The Sister of Zarathustra

“What’s done because of love always takes place beyond good and evil.”
Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 153

For Catherine H, Catherine The Great. Thank you for your talent and your patience.
For Marcel B. I love your peaceful and healthy “Nietzschenthusiasm.”
For Danielle, my “danouch.” Thank you for giving me the time.

Characters

  • ELISABETH FÖRSTER-NIETZSCHE
  • FRIEDRICH W. NIETZSCHE (her brother, the philosopher)
  • BERNARD FÖRSTER (her husband)
  • FRANZISKA NIETZSCHE (her mother)
  • FRITZ KLINGBEIL (a banker)
  • CIRILIO SOLINDADE (a landowner)
  • LOU ANDRÉAS SALOMÉ (the philosopher’s “fiancée”)
  • PETER GAST (the philosopher’s friend)
  • FRANZ OVERBECK (another friend)
  • BARON HERMANN VON MALTZAN (an explorer)
  • MAX SCHUBERT (a financial backer)
  • JULIUS CYRIAX (a financial backer)
  • EL PEÓN (a translator)
  • EL MÉDICO (a doctor)
  • SETTLER I
  • SETTLER II
  • NEWSPAPER VENDOR I
  • NEWSPAPER VENDOR II
  • NEWSPAPER VENDOR III
  • German colonizers; German people, members of the bourgeoisie and others; Paraguayan native peoples

PROLOGUE

ELISABETH
1848…1935…Eighty-seven years old this morning
Eighty-seven years old…
Röcken
Naumburg
The summer gardens of Naumburg
Weimar
The villa at Silberblick
And an outrage…
A wound
A love wound…
Eighty-seven years old
One passion
And a few men: Richard, Koegel, Karl August, Benito, Kessler, Mendelson, Adolf…
Eighty-seven years old…
I await a visit
This morning
Adolf’s visit
I must remind him of his promise
The promise he made to me
To soothe the outrage
My wound
My love wound
After that and only after
Can I take my leave, at peace
Eighty-seven years old…

PART I: THE COLONIES, 1886-1890

I. A reception at Försterhof

MAX SCHUBERT
My dear sirs… Sirs, I say, your attention for a moment, please. Thank you. Thank you indeed. I’d like to take advantage of this pleasurable moment, sipping coffee together on our friend’s veranda, to say a few words. The weather is lovely. Night is falling. The day has been warm and rich in events. I think it’s time to recall exactly what my presence here in New Germany, on the German soil of Paraguay, means. As you all know, I represent the Colonial League of Chemnitz. It was our Chancellor in person who imagined and founded our company. And since the company’s inception, the Emperor, our all-powerful ruler, has been at its helm. Without a doubt this signals how crucial colonialism is for our country. Colonial conquest symbolizes a modern nation’s strength and greatness. Our Empire will survive because of its effort to expand, because of our multiple civilizing missions. Today Germany counts a growing number of colonies all across the globe—in Africa as well as in the Americas. The Colonial League works to examine carefully all projects for settlement. We analyze, we research, we give titles and we deliver indispensable financial support. From the outset, we’ve been behind Herr Bernard Förster’s project of settling a handful of courageous pioneers in Latin America. And you needed courage, Herr Förster, to land here in 1886 with your first twelve families. Courage, vision, and idealism to come to Campo Cassaccia to found a new Germany… I congratulate you. The reason for my visit is thus twofold: to award you the coveted title of “Official Colonizer” and to guarantee continuous funding for the harmonious development of your colony. Be assured, Herr Förster, that since my arrival I’ve seen so much that delights me I’ll not hesitate to bring back to Germany a very favorable report.

