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Travesties (1974)

af Tom Stoppard

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860918,564 (4.12)18
Travesties was born out of Stoppard's noting that in 1917 three of the twentieth century's most crucial revolutionaries -- James Joyce, the Dadaist founder Tristan Tzara, and Lenin -- were all living in Zurich. Also living in Zurich at this time was a British consula official called Henry Carr, a man acquainted with Joyce through the theater and later through a lawsuit concerning a pair of trousers. Taking Carr as his core, Stoppard spins this historical coincidence into a masterful and riotously funny play, a speculative portrait of what could have been the meeting of these profoundly influential men in a germinal Europe as seen through the lucid, lurid, faulty, and wholy riveting memory of an aging Henry Carr.… (mere)
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Em 1917, viviam em Zurique simultaneamente V.I. Lenin, James Joyce (então no meio da composição do Ulisses) e Tristan Tzara, um dos líderes do movimento dadaísta, . Juntamente com Gwendolen e Cecily, duas personagens de "A Importância de Ser Ernesto", de Oscar Wilde, e Henry Carr, ex-membro do Serviço Consular Britânico, Tom Stoppard montou este relato teórico de suas interações. O resultado é "Travesties" , uma peça incrivelmente inteligente e bem-humorada, transcorrida na memória defeituosa de Henry Carr, que relembra suas experiências em Zurique (sim, ele também estava lá) durante "A Grande Guerra". Henry Carr, figura histórica não-ficcional, desempenhou de fato o papel de Algernon em "A importância de ser Ernesto" em uma troupe teatral de James Joyce. Quando Joyce se recusou a reembolsar Carr pelas centenas de libras que gastara nas calças que comprou na excessivamente zelosa tentativa de "tornar-se" Algernon, seguiu-se uma ação judicial, que Joyce acabou ganhando. Joyce coroou sua vitória total citando Carr, em Ulysses, como um soldado bêbado. Como se pode imaginar, a peça de Stoppard está cheia de pequenas sacanagens com James Joyce. A integração entre Lênin e sua esposa e Cecily, Gwendolen e Tzara é extremamente imaginativa, e a experiência do espectador/leitor sairá, sem dúvida, incrementada se ele também ler todaas as obras e autores aludidos. Em tempo: Travesties é um musical. ( )
  jgcorrea | Jan 3, 2019 |
This is a baffling but still quite interesting play about Henry Carr, the British consular officer in Zurich during the First World War, and his encounters with James Joyce, artist Tristan Tzara, and Lenin. It discusses themes of memory (and the unreliability thereof), the meaning of art, class and the viability of revolution, and does this while making use of some interesting narrative devices.

I read this mainly because of a production starring Tom Hollander as Carr and Peter McDonald as Joyce, and it is a good thing they introduced me to it. The play taught me a good deal about the Dadaist movement in particular and had more than a few laugh-out-loud moments. It was also fun to read the play after having seen the trailer on YouTube and then figure out the significance of the scenes I'd watched.

Recommended if you like Stoppard, slightly didactic plays, discussion of art, or encounters between several historical figures. ( )
  rabbitprincess | May 13, 2017 |
An unusual work, combining Stoppard's own style with that of Oscar Wilde and James Joyce, while exploring the role of imagination in recreating memories. Specifically, he brings James Joyce, Tristan Tzara, and Lenin together with a minor British official who once took the role of Algernon in Wilde's most famous play. Told from the standpoint of an old man looking back at his past, with abundant flashbacks and strange stuttering time loops, he adds the appropriately named Cecily and Gwendolyn into the mix to complicate things still further. An exploration of art, politics, and memory that confuses and complicates all of life's big questions. Definitely worth the read. ( )
  Devil_llama | Jun 27, 2015 |
Stoppard is definitely one of my favorite playwrights. I have probably recommended "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" to everyone I know at least twice. So, I'm finally taking a look at Travesties, which was recommended to me through the Goodreads recommendation system after adding R&G. I can definitely see why it's so well respected.

After noticing that James Joyce, Lenin and Tristan Tzara (founder of Dadaism) were all in Zurich in 1917, Stoppard took advantage of that fact to try to connect them to the rather obscure character of Henry Carr, British Consul. The play is written from the perspective of Carr as an old man looking back on this very interesting moment in history. Of course, memory being rather fleeting and uncontrollable, Carr seems to be a little muddled about the exact details, confusing what actually happened with his performance of Algernon ("the other one") in Joyce's staging of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest."

