16 April 2018

Jean Giraudoux: La Folle de Chaillot | The Madwoman of Chaillot (1945)

Jean Giraudoux (1882–1944) died the year before his play La Folle de Chaillot (translated as The Madwoman of Chaillot) was published. General opinion seems to be that this isn't his best work, although one review thought that it's a failed masterpiece, and its Wikipédia entry (slightly oddly, I find) suggests that it is at once 'folklorique, ethnologique, écologique, politique, poétique, antipsychiatrique et d'amour'. Er, maybe.

It's also very weird, blending the surreal and the nonsensical, but then I suppose the title might suggest that anyway. The overriding impression I have of it is that it is a great criticism of the excesses of, and the insanity of, capitalism.

This is a play in two parts, the first of which takes place outside Chez Francis in the Place d'Alma, with some undesirable business terrorists plotting to blow up Paris in order to get at oil. Young Pierre is blackmailed into destroying an engineer's house, but decides to kill himself,  although he is saved before even touching the water. But this is when Aurélie, La folle de Chaillot, starts to understand what is going on.

And in the second part,  consulting the other 'madwomen' of Paris La folle de Passy, La Folle de Saint-Sulpice, and La Folle de Concorde – Aurélie convinces them that she's doing the right thing by luring the real mad people (the ruthless moneymakers) into the sewers and shutting the lid down tight over them for good.

This play is an oddity whose ethos I firmly approve of.

Jean Giraudoux's grave in the Cimetière de Passy.

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