TEXTBRIDGE | Literary Agency








Born for Never

by
András Visky

(Original Hungarian title, Visszaszületés; performed in French under the title Nâitre à jamais)


THE STORY

Born for Never is a story about survival. Surviving after the concentration camps, surviving others, surviving one’s memories, surviving oneself. In the background is the Holocaust. András Visky tells the story of a nameless man of unacknowledged identity, who incarnates the ‘usʼ, the innocents from Guantanamo or Florence Cassez imprisoned in Mexico. Born for Never echoes in the contemporary world which we are building, as if history were reproducing itself. (...) Born for Never is a play that makes us think about the condition of people, about what we leave behind, about the place occupied by religion in our relationship with the world, about what we are and, primarily, why we have come to such a pass. A theatre to bind up wounds, to reflect upon our wounds.”
Laurent Bourbousson
www.festivalier.net


THE CHARACTERS

NAMELESS MAN / FRONT RIGHT, WIFE, OLD MASTER, DIRECTOR / FATHER, BOY, GIRL, TITIREZ, BASKET-MAN, WOMAN, MAN, CHORUS (All characters except the Nameless Man).


The original play was written for ten actors but there is also a two actor version. The relationship between the Chorus and the Nameless Man and between the Chorus and the characters who occasionally step out of it, create a situation of private and collective memory. The Chorus is made up of “unreal” characters who are more the creations of the Nameless Man’s mind (dreams, memories, attempts to reconstruct past events that do not congeal) than anything else. (The parts of the Boy and the Girl are not played by child actors.)


Excerpt

Scene Four / I had more problems with the body

NAMELESS MAN
Is anyone here?
Anyone?
Anyone?

Not a single living soul
Living soul – oh sure

To sort out a life
my life

To escape
to disappear in his life

Whose life?

Where are you?

No no
on no account
if I have come to
and I am here

When I came home
my homecoming my arrival
to a place where home was no longer
where home is homelessness itself
has become an eternal place
I can’t even call this homelessness
compared to a home
that either was or will be
that remembers me or awaits me
be it one on earth
under the earth
in the air
or in the sky

I came home
to where neither house
nor home was any longer possible
either for those calling themselves lucky
to have stayed at home
or for those coming back

When I came back
and met the woman later to be my wife
who is no longer my wife
and as I have no wife
nor home
nor homelessness
I can no longer describe her
as my wife either future or past

So when we resolved
to be united in marriage
because I never saw the terrible
absurdity in that sentence
inside me

United in marriage to live as one
to share myself with another
the myself I am not
and at worst some carelessness
occurred in the system
because of a trivial error
I am who I am

But wait...!

I am who I am

This I am who I am climbs into my mouth
even when I am not
it’s not just that I am not who I am
but I’m not even the one
who is here
a him
an other
a not-I

When I came home
when this not-I
misidentified at once by everyone
was to this place born for never
we visited the family and close
relatives of the woman later to be my wife
who themselves came home came back
to where they no longer had a home
but they staked a claim to their old apartment

Staked a claim to it –
what kind of sentence is that
they staked a claim to it and got it back
and together with it they also got back
in full their former home’s brand new
and unprecedented homelessness
they evidently didn’t sense
or at least they gave no sign
of the hopelessness of their lived homelessness
of this perpetual penitence
of the horrendous impossibility of their home

At least I didn’t stake a claim to anything
no home no assets
especially not to compensation

Compensation...!
To be granted compensation...
My God!

From whom?
In whose name?
And when we sat all around the table
and the oldest of the men
murmured something incomprehensible

A prayer before meals
I assume

And when we were about to start eating
and when
when
when
when the young boy
who happened to be sitting opposite
reached into the bowl before me
before me
even though it was my turn
my turn according to camp rules at least...

Are there other rules besides camp rules?
Do other rules exist at all?

It was my turn
I’d worked it out
precisely worked it out
no way I could get it wrong
after all those years in the camp
it was my turn
I swear

The child nevertheless
dove into the bowl
like a blissful bird of prey

Then I

Who is this I?
Who is this I?

This I am who I am
This I grabbed the fork
and stuck it in the child’s hand

The hand stopped above the bowl
as if independent of the child
it was a little surprised by what had happened
and there was silence
the child didn’t cry
out of horror or surprise
out of surprise and shock
for a while we all stared
at his bleeding outstretched hand
and we dropped out of time
like in a bad film
all of us all of us

All except the child
who finally
belatedly
as the blood began dripping from his hand into the bowl
started to cry

I was beginning to fear
he’d stay silent
and that my act
the act of the I
that once belonged to me
which I didn’t know
in all its monstrous artlessness
would remain anonymous and unpunished
a momentary accident at worst carelessness
like splashing a celebratory red wine
onto the snowy white tablecloth
something you could apologize for
you could say I’m sorry
oh sorry
my fingers clean forgot about
their grip on the stemmed glass
oh really not worth mentioning
but really nothing happened nothing nothing
cheers
egészségedre
l’chaim
noroc
àvotresanté
gesundheit
nazdaroviye

I had to stand up from the table
I had to leave that place
before I was able to say a thing
I had to go away from that place
and all places like it
leaving the homes behind me
and the homelessness they were crying out with
everything everything

Only my wife came running after me
she knew how I felt she said
the boy has already forgiven me
don’t be scared
he’s forgiven me
I am free to come back
come back she pleaded her voice sobbing

It was as if I’d heard the overtones
of rage of shame of resentment
from her desperate fistulae

No I said no
I can’t come back
nowhere to come back from
and nowhere to go back to
I didn’t come back
never again
no

Translated by David Robert Evans and Ailisha O'Sullivan