Friday, September 13, 2013

Episode in the Life of an Author by Jean Anouilh

Episode in the Life of an Author 
- Jean Anouilh

Jean Anouilh is a French dramatist. He is a prominent writer of the modern theatre. His writings are very accurate but full of humour and entertainment because he firmly believed that the all time function of theatre is to provide pure entertainment without leaving any other burden on the audience.

The Play in a nutshell:
‘Episode in the Life of an Author’ is a remarkable play belonging to ‘The Theatre of Absurd’. It is a very good example of a low grade comedy otherwise called ‘Farce’. This genre is basically light in its approach and humorous in nature ultimately challenging the traditional practices of focusing on plot, characters, themes, conflicts and all other serious elements of the drama. In such work we often find the characters out of harmony and in a chaotic state of affairs.

Meaning of The Theatre of absurd:
The term is applied to a number of works in drama and prose fiction which deals with the theme of absurdity in human life. Such kind of literature commonly depicts the sense that the human condition is extremely and essentially absurd. The followers of this genre further believe that this condition can be adequately represented only in works of literature that are themselves absurd. Both the mood and dramatic techniques of absurdity were anticipated as early as 1896 in Alfred Jarry’s French Play Ubu roi (Ubu the king). However the literature also has its roots in the movement that emerged and became popular in France after the horrors of World War II, as a rebellion against essential beliefs and values both of traditional culture and traditional literature. Earlier belief was that human beings are fairly rational creatures who live in an intelligible universe, that they are part of an ordered social structure, and that they may be capable of heroism and dignity even in defeat. After 1940s, however, there was a widespread tendency to view human being as an isolated entity thrown into an unknown universe. Their faiths were broken and they started believing that unlike the set beliefs the earth did not possess any inherent truth value or meaning. Further they concluded that life moves from nothingness from where it comes towards nothingness where it must end. Thus they believed that human existence was both anguished and absurd.

Some Important Features of Absurd Drama:
ü  It has unusual plot, theme, dialogues and actions which makes it different from other traditional plays.
ü  The events, actions are illogical, senseless, often useless, confusing, absurd and totally beyond the understanding of the common audience.
ü  Often situations are funny absurd and often there is a lack of sequence of events
ü  The characters are often caught in a chaotic situation and find it very difficult to understand its place in the universe. They are often confused and under lots of meaningless pressures and tensions.
ü  Often the inadequacy of language for communication is also exposed and it is shown that language is an unreliable and insufficient tool of communicaiton
Farce:
Farce is a type of comedy written with a sole intention of provoking hearty laughter among the audience without weighing them down with any other moral or ethical burden in the parlance of theatre. To do so it commonly employs highly exaggerated or caricatured types of characters and puts them into improbable and ludicrous situations. Besides it also makes free use of sexual mix-ups, broad verbal humour, and physical bustle and horseplay. Farce was a component in the comic episodes in medieval miracle plays. In the enduring English drama, farce is usually an episode in a more complex form of comedy.

Theme of the Play:
Keenly following the trends and techniques of the theme of absurdity, the play deals with the theme of helplessness and confusion of human beings in the modern world. The whole play appears to be full with disorder, chaos and illogical sequence of events upon which none has any control. The protagonist (the author) himself is deep in troubles from various angles. And to worsen the matter further all other characters come to seek solace and solution to their problems from the author. They all appear to be very much dependent on the author they all want the author to solve their problems and troubles.

Characters of the play:
  1. The Author:Jacques, the French Dramatist and the central character of the play.
  2. Ardele: Author’s wife (Glothaire: the pet cat of Ardele).
  3. Madame Bassarabo: A Rumanian journalist who has come to interview the author about his play ‘La Marguerite’.
  4. The Photographer: Madame Bassarabo’s assistant.
  5. The Maid: Leonie, the young house maid of the author.
  6. Two Plumbers: they have come to repair the leak of water pipe.
  7. The Mother: Author’s mother asking him to buy a new apartment
  8. The Friend: Gustave, a cine-script writer and author’s close friend.
  9. The Woman on the Phone: Madam Pripon Minet who always calls the author misunderstanding him to be her first husband Leon. (Leon: the first husband of the lady on phone i.e. Pripon Minet).
10.    La Surette: A tramp (a person with no fixed home or occupation and who wanders from place to place) and the close friend of the Author.
11.     The Housing Inspector: the Man in Black who is a government official and has come to check about the improper occupation of the author’s house.
12.     Gontran: the friend of the author who has problem with his love and has come like others to seek help from the author. (Lea: the girlfriend of Gontran/Lucienne: Gontran’s wife)

