltès bases the setting and the architecture on a large disused shed (destroyed in the early 1980s because of the crime associated with it) which he spent some time in in New York in 1982, a place of tramps, gays, criminals, social rejects. Here we have Maurice Koch, 60, who arrives in the shed in his car with Monique, 42. There's also a family: the husband Rodolfe, 58, his wife Cécile, 60, and their children Charles, 28, and Claire, 14. Also present are Fak, 22. And Abad who can speak but never does.

It's impossible not to see Beckett as an influence here, although the play (Koltès's first published) also mentions quotes from the Bible, Victor Hugo, Jack London and Burning Spear (Winston Rodney): an eclectic mixture to match the characters.

Sometimes Koltès's work seems like a kind of dance around dealing of some sort, exchanges of possessions, with menace, or at least uncertainty, ever present. Koltès says he's not interested in reasons, not the 'Why?' but the 'How?'. Also of interest is the meeting of two people, who might have come from two different periods of his life: in his childhood Koch, the bourgeois, military, provincial, French; as opposed to Abad in his youth, who is none of these.

Koch, who has lost his money but doesn't know why, wants to kill himself but we don't know why and of course it doesn't matter. He at first throws himself in the (Hudson) River by the shed, only to be fished out by Charles. At the end he dies offstage, and it's not clear if he dies by his own hand or as a result of Abad killing him.

Cécile also dies, after speaking in Spanish and Quechuan, which are only translated into French in the Annex to the book. Also of interest is Fak teasingly trying to entice Claire into the shed using language which is obviously sexual, although there is no specific mention of anything of a sexual nature: again, it's a kind of dance around the unspoken, which Koltès excels at. But 'meaning', symbolism? Don't even think about it: that's a world Koltès doesn't inhabit.

My other Bernard-Marie Koltès posts:
Bernard-Marie Koltès: Une part de ma vie
Bernard-Marie Koltès: La Fuite à cheval
Bernard-Marie Koltès: Sallinger
Bernard-Marie Koltès: La Nuit juste avant les forêts
Bernard-Marie Koltès: Dans la solitude des champs de coton | In the Solitude of Cotton Fields

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