Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Night of the Iguana (excerpt and poem)

I finished reading The Night of the Iguana, by Tennessee Williams. I won't try to comment the play, but I'll type a part of a scene, the one I found most intense and significant (for myself to keep a record and for whoever may want to read it). It's a dialogue between two of the main characters, from Act Three. Shannon is a man of about thirty-five, a tour guide who has lost his party of tourists and presumably his job. Hannah, of less than thirty, is a painter and sketch artist who travels with her moribund grandfather (a poet). They are alone at the verandah of a small hotel in Mexico, where the play is set. Until this scene, they barely know each other. They talk about love, though not of the usual kind. And they refer to their respective traumatic wounds - Shannon has just had a panic attack.

HANNAH: Liquor isn't your problem, Mr. Shannon.

SHANNON: What is my problem, Ms. Jelkes?

HANNAH: The oldest one in the world - the need to believe in something or in someone - almost anyone - almost anything... something.

SHANNON: Your voice sounds hopeless about it.

HANNAH: No, I'm not hopeless about it. In fact, I've discovered something to believe in.

SHANNON: Something like... God?



HANNAH: Broken gates between people so they can reach each other, even if it's just for one night only.

SHANNON: One night stands, huh?

HANNAH: One night... communication between them on a verandah outside their... separate cubicles, Mr. Shannon.

SHANNON: You don't mean physically, do you?


SHANNON: I didn't think so. Then what?

HANNAH: A little understanding exchanged between them, a wanting to help each other through nights like this.

SHANNON: Who was the someone you told the widow you'd helped long ago to get through a crack-up like this one I'm going through?

HANNAH: Oh... that. Myself.


HANNAH: Yes. I can help you because I've been through what you are going through now. I had something like your spook - I just had a different name for him. I called him the blue devil, and... oh... we had quite a battle, quite a contest between us.

SHANNON: Which you obviously won.

HANNAH: I couldn't afford to lose.

SHANNON: How'd you beat your blue devil?

HANNAH: I showed him that I could endure him and I made him respect my endurance.


HANNAH: Just by, just by... enduring. Endurance is something that spooks and blue devils respect. And they respect all the tricks that panicky people use to outlast and outwit their panic.

SHANNON: Like poppy-seed tea?

HANNAH: Poppy-seed tea or rum-cocos or just a few deep breaths. Anything, everything, that we take to give them the slip, and so keep on going.

SHANNON: To where?

HANNAH: To somewhere like this, perhaps. This verandah over the rain forest and the still-water beach, after long, difficult travels. And I don't mean just travels about the world, the earth's surface. I mean... subterranean travels, the... journeys that the spooked and bedeviled people are forced to take through the... the unlighted sides of their natures.

SHANNON: Don't tell me you have a dark side to your nature.

HANNAH: I'm sure I don't have to tell a man as experienced and knowledgeable as you, Mr. Shannon, that everything has its shadowy side?

Hannah's grandfather's last poem:

PS: My mom is learning English and asked me for the text:

How calmly does the olive branch
Observe the sky begin to blanch
Without a cry, without a prayer,
With no betrayal of despair.

Sometime while night obscures the tree
The zenith of its life will be
Gone past forever, and from thence
A second history will commence.

A chronicle no longer gold,
A bargaining with mist and mould,
And finally the broken stem
The plummeting to earth; and then

An intercourse not well designed
For beings of a golden kind
Whose native green must arch above
The earth's obscene, corrupting love.

And still the ripe fruit and the branch
Observe the sky begin to blanch
Without a cry, without a prayer,
With no betrayal of despair.

O Courage, could you not as well
Select a second place to dwell,
Not only in that golden tree
But in the frightened heart of me?


Sergio Lulkin said...

wow! que fas el cap de setmana?

Roger said...

Doncs, a part d'un dinar demà, res de previst. Podríem fer una reunió a l'Ambaixada, per manifestar-nos sobre els últims esdeveniments a Líbia i sobre les centrals nuclears.

Ah, espero escriure, d'una vegada, el meu oferiment com a professor de llengua, cultura i societat catalanes i castellanes, que quan tingui donaré al meu germà Ramon per maquetar.