(Applause)

JULIUS CYRIAX
Danke schön Herr Schubert. Danke. But allow me to say that your few words were much too long and boring. (Laughter) Dear friends, imagine what I’ve had to endure during long weeks of travel at the side of this utterly austere, utterly bureaucratic man. (Laughter) Yes, we’ve traveled together from Hamburg on the steamer Uruguay to end up together in Paraguay. There was excellent company on board: Herr Schubert himself, Baron Herrmann, journalists, businessmen, and also a small but brave emigrant group, all of them excited and anxious to discover their New Germany. Their anxiety is easy to understand (Laughter), even I understand (Laughter), for the most nervous of all was me. (Laughter) Just think about it: for several years now I’ve been generously giving my money to a crazy man without knowing what he was doing with it. (Laughter) And I’m no stranger to craziness (Laughter). In fact, I invite those of you who’ll be passing through London to come visit my shop where you’ll find sweets made of absinthe (Laughter), surgical equipment, and exotic books. (Laughter) It’s in that very same shop, while I was finishing writing my latest bestseller, On the Deep Massaging of the Abdomen as a Diagnostic Tool for Detecting Tape Worm in Women, (Laughter) that my friend Bernard spoke to me of his folly: his wish to establish a vegetarian colony of New Germans in Latin America. Without a minute’s hesitation, I offered my help. And thanks to me, in 1883 he was able to make a first exploratory trip. Well, I may be crazy, but I’m still a businessman. (Laughter) And Bernard has been asking for more and more money. (Laughter) So I’ve come to see how he’s been wasting it. (Laughter) We arrived. We took your tramp steamer to the colony’s landing docks. We made our way here to Nueva Germania. (To Bernard) And I discovered, with astonishment, Försterrode, your capital; and this evening, enchanted, I discover your property, Försterhof. And at the same time I realize that my friend is a great man, a visionary. So I tell you Bernard, right to your face, that you can always count on me (Applause) and on my money. (Laughter and applause).

THE BARON
Perhaps Herr Schubert is boring, but you, Herr Cyriax, are a clod (Disapproval) and I’ve known that since we began traveling together. (Disapproval) Believe me, you’d have to have been assaulted during several weeks by Julius Cyriax’s lewd and salacious jokes to understand what I’m saying. (Laughter) We don’t choose our traveling companions. But when one is rich, one is always forgiven. (Laughter) We’re living in strange times. (Approval) And Herr Cyriax, I’m angry with you. I’m angry with you for not mentioning the one who makes all of this craziness bearable. (Silence) Sirs, I come from Africa. I’m an explorer. Africa is the integral elsewhere, beauty that exists no where else, primitive beauty. Everything there is roots, seeds, silt—seething profusion. Nature is at home there, gigantic and radiating. And animals, my God, animals dance in undulant waves, and you have to have seen once in your life a tribe of giraffes drinking together at the edge of a watering hole to understand what grace is. Africa is violent odors, ginger and hemp; it’s unrepeatable, untouchable, inimitable colors, as only a celestial artist would know how to paint. Africa is the original virgin territory, without humans, neither man, nor woman, not even savages. Nothing. It’s Valhalla that awaits its gods…or its queen. And if I’m here among you, it’s because from deep in my Africa I heard about a woman. A woman who left mother Germany for the inhospitable jungle… A pioneer who supervises a colony with force and authority… A conqueror who’s bringing culture and civilization to the natives of the Plata… A woman who resembles me… I left everything behind in a second, all of Africa, wife and children, to cross the seas and pay homage. I expected to see a woman and it’s a queen whom I’ve met. A queen and a hostess in a home made of arches, domes, flowers, and palm trees. (To Elisabeth Föster) Madam, your dinner was a model of good taste and refinement. Therefore, dear Sirs, I would like to raise my glass to “the Queen of Nueva Germania!”

THE GUESTS
(Standing, in chorus) “To the Queen of Nueva Germania!” (Applause)

BERNARD FÖSTER
Thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks to all. It’s getting late. Day breaks early. You must get some rest. The servants will accompany you. I’d like once again to welcome our friends who have come here to settle this colony. A new life begins for you. Nueva Germania needs your strength. For our part we’ll not stop until you have a bakery, a shoe repair shop, a blacksmith, and carpenters. Your children’s school is being built and soon the first stone of the church will be laid in the earth. We’re working for you. Dear Sirs, dear backers, as you have heard, we need you more than ever. Sleep well.

(The guests begin to leave the veranda.)