People involved in Gustave’s Woman with the Boas:
  1. Liliane Tresor : an actress
  2. Paul Zed: the film director/producer  of Gustave’s film ‘The Woman with the Boas’.
  3. Bourbanski: For whom was the film being produced.

Summary of the play (plot):

Episode in the life of an Author” is a very good example of FARCE belonging to the ‘Theatre of Absurd’ written by Jean Anouilh, a French dramatist pursuing this genre.
The Author himself is the protagonist of the play who has been subjected to chaotic situations where he finds it extremely difficult to cope up and finally fails to bring any order in his life. The play begins with a rather humorous scene in which the Author and his wife Ardele are involved in an argument due to the misunderstanding caused by the letter ending with ‘my own love’. Both of them are blaming each other for cheating and deceiving. Before they could resolve their dispute amicably there comes a Rumanian journalist Madam Bessarabo with her photographer to have an interview with the Author about him play ‘La Maguerite’ which had become a big hit in Rumania and which had also made the Author very famous.
Then an incontrollable series of illogical happenings start taking place which leaves the Author completely bewildered and perplexed. After the quarrel and argument his wife prepares to leave him and go to her sister. This is followed by the arrival of two plumbers to repair the leak in water supply. A woman makes a wrong call thinking that the Author is Leon, the caller’s first husband. In the midst of all this the maid arrives, literally crying, to seek permission to cut the water supply on behalf of the plumbers. The woman calls again looking for her first husband Leon strongly believing that he was playing some tricks to hide his identity from her. Ardele comes out of bathroom in a very angry mood thinking that the Author had cut the water supply in order to torture and take revenge on her. His friend Gustave calls him to discuss about the climax of his script. Author’s mother comes asking him to arrange the exchange of her flat with someone. The interview is never getting on its way. Before he could start afresh his friends calls him again to discuss the climax. Outside La Surette comes seeking more money and a pair of boots. The woman calls the third time looking for Leon. The Housing Inspector (the man in black) comes to enquire about the underuse of the house by the Author. By now the Author has lost all the control over the situation and he does not know what he is talking about. This further creates chaos and humour as well. He gets angry with La Surette and throws his shoes towards him and asks to take the gas from his kitchen. Ardele comes to enquire about his secret beloved. Again a woman calls enquiring about the flat and he introduces his mother to the woman and further confusion is created. Gontran arrives with the problem of his wife’s dishonesty and his new beloved Lea. Gustave calls again and Author replies “Later Darling later’ which infuriates Ardele and she slaps the Author. As Gontran has fainted the Author goes to the kitchen to get some tincture of Iodine. Ardele then talks with the woman after getting the number from the telephone operator and they end up threatening each other. On the other side the Author catches La Surette with the maid in offensive situation and also he comes to know about the maid’s pregnancy. Once again Madam Bessarabo tries to continue the interview but the Author get angry and chases her out along with the photographer. In the mean time the housing inspector has completed digging out all the hidden facts about rooms. Simultaneously the plumbers come informing them that they had found the leak but were not in position to repair it. Suddenly a gush of water comes and a chaos is created by everybody running here and there to save themselves from getting drenched. Gustave call again to discuss about the climax but hangs up angrily thinking that the Author was not very prompt and sincere in discussion with him. Finally Ardele comes with a gun, fires at the author but cries in relief knowing that the Author was not hurt and end up unconscious in his arm. Finally the author comes on the stage and once again reminds the audience that ‘the primary function of the theatre is, was and forever will be entertainment’. 
Thus we can conclude with the realization that the play has been very successful in meeting the demand of theatre from the Author’s point of view by providing so much of light hearted humour and laughter at large. Also we find the Author caught in a complex situation leading to a lot of illogical incidents and chaos over which he has no control till the end which is very much in line with the requirement of ‘The theatre of Absurd’.

