Logbook #5 and end. Molière’s surprising trip to Japan

Logbook # 5: The Miser or the school of lies

By Jean Lambert-Wild

The Miser or the School of Lies by Molière is a fascinating play. She is disconcerting by the darkness of her laughter. This comedy in prose can be read in many ways and each accent of an interpretation will reveal new teaching motifs. I was able to see many of L’Avare’s creations and each was an opportunity to reflect on the stakes of this play, on the abysses that devour Harpagon. I remember the ferocity of Michel Aumont’s interpretation, which scratched out each word like a feverish miner lost in the moist thickness of a tropical forest; of Louis de Funès who was excited in every way to escape the cry of death; by Michel Serrault who deployed his genius for diction like a laughing vulture with broken wings. I remember Denis Podalydès pacing the set in an insomniac dance mad with pain; of Hans Kesting whose frightening loneliness was brutal and cold in the image of those shareholders who strip our planet without any consideration of life; by Laurent Poitrenaux whose body, shaken by money fever, was as hilarious as it was menacing. I will remember Michel Boujenah whose obsessive and paranoid acidity forbade him the consolation of love; and finally I will always remember the fascinating interpretation of Emmanuel Vérité who condenses in him, with an unequaled political and human finesse, all the melancholic specters of Molière.

In all these versions, however, there is one surprising thing. It is that the subtitle of this piece, however enlightening, is always omitted. An oversight so recurrent that some would come to think that it is another piece or even an addition to the original title. With discretion, Anastasie’s scissors made this small retrenchment to the work of Molière. This omission being more frequent in France than abroad, it was obviously done with the consent of a national conscience which had little interest in maintaining the questions of this underlining. The frequency of this deletion being so repeated and so old, it has become over time a French rule of reading to enter the work of Molière. Could the veiled reasons for this semantic ablation be linked to a skilful bourgeois diversion which would seek to cushion the impact of this play whose political and social criticism is dizzying? This would need to be studied because too often a conventional truth of the character of the characters replaces the reality of their human attitudes. This, of course, has consequences for the political reading of this comedy of characters and mores which crunches the status of voluntary servility established in modern society by the bourgeoisie of the 17th century. This bourgeoisie which gave money the mystical power to govern our being as well as our world, until it insidiously became a religion. The “My blood, my entrails” moaned by Harpagon in scene 2 of act V then takes on the sinister color of a prayer made to a god who imposes his domination by encouraging the destruction of all human ties. Thus, in my opinion, it is the school of the lie of money which, in this play, educates everyone by teaching them, in a “political punishment” as Master Jacques says in scene 1 of act III, the stuff of hypocrisy, cynicism, flattery, corruption, spinelessness, morbid impulses and cruel selfishness. This school is not free. It is paid for by the annihilation made, voluntarily, of the individual discernment of a collective destiny obliging us to live together.

Harpagon is not the best student in this school, but the sickest. This pathetic destiny, this crying loneliness which leaves Harpagon helpless in the face of death, is as eloquently comic as it is dramatic. This is also what makes this character endearing because we measure by seeing him that the disease is progressing everywhere and that we are not spared it. The diversity of forms of this disease is the individualized expression of brutality as the only common “good”. A savagery that would prostitute even death.

It is this reflection, shared with the actresses and actors of the SPAC, which guided our interpretation of the play and, since Molière was inspired by La Marmite de Plaute, we reread it considering that, ultimately, the the disease of money had reached its most extreme historic point of contradiction; making intellectual indigence and material poverty the framework of a world that has devoured all its resources. A world of scarcity where to survive we only think of burying, of burying the little bit that we have left, of living in hatred of the last gains that we could snatch from others.

At this game, Harpagon is no less sordid than those around him. With this exception, however, that the shrinking of his existence and of his conscience made him forget his responsibility to educate his children who today are turning against him.

In view of our rotting era, all this resonates very sadly, but we still have the charm of laughing at it, of using all the tricks of the theatre, of the music hall, of the art of the clown to understand that what leads Harpagon’s character could be cured by a fair redistribution of resources no longer forcing us to milk humanity to supposedly feed it.

This consideration ends this chronicle of Molière’s surprising trip to Japan. I still want to point out to you that there is a wonderful opportunity to discover currently in Gennevilliers actresses and actors from the SPAC. All you have to do is go to the T2G /Théâtre de Gennevilliers and attend The Cherry Orchard of Chekhov proposed by Daniel Jeanneteau and Mamar Benranou. You will see on stage, among others, Konagaya Katsuhiko and Oüchi Yoneji, two actors that we had the pleasure of casting, with Lorenzo Malaguerra, in Yotaro in Yokai Land. There is no doubt that their talent contributes to the success of this show, of which I hear the greatest good.

Logbook #5 and end. Molière’s surprising trip to Japan