ELISABETH
Good evening, Herr, Herr…

KLINGBEIL
Klingbeil, Fritz Klingbeil.

ELISABETH
Good evening, Herr Klingbeil.

KLINGBEIL
My compliments, Frau Förster.

(Silence)

ELISABETH
Would you care for some tea?

KLINGBEIL
No thank you, Madam.

(Silence)

ELISABETH
Have you just arrived?

KLINGBEIL
Yes.

ELISABETH
You’re not a settler?

KLINGBEIL
No.

(Silence)

ELISABETH
You don’t speak much.

KLINGBEIL

ELISABETH
I’ve been watching you.

KLINGBEIL

ELISABETH
You hardly said anything.

(Silence)

KLINGBEIL
It was a perfect evening. Truly perfect.

ELISABETH

KLINGBEIL
You have a sumptuous estate.

ELISABETH
Thank you. (Pause) Tell me about yourself, Herr Klingbeil.

KLINGBEIL

ELISABETH
Who are you? Where are you from?

KLINGBEIL
From Naumburg.

ELISABETH
Really?

KLINGBEIL
Yes.

ELISABETH
I’m also from Naumburg.

KLINGBEIL
I know.

ELISABETH
My family is still there.

KLINGBEIL
I know. I know your brother.

ELISABETH

KLINGBEIL
I know your brother’s work.

(Silence)

ELISABETH
I’d like some tea.

KLINGBEIL
Allow me…

ELISABETH
Just a little, thank you.

KLINGBEIL
You’re quite welcome.

(Silence)

ELISABETH
What do you do in Germany?

KLINGBEIL
Finance, business…

ELISABETH
Finance? Really?

KLINGBEIL
Yes, banking mostly.

(Silence)

ELISABETH
And why Paraguay ?

KLINGBEIL
Curiosity.

ELISABETH
Really?

KLINGBEIL
Yes.

(Silence)

ELISABETH
And so?

KLINGBEIL
And so what, Madam?

ELISABETH
What’s your impression?

KLINGBEIL
My impression?

ELISABETH
Yes, your first impression.

KLINGBEIL
Good, very good. (Pause) A bit more tea, Frau Förster?

ELISABETH
No, thank you. (Pause ) Herr Klingbeil, let’s stop this game, shall we? What are you really thinking?

KLINGBEIL
What do you want to know?

ELISABETH
The truth.

KLINGBEIL
The truth, Madam?

ELISABETH
Yes, the truth.

(Silence)

KLINGBEIL
The truth… Frau Föster, the truth is I’m outraged by what I’ve seen since I arrived in your colony and outraged by what I’ve seen this evening. What I had seen, before leaving Hamburg, was a newspaper article signed by your husband describing a sun setting on a splendid and generous natural environment. But here I see dry red soil, without even enough vegetation for animals to forage. I saw propaganda bragging about ecstatic colonists humming Deutsch land über alles or Lorelei and being welcomed by Paraguayan servants at the landing docks. Here I see impoverished German peasants, abused and cheated, and living, inadmissibly, in earthen huts without water or light. I see brave pioneers who buy their goods at inflated prices in the only store in the colony—your store—trying to stay nourished on black corn and disgusting beans. While Madam, I also see your luxurious property, its overstuffed furniture, its carpets, its drapes and its piano… Here I see meat, I see wines, and I see china and silver that have come straight from Naumburg. That’s the truth, Madam.

(Silence)

ELISABETH
What do you plan to do about it, Herr Klingbeil?

KLINGBEIL
I’ll return to Germany.

ELISABETH

KLINGBEIL
I’ll write.

ELISABETH

KLINGBEIL
You must stop, Madam.

ELISABETH

KLINGBEIL
You must stop this masquerade.

ELISABETH

KLINGBEIL
Frau Föster.