Facts to remember:
ü  ‘Episode in the life of an Author’ belongs to the genre of Farce.
ü  Ardele accuses the Author of being unfaithful to make the author feel guilty.
ü  The Rumanian journalist Madam Bessarabo has come to interview the Author and know his view about love and ‘La Marguerite’.
ü  Gustave, the Author’s friend is a script writer and wants to discuss about the end of his film.
ü  Author’s real name in the play is Jacques.
ü  The quarrel between Author and his wife is because of a letter with ‘my own love’.
ü  Madam Bessarabo is a lady fond of boasting and flattering.
ü  The name of the maid Leonie.
ü  The name of the first husband of the lady calling over phone is Leon.
ü  Ardele calls the Author ‘an insensible brute because he appears not to be understanding the sentiment of cat and asks to give a tin of sardine
ü  Housing Inspector (Man in Black) has come to enquire about the under-utilization of the Author’s house.
ü  Madam Bessarabo boasted to housing inspector by saying that she is a princess
ü  La Surette has helped the Author by lending his bayonet and saving from being court-martialled
ü  One twenty two Retalians in Saint-Malo is house ofArdele’s sister.
ü  Author’s name in the play is first revealed by Gontran.
ü  All the characters in the play have to wear false nose.
ü  The title of Gustave’s film is ‘The Women with the Boas’.
ü  The maid cries throughout the play because she is pregnanat.
ü  The Author and his wife Ardele were quarrelling over a letter with ending ‘my own love’ in the beginning of the play. The Author was doubting that the letter was from one of her lover.
ü  The woman over the phone wanted to talk to Leon, her first husband about a flat that she was in need of.
ü  The Author defined love by explaining that ‘love is like Marguerite; love has petals and leaves.’
ü  Liliane Tresor is a film actress who refused to act in Gustave’s film because she did not want to die in the end.

Character Analysis:

Author: Author is the central character or the protagonist of this play. He represents a typical absurd character bringing in him all the character traits and absurdity closely associated with the genre of ‘Farce’ and the ‘Theatre of Absurd’. Though he is a famous man, a celebrity but he too has all the weakness of a common character. He suspects his wife after living with her for 12 years which proves him equally vulnerable to any human weakness. His nasty laughter during his argument and quarrel with his wife makes him appear to be an insensitive and irritating character. He is not a well organized person as he cannot control the events and situations in his life. There is no order in his life. Things go topsy-turvy and he has no control over anything. By looking at his discussion with the Housing Inspector we also find him little cunning. However he appears to be willing to help everybody though he cannot do any help to anyone and this is what the main feature of absurdity in this play. 

Ardele: Ardele is the second most important character in the play after the Author. She is the wife of the Author and her presence is throughout the play. We see the play opening with the quarrel and argument between her and the Author. This was because the Author had found a letter in her closet ending with ‘my own love’. Though the letter was from her sister but the Author alleged her that the letter was from her lover. This infuriates her, and in anger she decides to leave the author but ultimately goes nowhere.
Her staying with the Author for 12 years proves her to be a faithful and committed wife and hence her love towards her husband cannot be questioned at all. But on the other hand she also appears to be dominating and over possessive of her husband. Her arguments with Gontran, the lady over phone and Author’s mother also indicate that she is bit quarrelsome and that her relation with mother-in-law is extremely bitter. Her expression of disgust for the author over the issue of cats presents her as an ardent lover of pets. She also appears to be slightly immature, short-tempered and extremely sensitive. Her coming out in a bathrobe and quarrelling with the author, her firing bullet at her husband and her quarrelsome appearance prove the claim. By calling the exchange to get the number of the lady she also proves herself to be shrewd and intelligent. So there is no doubt that she is one of the most important characters in this play.