While the characters discuss the purpose of art and the coming revolution, Carr shadily recollects his part in the events of the day. Stoppard uses his mastery of wit and wordplay to create this beautifully absurd piece of theatrical gold. I'd love to see this performed some day. ( )
  regularguy5mb | Apr 5, 2015 |
A masterful fizz of mature 70s Stoppard, this extravagantly brilliant play is, like many of his best works, sketched in the margins of existing literary history. Stoppard noticed, apparently for the first time, that Tristan Tzara, James Joyce and Lenin were all in neutral Zurich at about the same time during the First World War. Travesties imagines how they might have interacted, and it does so with real brio – including one scene written entirely in limericks, another imitating a chapter of Ulysses, and several pastiches of The Importance of Being Earnest (a play that James Joyce was paid to stage for the British Council in 1917).

It had been many years since I last read this or saw it performed, and despite my happy memories of it, I had forgotten quite how wonderful it is. The central argument concerns the nature and purpose of art, a subject on which the various characters hold very different views. The fact that these discussions are taking place while thousands are being slaughtered on Europe's battlefields is very much of the essence.

My dear Tristan, to be an artist at all is like living in Switzerland during a world war. To be an artist in Zurich, in 1917, implies a degree of self-absorption that would have glazed over the eyes of Narcissus.

The speaker here is Henry Carr, British consular representative in Zurich, who anchors the play and brings the rest of the cast together. He is suspicious of Tzara's newfangled modern-art sensibilities, despite the Dadaist's attempts to explain himself:

TZARA: Doing the things by which is meant Art is no longer considered the proper concern of the artist. In fact it is frowned upon. Nowadays, an artist is someone who makes art mean the things he does. A man may be an artist by exhibiting his hindquarters. He may be a poet by drawing words out of a hat.

CARR: But that is simply to change the meaning of the word Art.

TZARA: I see I have made myself clear.


I could quote the whole of this scene and not run out of lines I want to share with people. As always with Stoppard, he is unique in the even-handedness of these debates: there is no sense that one character's viewpoint is ‘privileged’ as speaking for the author. Stoppard famously said he became a playwright because it was the only respectable way of disagreeing with himself, and the arguments in Travesties are a good example of this.

Joyce disagrees with Tzara over what art should be, but he makes a passionate case for its importance.

What now of the Trojan War if it had been passed over by the artist's touch? Dust. A forgotten expedition prompted by Greek merchants looking for new markets. A minor redistribution of broken pots.

But Henry Carr, nursing a wound he got in the trenches, is suspicious of this position too. His mistrust of Joyce – which culminates in a lawsuit – is the backdrop for probably the play's most famous line, which closes the first act:

I dreamed about him, dreamed I had him in the witness box, a masterly cross-examination, case practically won, admitted it all, the whole thing, the trousers, everything, and I flung at him – ‘And what did you do in the Great War?’ ‘I wrote Ulysses,’ he said. ‘What did you do?’
Bloody nerve.


All Stoppard's trademarks are here in spades – the verbal pyrotechnics, the deep grounding in literature and history, the love of debate, the willingness to include crowd-pleasing gimmicks and daft jokes (‘Have you ever come across Dada, darling?’ ‘Never, da-da-darling!’), and above all, perhaps, the general questioning of certainty that characterises his oeuvre as a whole. Maybe it's not his very best play – that, I think, is Arcadia – but it might be his most Stoppardian, and it's a masterpiece of condensed thought and wit. ( )
1 stem Widsith | Feb 16, 2014 |
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The reader of a play whose principle characters include Lenin, James Joyce and Tristan Tzara may not realize that the figure of Henry Carr is likewise taken from history. - Note on Henry Wilfred Carr, 1894-1962 by Tom Stoppard
The play is set in Zurich, in two locations: the drawing room of Henry Carr's apartment ('THE ROOM'), and a section of the Zurich Public Library ('THE LIBRARY'). - ACT ONE
TZARA: Eel ate enormous appletzara / key diary chef's hat he'll learn oomparah! / Ill raced alas whispers kill later nut east, / noon avuncular ill day Clara! - ACT ONE, First Lines
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Travesties was born out of Stoppard's noting that in 1917 three of the twentieth century's most crucial revolutionaries -- James Joyce, the Dadaist founder Tristan Tzara, and Lenin -- were all living in Zurich. Also living in Zurich at this time was a British consula official called Henry Carr, a man acquainted with Joyce through the theater and later through a lawsuit concerning a pair of trousers. Taking Carr as his core, Stoppard spins this historical coincidence into a masterful and riotously funny play, a speculative portrait of what could have been the meeting of these profoundly influential men in a germinal Europe as seen through the lucid, lurid, faulty, and wholy riveting memory of an aging Henry Carr.

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