(Silence)

ELISABETH
Klingbeil, Klingbeil, Klingbeil… I’m pronouncing your name, a name that sounds like home, like Naumburg, a name I’ve heard before, with its echoes of wandering. Wandering and wealth… your family’s immense wealth…You’re young, handsome, seductive, a man of the world. If we were in Germany, the Germany where you come from, you would have sat down at the piano and you would have played—Wagner, probably. You would have played and I would have listened. You would have spoken to me of this and of that, of music, of philosophy; and I would have listened to you as do ladies of the world—without understanding anything. Then, later on, you would have felt like asking me to dance but you wouldn’t have dared because I’m a married woman. I’m married to a man who left his country to come here and found a new Germany where men like you, opportunistic Germans, converts, don’t have a place. Do you know why my husband, Herr Bernard Föster, can’t return to the old Germany? Because he was sentenced to imprisonment. Convicted in absentia because he insulted a government minister, a parvenu German, a convert, like you. I choose, then, to remember that this conversation never happened, that this meeting never took place, never existed. In any case, not here, not tonight, not in Nueva Germania. I will remember that elsewhere, in another place, under other circumstances, you would have invited me to dance and I would have declined: terribly sorry, it would have been with pleasure but I don’t know how to dance. Terribly sorry. Good night, Herr Klingbeil.

II. El Contrato

FÖRSTER
Do you hear me? I demand… I demand a new contract!

CIRILIO SOLINDADE
Qué dice?

EL PEÓN
Dice que quiere un nuevo contrato.

FÖRSTER
You tricked me! It was a trick! You’re a good-for-nothing!

EL PEÓN
Dice que había una trampa caza-bobos en el contrato.

CIRILIO
Una trampa caza-bobo?

FÖRSTER
You’re a robber! A thief!

EL PEÓN
No está contento…

CIRILIO
No veo de qué esta hablando este señor. Pregúntale si puedo discutir con la señora.

EL PEÓN
He doesn’t understand what you mean, Sir. He wants to speak to you, Madam.

FÖRSTER
I will not allow it!

ELISABETH
Bernard, it’s all right. Let me do this. Good day, Sir.

CIRILIO
Buenos días, señora.

ELISABETH
Go on.

CIRILIO
Bien. Dile que converse con este señor, su esposo, en febrero de 1883. Hace unos cincos años.

EL PEÓN
He says that he spoke with your husband in February 1883. About five years ago.

CIRILIO
Estaba buscando un terreno que comprar. Soy terrateniente. Tengo tierras. Muchas tierras. La hice una propuesta: Campo Cassaccia, 6000 kilometros cuadrados a los 205 kilometros al norte de Asunción. Le gustó el terreno.

EL PEÓN
He wanted to buy land. I’m a landowner. I have land. A lot of land. I made him a proposition: Campo Cassaccia, 6000 square km, 205 km north of Asunción. He liked the property.

CIRILIO
175,000 marks. Es el precio. Es el valor exacto de este terreno.

EL PEÓN
175,000 marks. That’s the price. It’s exactly what the land is worth.

CIRILIO
No tenía dinero. No suficiente. Nuestro gobierno propuso un trato.

EL PEÓN
He didn’t have money. Not enough. Our government proposed a deal.

CIRILIO
Me pagó la mitad del precio. El terreno es suyo. Es lo que dice el contrato.

EL PEÓN
The government paid me half the price. The land belongs to you. That’s what the contract says.

FÖRSTER
Crook! Dirty crook!

ELISABETH
Please, Bernard. Señor Solindade, you’re right. You’re telling the truth. Everything you say is correct. I discovered the contract somewhat late. I wanted to meet you.

EL PEÓN
Usted tiene razón. Dice la verdad. Todo lo que dice usted es verdad. Descubrí este contrato bastante tarde. Demasiado tarde. Yo quise este encuentro.

ELISABETH
You say that the land belongs to us. Not exactly. What the contract says is that the land belongs to us once we’ve paid the other half, or 87,000 marks.

EL PEÓN
Dice que el terreno es suyo. No realmente. Lo que dice el contrato es que el terreno nos pertnecerá cuando hayamos pagado la otra mitad. O sea: 87,000 marks.

ELISABETH
What the contract says is that to pay the other half we must ask for 2000 marks from each settler family that sets up a household.

