Thursday, December 20, 2007

Somehow, I Always End Up Reading Rather Odd Books at Christmastime

The play is Tom Stoppard's Travesties. The characters are James Joyce and the Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara.
Joyce: Grasping any opportunity for paradox as might occur, in what way is the first name of your friend Arp singular?
Tzara: In that it is duplicate.
Joyce: Namely?
Tzara: Hans Arp. Jean Arp.
Joyce: How can this contradiction of two distinct and equal first names be accounted for?
Tzara: Linguistically, each being a translation of the other, from German into French and conversely.
Joyce: Given a superficial knowledge of your friend's birth and parentage on the one hand, and of the political history of nineteenth-century Europe on the other, how would his bi-lingual nomination strike one?
Tzara: As understandable.
Joyce: Why?
Tzara: He is a native of Alsace, of French background, and a German citizen by virtue of the conquest of 1870.
. . .
Joyce: From whom did he receive encouragement and friendship?
Tzara: From Hugo Ball.
Joyce: Describe Ball by epithet.
Tzara: Unspherical. Tall, thin, sacerdotal, German.
Joyce: Describe him by enumeration of his occupations and preoccupations.
Tzara: Novelist, journalist, philosopher, poet, artist, mystic, pacifist, founder of the Cabaret Voltaire at the Meirei Bar, number one Spiegelgasse.
Joyce: Did Ball keep a diary?
Tzara: He did.
Joyce: Was it published?
Tzara: It was.
Joyce: Is it in the public domain by virtue of the expiration of copyright protection as defined in the Berne Convention of 1886?
Tzara: It is not.
Joyce: Quote judiciously so as to combine maximum information with minimum liability.

Parsley: I hope I have succeeded in doing so.

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