Gustave: Gustave is a script writer and a very close friend of the Author. His appearance in the play is through phone when he calls the author to discuss about climax of the film and the heroine’s refusal to die at the end as had been agreed before. Gustav appears to be a man who does not give in to others’ suggestions. He is proud as well because he thinks his ideas are the best. He calls the author to discuss the climax of his film but when the author suggests for a comic ending, he gets angry with the author. He also does not seem to be an understanding person because he feels that he is in problem and the author is sitting casually in his sitting room unwilling to help him find the solution of his problem.

Mother:   The character of mother further adds to the richness of humour and comedy of the play. Being mother she is obviously older but her dresses are flowery which is humorous and funny. She is very impatient as she cannot wait even for a little when she comes to the author to ask him to find a flat for her. She childish too, because she gets over excited when she hears his son talking about apartment over phone. Without any delay she rushes to meet the lady to discuss about the apartment. Her age seems to have taken better of him and she has grown impatient as she cannot wait at all. Her relation with Ardele is very low and at any cost she is not ready to stay with her. What is remarkable about the character of mother is that she enriches the humour and comedy in the play

Gontran:  Being a low grade comedy (farce) the play is stuffed with so many humorous, funny and absurd characters, Gontran being one such character. He is a close family friend of the Author who appears on the stage to discuss about his problem related to his wife and new girlfriend. Physically he is huge and gigantic but emotionally he is very weak and childish. He breaks down easily and starts crying like a child. He is sensitive and easily gets angry or sentimental. When Ardele comments adversely about his girlfriend Lea he gets extremely angry and next moment he starts crying like a child in the arms of the Author and ultimately falls unconscious there. Though he has left his wife long time back but he still loves her and that’s why he has come to the Author to seek their help and resolve the problem between him and his wife.  

Symbols Used in the Play:

Symbols play an integral part of communicating the writer's vision to the play, in Episode in the Life of the Author the following symbols are used:

False Noses
All the characters in the play are wearing false noses and this is an indispensable part of the play. The false noses here symbolize the absurd nature of the play. More than anything Anouilh has used the false noses for all characters to show the purpose of absurd plays. The primary function of the theatre is entertainment and false noses actually justify this purpose and add a comic element to the characters. It also symbolizes that human beings no matter what they consider themselves to be, after all they are just players on the stage of the world and that their purposes of living are often falsified through the choice of their own lenses. 

The Leak
The leak in the play is symbolic of two important elements. Absurd plays often contradict the notion that there is always a reason behind the occurrence of things and events in our everyday life. The leak is used to symbolize that the way events and incidents happen sometimes are beyond logic and a rational explanation. It also highlights the power of myths and miracles that impact our life in an inexplicable way.

The Boots
La Surette approaches the author for the money to pay for the gas bill but later he places more importance on the boots than the money. The boots here symbolize the absurd desires of human beings. Human beings have unlimited desires and wants but there is a lack of rational explanation for these desires.
We do not know why we want some things and we often do not know why we do not want some other things in life.

The Weeping Maid
Leonie, the maid is a minor character who is a member of the author’s house. She ushers all the visitors and the guests who come with their problems to the author. But all the while, she is found to be weeping throughout the play. A certain degree of suspense is maintained by Anouilh, until towards the end when we are informed that she had been weeping because she had become pregnant. Both the Author and Ardele are oblivious of her pregnancy and pay no heed to her sufferings. She is left on her own to fight her own battles. Her weeping is symbolic of the physical and mental sufferings that people go through in the walks of their daily life. It is also suggestive of how other people desert us in times of distress to face the problems of our own life although we have been living under the same roof. Poor people like the maid are exploited by powerful men; their woes unheard, their pains undivided and left to strive and struggle on their own.