EL PEÓN
Lo que dice el contrato es que para pagárselos, pedimos 2000 marks a cada familia de colonos que se instala.

ELISABETH
What the contract says, then, is that we need 140 families to settle before two years have passed.

EL PEÓN
Lo que dice el contrato, entonces, es que se necesitan 140 familias de colonos antes de los dos años.

ELISABETH
140 families before two years or we must reimburse the government and give your lands back to you. That’s what the contract says.

EL PEÓN
140 familias antes de los dos años, si no, tendremos que rembolsar al gobierno y devolverles las tierras a ustedes. Es lo que dice el contrato.

ELISABETH
We can’t do it. We’re reaching the end of the two-year deadline and there are only 40 families. 40 miserable families. We can’t do it.

EL PEÓN
No podemos. Nos acercamos al final de los dos años y no hay más que 40 familias. Solamente 40 familias. No podemos.

ELISABETH
We need time. We ask you to extend the deadline. Two more years. Just a little time.

EL PEÓN
Necesitamos tiempo. Le pedimos un aplazo. Dos años más. Nada más que un poco de tiempo.

ELISABETH
We’re asking you for a new contract.

EL PEÓN
Le pedimos un nuevo contrato.

ELISABETH
Please.

EL PEÓN
Por favor.

FÖRSTER
Thief!

CIRILIO
La escuché, señora.

EL PEÓN
I’ve heard you, Madam.

CIRILIO
Entiendo sus problemas.

EL PEÓN
I understand you have problems.

CIRILIO
Pero no es mi culpa.

EL PEÓN
But it’s not my fault.

CIRILIO
Un negocio es un negocio.

EL PEÓN
A deal is a deal.

CIRILIO
Un contrato es un contrato.

EL PEÓN
A contract is a contract.

CIRILIO
Y su marido firmó este contrato.

EL PEÓN
And your husband signed the contract.

CIRILIO
No puedo hacer nada, señora.

EL PEÓN
I can’t do anything about it.

ELISABETH

EL PEÓN
Madam.

FÖRSTER
Du Gauner! Du Halunke! Dreckiger Dieb! Du wirst es bereuen! Ich werde mich beschweren! So wird es nicht laufen! Willst Du mich über’s Ohr hauen? Du weißt nicht, mit wem Du es zu tun hast! Ich bin ein Deutscher, hörst Du? Ich bin ein Deutscher! Du Dschungelaffe! Affe! Du Affe! Fick Dich!

EL PEÓN
No está contento…

III. Money

ELISABETH
Max Schubert has written. He’ll send some money. A substantial gift. It’s only a matter of days. The time to do the transaction.

FÖRSTER

ELISABETH
We haven’t yet heard from Cyriax. He must be overwhelmed with work. He’ll help us. He’s a man of his word.

FÖRSTER

ELISABETH
My mother wrote. She’s fantastic. She’s going to contact everyone in the family, friends, relatives, acquaintances…

FÖRSTER

ELISABETH
Your sisters are giving something. Your brothers, too.

FÖRSTER

ELISABETH
And my friends, too, my two best girl friends from Naumburg.

FÖRSTER

ELISABETH
And even Alwina… My dear old nanny Alwina gave what she could.

FÖRSTER

ELISABETH
Mother is amazing.

FÖRSTER

ELISABETH
It’ll work out.

FÖRSTER

ELISABETH
Everything will be all right, Bernard.

(Silence)

FÖRSTER
Show them to me.

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
Show me the letters.

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
Show me the letter from Herr Schubert.

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
Show me the letter from Frau Franziska, your mother.

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
Show me.

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
We’re ruined.

ELISABETH
No…

FÖRSTER
We’re ruined, liebchen.

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
Have you seen the Klingbeil piece? Did you read his drivel?

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
It’s hurting us. It’s hurting us very badly.

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
Here’s a copy of the letter I sent to General Bernardino.

