Tuesday, August 23, 2016


The Playwright

He wonders this morning as he often does if August Strindberg went for a walk in present day America would it inspire him to write a play. Just a day ago he wrote, “How can you trust your enemies when you don’t know yourself?” Often these thoughts were around him but as often than not he thought about Strindberg taking on a role in a world created by Beckett, wandering a wasteland. Maybe it was a wasteland.

In one version Strindberg had the body of a workman and carried a large toolbox with both hands over a mountain. As he walked he recounted the last days of his life in chronological order. “Two weeks before my death, I took it upon myself to arrange every photograph of myself by throwing them off a cliff into a raging sea. Let the beasts of the sea rest them on a shore somewhere and that is how a biographer will find me.”

In another he is paralyzed in a hovel in India. His eyes look about until they meet mine. This being a dream he looks into the camera. He speaks to me with his thoughts. The voice the dream creates is harsh and old. He flashes a set of teeth that is loosening as the dream goes on. I find myself shaking as he speaks. “In the Ganges you will find the words needed for escaping what brought you here. Wipe your hand over the surface like the froth of a warm drink and it will enable you to see through to the bottom. On the bottom is a set of sketches that when arranged describe every dark dream of infancy. If you can break this autobiographical transformation then any room you decide to sleep in thereafter will not close in, but burn.”

He goes for a walk and finds the weather is stormy but accepting. Strindberg would have said of course your death is accepting. He turns from the end of my street and into a wooden area he knows well. I think of the opening shot of Alexander Dovzhenko’s Earth as he looks out at a familiar landscape that has suddenly changed. Moving through the tall grass he sees a giant orchard ahead. He can smell the apples ahead of me. He begins to smile as he approaches them so close that he can almost touch them. His hands become arthritic and he is unable to pick one. He bends down and tries to take a bite but is unable. He looks down and there are thousands at his feet. All around him the tall grass is sprouting apples. He sees Strindberg himself wipe an apple on his sleeve and take a bite as he begins to bleed from his side.

Chris Mansel