The Falling Picture
The falling picture symbolizes:
Ø  The wife’s temperament: Whenever Ardele leaves the study slamming the door, the picture falls down. It happens from the beginning of the play whenever she quarrels with her husband. The falling picture here shows that Ardele is a short tempered lady.
Ø  The problems of marital life: It clearly reveals in the play the theme that if the husband and the wife do not have mutual trust then there will be quarrels and unrest in the house.
Ø  The author’s character as a patient man: In the play Ardele addresses the Author angrily for three times and on all these occasion her slamming the door makes the picture to fall down. Whenever it happens the Author calmly picks it up and hangs it back without showing ill temper towards his wife. This clearly shows that the Author is a very patient, cool and composed man with immense tolerance.  
Ø  To add a comic element to the play amidst the tensions of the author’s marital life: Whenever Ardele and the Author quarrel the scene becomes serious, but in the middle of this seriousness the falling picture gives opportunity to the audience to laugh at it.
Ø  Disorder and chaos: At the end of the play the ceiling collapses and cascades of water flows all over the room, even the pictures fall down from the walls as well, here the falling picture symbolises disorder and chaos (confusion) in the scene.

Some Satirical elements in the Play:

Satire on Media: In its Satire on Media madame Bessarabo is the target. She has come all the way from Rumania to France just to interview the Author about his last play and especially to know what he feels about Love, but often she is seen to deviate from the topic and discuss about other unimportant matters.
This particular situation also  shows that the media can go to any length/extent for a sensational story. Here the media has been portrayed as taking undue advantage over the Author's private affairs and weakness.

Satire on celebrities: The celebrities are satired through the character of the Author. Their behaviors are also ridiculed towards the end of the play where the Author is no more calm and behaves agitated.  

CONFLICTS, ISSUES & PROBLEMS

Marital Discord
The ludicrous quarrel between Ardele and the author point out the complexity and the triviality of disagreement and strife between spouses. It also portrays the incompatibility and the conflict of egos and ideas between married couples even after they have been through together for around twelve years. 

Infidelity
In some marriages there is a loss of faith between couples as years roll by. Partners become unfaithful and disloyal and tend to suspect each other’s fidelity. In the drama we have Ardele who becomes envious of many female characters. She sneers at the journalist. She picks up a quarrel with Leon’s ex-wife. And slaps the author for addressing Gustave as “Darling!”.

In-law Hassles
The intrusion of one’s parents in the family is also seen as aggravating family discords. Ardela is annoyed at the mother’s presence in the house. The mother says that she is living separately because of Ardele’s presence in her son’s life. The mother and Ardele are not able to put up under the same roof, indicating to us that there is almost always some source of difficulty between the mother and the daughter in-law to cope up with each other. 

Possessiveness
Anouilh gives us a slight hint that women try to possess their husbands although they want to dispossess them. It is likely that Ardela is trying to attract the author’s attention when she says that she is leaving the house. It’s very amusing when she prolongs her departure because there is no one to look after Glothaire. 

Absurdity of marriage
Anouilh subtly brings up the absurdities of marriage and tries to question its significance in one’s life through Ardelle and the author, Gontran and Lucienne, and Leon and Madam Pripon Minet. In case of Gontran, he has already left Lucienne but it is absurd when he complains of her deceiving him. Moreover he is of the mind that he loves Lea and doesn’t want Ardelle to call Lea a ‘stick’ or a ‘shriveled prune’. The unknown woman, on the other hand, is in search of her ex-husband. She wants him to help her find a new flat to lodge in. Through all these Anouilh points out the absurd nature of men and women in marriages.

THE PURPOSES OF VISITS OF THE CHARACTERS                                                                             

The Journalist & The Photographer
The first visitor is Madame Bessarabo and with her is her photographer. She is a Rumanian journalist who smokes like a ‘chimney sweep’. She has come to see the  Author with an appointment along with her photographer, who is weighed down with his equipments. She is a spell-bound audience of the author. Her country-men  also idolize the author’s play ,‘La Marguerite’ which  made a great impression in Bucharest. The press was unanimous and had almost been staged for the 4th time but the general opinion was that it was a little hard. Rumanians were such great idealists  that they believed  enormously in sentiments. In fact this explains why she has come to see the author. She wants to know what the author really thinks about love and wants to make it known to her intelligentsia who are said to be eagerly waiting for the Author’s opinion.