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
“To His Honor the President of the Republic of Paraguay,
With my pen dipped in shame and dishonor, I write to alert you to our catastrophic situation. Our enterprise is a pitiful failure, a disaster. And I’m reduced to lying, trickery, and borrowing… like a Jew. But what else can I do? We need money. We need money dramatically. We’ve used up all our resources: family, friends, donors… The settlers are as good as shipwrecked. A quarter of the families have fled: 70% of the land parcels are still unsold. We’re meant to reimburse those who leave, pay them damages. But the only money we’ve ever earned is theirs and we no longer have it! To find a way out of this situation, 70 families would have to commit to the project in less than a year! 70 families!
‘Come, Come to Nueva Germania! The new Aryan colony so disparaged by our friend Fritz Klingbeil! Solitude, mosquitoes, infertile soil, deadly climate…’ 70 families! We’re ruined.
This is why, Your Honor, I beg you to help, etc., etc.”

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
He never answered.

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
That filthy peasant didn’t bother to respond.

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
We’re ruined.

ELISABETH
Stop it! We’re going to fight. We’re going to write more letters and we’re going to fight. I’ve already sent several. I’ll write others. For your part, you’re going to finish your book and refute Klingbeil’s accusations. Tomorrow, we’ll go on the road again, a tour, lectures, we’ll look for money, recruit families, mobilize new settlers. And we’ll plant Yerba, more and more Yerba. There must be a way to make that damned tea grow—a fertilizer, a secret formula to stimulate growth and make us a fortune. We’re going to fight. Together. Both of us. Fight.

FÖRSTER
Fight.

ELISABETH
Yes, Bernard.

FÖRSTER
Fight…

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
Have you written to him?

ELISABETH
Who?

FÖRSTER
You know who.

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
Have you written to him?

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
You ask the entire country and you don’t ask him.

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
Why?

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
Why, liebchen?

ELISABETH

FÖRSTER
Why are you here with me in this foul nightmare at the other end of the earth? What are you doing at my side in this hell hole? What kind of love gives you such boldness? You know I’m not the invincible and courageous pioneer, the hero you dreamed of as a little girl in the summer gardens of Naumburg. I’m not the empire builder that will save the German race… So why? For whom? For whom are you fighting? And why did you marry me if you love someone else?

IV: Hotel del Lago

EL MÉDICO
Está muerto.

EL PEÓN
He’s dead.

ELISABETH

EL MÉDICO
Su marido está muerto.

EL PEÓN
Your husband is dead.

ELISABETH

EL MÉDICO
Lo hemos visto rondando por al bar del hotel durante varias semanas. Borracho, siempre borracho. Solo. Triste. Abandonado. Amenazando con suicidarse. Qué pena.

EL PEÓN
We’ve seen him hanging around the hotel bar for weeks now. Drunk. Completely drunk. Alone. Sad. Abandoned. Threatening to kill himself. Poor man.

ELISABETH

EL MÉDICO
Esta mañana, la camarera descubrió su cuerpo. Al amanecer.

EL PEÓN
The housemaid found his body this morning. At dawn.

ELISABETH

EL MÉDICO
Cerca del cuerpo había un frasco de veneno: mitad morfina, mitad estricnina.

EL PEÓN
Next to his body was a vial of poison, half morphine, half strychnine.

ELISABETH

EL MÉDICO
Toda la evidencia indica un suicidio.

EL PEÓN
All the evidence points to suicide.

ELISABETH

EL MÉDICO
Le doy el pésame, señora.

EL PEÓN
Please accept his condolences.

ELISABETH

EL PEÓN
Madam.

(Silence)

ELISABETH
Tell him to write the death certificate as follows: “Herr Bernard Förster, 46 years old, passed away suddenly this Wednesday, June 3, 1889 of a nervous collapse.”

EL PEÓN
El día 3 de junio de 1889, falleció el señor Bernard Förster, de 46 años, de un súbito colapso nervioso.

EL MÉDICO

ELISABETH
“He spent the prior evening discussing theology with Father Amarro at the bar of the Hotel del Lago. He wasn’t drinking. He wasn’t drunk.”

EL PEÓN
Pasó la noche anterior discutiendo teologia con el padre Amarro, en el bar del Hotel del Lago. No estaba borracho. No estaba borracho.

