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Drinking the New Wine

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Maria Soudaïeva, Slogans, translated by Antoine Volodine (Editions de l'Olivier, 2004)
An article (343 comédiennes pour un étonnant cadavre exquis au Théâtre de la Colline, April 27) by Fabienne Darge for Le Monde describes an extraordinary event in Paris. You may be familiar with the Surrealist game known in English as the Exquisite Corpse, a name taken from a line of poetry created in such a game, Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau. (There are online Exquisite Corpse games, both in text and images, happening right now, and you can even start your own at the Exquisite Corpse Server.) On April 25, at the Théâtre national de la Colline in Paris, 343 actresses, ranging in age from 17 to 91 and led more or less by film legend Jeanne Moreau, took the stage to read, one after the other, Maria Soudaïeva's book Slogans (Editions de l'Olivier, 2004). This theatrical event (called 343...Actrices...) was directed by Bérangère Bonvoisin, and it sold out the house.
Each actress spoke three times during the two hours, in the most open spectacle seen in a long time. Jeanne Moreau read, "One day, we will have swept in front of the door!" She also fired off the next-to-last sentence: "Soon, we will sleep together!" It was Evelyne Didi, adored by her peers, who closed the performance with the words, "The bad days will end!" This new kind of "exquisite corpse" is rich in references, as well as rich in mystery. There were 343 women who signed, in April 1971, the manifesto of women who had claimed to have had abortions. Jeanne Moreau was one of the signatories, as was Marie-France Pisier.

Who is Maria Soudaïeva? She was supposedly born in Vladivostok in 1954, and she apparently met her end in February 2003. She may also be nothing but an invention of the man calling himself her translator, the writer Antoine Volodine, who is only as Russian as his pseudonym and frequent reading of Tolstoy's language. One Abraham Voriaguine—note the similarities—appears in Slogans.
As far as I can tell, this book is not available in English, but there are some excerpts, in French, available online. From that, I can report that the book is essentially a Surrealistic series of hallucinatory aphorisms (e.g., Nymphes, infantes, annulez la division entre flamme et cendre!, or "Nymphs, baby girls, cancel the division between flame and ash!"), which is perfect for the sort of serial dramatic presentation that just happened in France. André Breton would be so proud.

See also Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, 343 cris d'amazones (Libération, April 25).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pas de surréalisme. Une mise en vers du système de Volodine (par lui-même).