The Plumbers
The next visitors are the two Plumbers. These two plumbers visit the author to mend the leak in the author’s house. They seemed to be young and amiable in the way they teased the maid, Leonie. And seemed to be careless in the way they came into the study where the author and Madame Bessarabo were having their interview. They feel the walls in silence with an air of great mystery weaving around everyone and almost knocked down the photographer. They then get out by another door without a word. They have come to mend the leak but instead they cause a great problem whereby the water trickles all over the place. On top of that, they give out all the information relating to the author’s extra accommodation which the author was actually trying to conceal from the inspector.

The Mother
The third visitor is the author’s Mother. She is a mother who wants to have more and more flats in contrast with her old age. She had lost her lawsuit too. She doesn’t want to live with her son because she knows that her son’s wife (Ardele) is shrewd. She has come to see her son because she wanted him to buy her a new flat. After she reaches there, she comes to know more about the other flats which are for sale. She wants her son to buy them too for her.

Lasurette
Lasurette visits next. He is a tramp, still young. He was in the army and served the country together with the author. He saved the author from being court-martialled the time he mislaid his bayonet. He comes to seek help especially money because his gas is going to be cut off. He has not paid the gas bills  for nine months. He had come to the author's place just a week ago and was given seven thousand Francs. He also wants a pair of boots from the author. Because he had lent his bayonet to the author and had saved him from being court-martialed, he thinks he had saved the author from death and that the author should be indebted to him eternally and that he has the right to ask the author for whatever he needed.
With the entry of La Surette, the tramp in the latter part of the Drama we come to know that La Surette and the author once were together in the army. La Surette reminds the author of the favour that he had done during their times together every time he approaches the author. When they were about to go for a parade, Jacques mislaid the bayonet of his gun. At this critical juncture, La Surette lent his bayonet to the author putting his own life at stake. If the latter had not saved the author he would have been court-martialed or suspended from duty thus getting in between the devil and the deep blue sea. Jacques still remembers the favour he has received from La Surette and he is grateful for all that he has done.

On the contrary, La Surette seems to ask more than what he deserves. He thinks he has earned the right to ask anything from the author anytime he wants. He assumes that the author is greatly indebted to him for the new lease of life he has given by saving him from the possible court-martial. He thinks that the help and the favour rendered by him cannot be compensated even if the author gave his life. So, he feels that he can ask for anything from the author – anything big or small in terms of material value. In other words, La Surette is a parasite on the author.

The Housing Inspector
The Housing inspector is the next visitor. He wears his black uniform and visits the author to inspect whether the complaint lodged against him for his insufficient occupation of the premises was true? He wants to put in Brigadier Lapomme, a father of eight  if the complaint is found to be true. On seeing Madame Bessarabo and the photographer he shows a sly concern. He forewarns the author and informs that he will send three other policemen, a Brigadier and the two recruits. He warns to send along some oldage pensioners none under hundred.

Gontran
Gontran visits next who is a giant of a man. He has left his wife Lucienne and now is in love with Lea. He has come to share his personal feelings and talk about his awful life after he left Lucienne. It seems that he still loves her though nothing is left between them as of now. He writes and calls her to no avail. He thinks that she is deceiving him. He wants the author to advice him and seeks solace from him. Unable to bear the pain of lost love and the taunts from Ardelle, he faints in the arms of the author.

Features of the Absurd Dramaa;

UNCONVENTIONAL PLOT, THEME AND DIALOGUES
Ø  The play follows unconventional plot structures, theme and dialogues. Neither the scenes nor the time is put properly in the play. Conventional norms have been forgone to purposefully comment on the purposelessness and the meaninglessness of human existence. 

The events in this play are not logically connected to each other, and to an average audience, meaningless.
Ø  The arrangement and the timing of events are haphazard. For instance Ardelle pops into the scene irregularly at her own discretion and we do not know whether she is present in the house at other times when the author in engaged with other characters. Her irregular interruptions make no sense at all.
Ø  The interview is cut short several times with interventions from other characters but when they continue again they begin as if they have progressed a lot actually when nothing has been achieved.
Ø  The phone calls especially Gustave’s, consume a significant amount of time. The anecdotes he relates to the author has no relevancy to the author, he seems least bothered about what Gustave is saying. Nonetheless  from the other end we have Gustave putting his heart and soul in explaining everything he has on his table.
Ø  The maid’s pregnancy is one that is very difficult to understand.

