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Book Title: La guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu|
The author of the book: Jean Giraudoux
Edition: Bernard Grasset
Date of issue: 1969
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 9.78 MB
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Common Sense Versus Irrational Passion: What are the odds for the pacifists?
After reading a sequel to the Iliad this week, The Aeneid, I thought it would make perfect sense to start the weekend by rereading a prequel to it!
And like many prequels, it is written long after the initial series. In this case, it dates 1935, approximately two millennia after the last installment of Antiquity’s epic poem, and some four years before the next war would break loose over Europe. The prophetic power of pessimist texts has been stated over and over again, and this one is of brilliant clarity- denouncing the mass populism and delusion that wins over rational humanism at critical moments in history.
Its first sentence, as spoken by the pacifist - and generally optimistic - Andromaque, hurt me more this time than two decades ago, when I last read the play. The reason, obviously, is that I now have personal experience of her trust in general common sense - only to be bitterly disappointed at the actual development of events. Twice, in 2016, I slipped into her role, and said, with confidence:
“La guerre de Troie n’aura pas lieu, Cassandre!” - And twice, in 2016, Cassandra replied, not scornfully, just sadly aware of the course of history set in motion:
“Je te tiens un pari, Andromaque!”
The setting for the play is Troy before the war, but facing the imminent danger, as Helen has arrived, and a delegation of Greek warrior-diplomats is expected to demand her back. Two political ideas within Troy clash when the city fears the catastrophe. Hector and Andromaque are representing common sense and pacifism, arguing and negotiating with the others to let Helen leave in order to keep the nation safe for the next generation’s prosperity.
The other party represents passion, as symbolised in admiration for the idea of beauty (Helen), which can be translated into a vague, undefined sense of honour and religious piety or nationalism. Helen’s attractiveness becomes a metaphor for virile militarism and populist slogans, her charm is almost hypnotising, and most definitely reduces critical thinking skills.
The voice of reason fades when it is confronted with the passionate emotionalism that is stimulated whenever symbolic Helen is present. She herself is unconcerned with anything but what she sees as “colourful”, mostly actions of vulgar visibility, that catch her distracted attention. She promises anyone anything, knowing full well she won’t keep her promises if she does not feel inclined to do so. Her word is worth nothing, but has major impact on the rest of the characters.
A so-called impartial expert on international relations and laws is no help at all either, interpreting acts and consequences differently depending on what is at stake for himself. It is easy to relate to Hector’s irony and sarcasm:
“Jamais poète n’a interprété la nature aussi librement qu’un juriste la réalité.”
In the end, passionate emotions, stirring up empty words like honour and patriotism, make reasonable arguments obsolete, and the play ends with the prophetic words that the Trojan poet is dead, and the hour of the Greek poet has come. A new political wind is blowing - for no rational reason.
The victors of history write the epic poems - and they are not based on reason or truth. But they can be usurped, copied or rewritten if needed.
Giraudoux, the adamant pacifist, put Cassandra on stage - and played her role - in the political climate of the 1930s. A great read, as relevant as ever!
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Read information about the authorHippolyte Jean Giraudoux (29 October 1882 – 31 January 1944) was a French novelist, essayist, diplomat and playwright. He is considered among the most important French dramatists of the period between World War I and World War II. His work is noted for its stylistic elegance and poetic fantasy. Giraudoux's dominant theme is the relationship between man and woman—or in some cases, between man and some unattainable ideal.
Giraudoux was born in Bellac, Haute-Vienne, where his father, Léger Giraudoux, worked for the Ministry of Transport. Giraudoux studied at the Lycée Lakanal in Sceaux and, upon graduation, traveled extensively in Europe. After his return to France in 1910, he accepted a position with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. With the outbreak of World War I, he served with distinction and in 1915 became the first writer ever to be awarded the wartime Legion of Honour.
He married in 1918 and in the subsequent inter-war period produced the majority of his writing. He first achieved literary success through his novels, notably Siegfried et le Limousin (1922) and Eglantine (1927). An ongoing collaboration with actor and theater director Louis Jouvet, beginning in 1928 with Jouvet's radical streamlining of Siegfried for the stage, stimulated his writing. But it is his plays that gained him international renown. He became well known in the English speaking world largely because of the award-winning adaptations of his plays by Christopher Fry (The Trojan War Will Not Take Place) and Maurice Valency (The Madwoman of Chaillot, Ondine, The Enchanted, The Apollo of Bellac).
Giraudoux served as a juror with Florence Meyer Blumenthal in awarding the Prix Blumenthal, a grant given between 1919 and 1954 to painters, sculptors, decorators, engravers, writers, and musicians.
He is buried in the Cimetière de Passy in Paris.
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