The actions of the characters are senseless, useless and absurd.
Ø  The author is bewildered, troubled, and strangely threatened by a large number of visitors who each bring a bag of problems to him.. He has no control over what is happening in his life or his house. The final scene where he is shouting for everyone to be calm, while he himself is losing control shows him as a true absurd protagonist.

Distrust of language as a means of communication;
Language in Episode in the Life an Author is shown as an unreliable and insufficient tool of communication; the broken dialogues and conversation between Ardelle and the unknown woman (Leon’s wife), the interview between Madam Bessarabo and the Author are some examples of this use of language. In this way, conventional speech seems to act as a barrier between the characters rather than serve as a means of communication.
Some important questions and answers:

  1. describe the opening scene of the play.              Or
Describe the quarrel scene between the Author and his wife Ardele.
Ans: The play begins with the appearance of the Author and his wife Ardele in a very angry and agitated mood, each of them banging on the table in the study room in anger. This was all because the Author found a letter in the closet ending with ‘my own love’ and doubted that the letter was from the lover of Ardele. Ardele on the other hand feels terribly angry and humiliated over the allegation. She simply cannot tolerate that her husband is doubting her for some extra-marital affair and he has secretly searched her drawer and closet. She tries to explain that the letter was from her sister but the Author refuse to believe her saying that her sister, being uneducated, cannot write such letter. Moreover he alleges that the letter is with masculine ending. Ardele feels cheated and betrayed because this allegation has come after living together with her husband for 12 years. She feel so angry and frustrated that she decides to separate from Author and go to her sister’s place. However the arrival of Madam Bessarabo, the Rumanian journalist puts an end to the quarrel.

  1. with close reference to the play ‘Episode in the life of an Author’ prove that this play is a ‘Farce’ and belongs to the Theatre of the Absurd.
The play written by the famous French dramatist Jean Anouilh and under analysis is a typical example of a ‘Farce’, a sub genre of the Theatre of the Absurd. The theatre of absurd propagates the philosophy of life being an absurd phenomenon and ‘Farce’ is a low grade comedy mainly aiming for creating scenes of laughter by creating humorous scenes and wits. Overall such play does not have any sequence of events or logical order of happenings. To get a more clear picture of whether the play is a farce or not and whether it belongs to the Theatre of Absurd or not we have to review the important features of absurd drama. Following are the main features of absurd drama:
ü  It has unusual plot, theme, dialogues and actions which makes it different from other traditional plays.
ü  The events, actions are illogical, senseless, often useless, confusing, absurd and totally beyond the understanding of the common audience.
ü  Often situations are funny absurd and often there is a lack of sequence of events
ü  The characters are often caught in a chaotic situation and find it very difficult to understand its place in the universe. They are often confused and under lots of meaningless pressures and tensions.
ü  Often the inadequacy of language for communication is also exposed and it is shown that language is an unreliable and insufficient tool of communication.
We find all the above mentioned features prominently present and making the main construct of the drama. Thus there is no hesitation to say that the play is a very suitable example of ‘Farce’ and it belongs to the theatre of absurd.

  1. Describe the character of Madam Bessarabo in your own words.
Madam Bessarabo is a Rumanian journalist and she has come to interview the author about his play ‘La Maruerite’. She also wants to get the view of author about love as she feels that the author has been bit harsh while dealing with love in his play. She is one of the most important minor characters in the play. We find two very strong character traits in Madam Bessarabo. Firstly she is a lady who uses flattery to impress the author. Without any hesitation she says everything French is extraordinary and Rumanians are very much devoted to everything that is French. Secondly she is boasting because when the housing inspector came to check the house of the author she introduced herself as Princesses Bessarabo. She appears clever too as she knew how to impress somebody and get what she exactly wanted as a journalist.

  1. How does the character of the Housing Inspector, the Man in Black, add to the comedy and humour of the play.
The Housing Inspector or the ‘Man in Black’ is yet another important minor character adding some extra flavour to the comedy and the humour of the drama. He has come to enquire about the underutilization of the house occupied by the author. He is always appearing very serious and extremely dedicated and dutiful. He questions furiously and takes notes of whatever is spoken by anybody there without even thinking that they are not the part of the house. He keeps on adding some new charges against the author without checking the validity of his allegations. He appears silly and funny as well when he is frantically taking notes and serious preparing reports even under the water fall.

  1. List down some of the funny incidents of the play.
Being a funny play belonging to the genre of Farce this play is full of funny and humorous scenes. The list below is indicative of all the funny and humorous scenes in the play:
ü  the opening scene funny argument between the Author and his wife Ardele over a trivial issue of letter in which the wife threatens to leave and the author laughs nastily.
ü  Madam Bessarabo talking with the Author flatteringly and appearing as if she likes everything that the Author says or does.
ü  Ardele appearance on the stage in a bathing robe and charging the Author for intentionally cutting off the water supply without verifying the fact.
ü  The woman calling repeatedly over phone and claiming that the Author was her first husband, jasmine one two one two.
ü  Author’s mother and the woman talking over phone and discussing about the apartment.
ü  Ardele talking angrily with the woman over phone thinking that she was Author’r girlfriend.
ü  Ardele’s seriousness, anger and frustration while she was talking with the Author about the cat.
ü  The House Inspector visiting and noting everything that he heard without checking out the relevance.
ü  The scene when the Author is having argument with La Surret.
ü  The scene when Gontran and Ardele argue about Lea.
ü  Gontran sobbing like a child and fainting in the arm of the Author.
ü  Plumbers working stupidly and spoiling the whole thing rather than repairing the leak.
ü  The scene of Ardele firing bullet at the Author blindly and the Author frantically dozing the bullet. 

  1. why does Liliane Tresor refuse to act in Gustave’s film initially? And upon what condition did she agree again to act and why?
Liliane Tresor is the actress who has agreed to play the lead role and die in line with the script of the film ‘The Woman with the Boas’ directed by Gustv. But later she refuses to die. However after sometime once again she agrees to die provided the director makes her die with consumption (TB). Instead the author suggest yet another climax and says that if she turns religious and joins a convent then the film would sell better especially in Canada and Channel Islands. Finally they agree to have the climax in the form of fire and gun fire. This dispute must be because the actress wanted her death to be not as the repercussion of her character traits but something else so that she could win the sympathy of the viewers.

  1. comment on the role and the significance of La Surette in the play.
La Surette in this play is one of the important minor characters. Though La Surrette appears to be like a beggar in the play who often comes to the Author for asking favours but earlier the Author and La Surette served the army together. During that period La Surette had helped the Author by saving him from being court martialled when he has misplace his bayonet.
Very much in line with the tone and treatment of the play La Surette provides lots of fun, humour and amusement in this play. His character and activities adds enormously to the comic impact of the play.

  1. do you find any touch of satirical elements in the play? Justify your answer.
Though, this play is exclusively a play belonging to the ‘Theatre of Absurd’ aiming to create and provide lots of fun, humour and comedy to the readers and audience but we cannot miss the touch of satirical element too if we analyse it closely and critically.
The first touch of satirical element we find when we study the treatment of media in this play. Madam Bessarabo, who represents media, often appears to have deviated from her primary task. Her flattery seems to hinting that media is not always neutral and objective. Further, when she is taking the picture of the Author in his angry appearance, it shows that media can go to any extent to get a thrilling and sensational story. Media also appears to be interfering in the private affairs of the Author’s life. These are all the harsh reality to media to a great extent in the modern time and hence could be considered satirical.
Secondly the play also satirizes the famous personalities and proves that they too, like all the common mass, are human beings and thus equally loaded with the human weaknesses like anger and absurdity of life.