EL MÉDICO

ELISABETH
“All of a sudden he stood up. He wasn’t feeling well. He sat down on a chair, one hand behind his head and the other pressed to his heart. Later, he returned to his rooms. He went to bed. He died. Of a nervous collapse.”

EL PEÓN
De repente se enderezo. No se sentia bien. Se sentó en una silla, una mano detrás de la cabeza y la otra contra el corazón. Luego regresó a su habitación. Se acostó. Murió.

EL MÉDICO

EL PEÓN

ELISABETH
“Of a nervous collapse.”

EL PEÓN
De un colapso nervioso.

EL MÉDICO

ELISABETH
“Bernard Förster died of exhaustion, for a noble cause, a martyr to his country.”

EL PEÓN
Bernard Förster murió de agotamiento, por una causa noble, un mártir de su país.

EL MÉDICO

ELISABETH
“False friends and his enemies’ scheming—and by that I mean Fritz Klingbeil, Fritz Klingbeil, Fritz Klingbeil—ruined his health.”

EL PEÓN
Los falsos amigos y las intrigas de sus enemigos arruinaron su salud.

EL MÉDICO

ELISABETH
I insist that his remains be transported to his lands in Nueva Germania. That he be buried there. That a funeral monument be erected in his honor. Translate that!

EL PEÓN
Insisto en que se transporten sus restos a sus tierras en Nueva Germania. Que se entierren allí. Que se erija un monumento fúnebre en su memoria.

EL MÉDICO

ELISABETH
And that you give me the poison vial.

EL PEÓN

EL MÉDICO

ELISABETH
The poison vial.

EL PEÓN

EL MÉDICO

ELISABETH
Now.

V: La Tierra

ELISABETH
Yes, I speak your language. Language, sir, is everything. Do you speak German? Do you? I speak German, my mother tongue, and I speak your language, the language of colonization. It’s this double knowledge that gives me superiority over you at this very moment. It’s what permits me to dominate the situation and everything else that’s at stake. I’m speaking from a most precise knowledge of your language to tell you that I will not leave. We will not leave. You think you’re in your right because you have a contract written in approximate terms. Because you have some vague certificate of expulsion you think you’re on your land. And you enter my home, boots on, acting like a soldier whose arrogance establishes law. And you tell me that outside, while we’re speaking, an army, your army, is ready to throw us out, hunt us down, expropriate us. It’s true that I don’t have an army or even arms, no troupes gathered to lay siege. Faced with your militia, I’ve only a handful of poor settlers to oppose you. With my widowhood as my banner. But I have a question for your men: in which language do they intend to give my men the order to clear out? In which language will they understand that short of a massacre, we will not budge from our land? In which language?

CIRILIO
Señora Förster, I’m not trying to start a war; I’m defending my rights. My rights to recuperate lands that should come back to me according to a contract established between two parties: you and me. Don’t take this military presence bellowing at your doors for aggression. It’s merely insurance, at best a guarantee, and certainly not a threat. I wouldn’t know how to threaten you. Threat is an arm and as I’ve said to you, I’m not going to war. One doesn’t fight over land. One sells it or takes it. Inevitably. I sold you the land that you occupy. But you weren’t able to buy it. I’ve come to take it back. Inevitably. It belongs to me. It always belonged to me. Did you really believe that it would be enough to send an improbable blonde-haired scout, sneering, with racism as his only virtue, to convince me to cede my land? Did you really believe in that fantastic utopian scheme of creating in our country, on our lands, a prosperous and pure New Germany? You arrived in a foreign country like a simpleton, your head full of dreams of conquest, and now you think it’s enough to speak the language for the country to belong to you? Language, señora, is nothing if you have no legitimacy. Yes, you speak my language but from where do you speak it? From what origin? From what base? Only land gives legitimacy and if you thought for a single instant that one fine day this land would be yours, you’ve deceived yourself. I’m going to be brief: we signed a contract that stipulates that on a specific day you must pay the total worth of my lands. That day has come. You haven’t paid. You must leave.You must pack your things, your settlers, your dreams of exoticism and go home, to German lands, to your lands.

ELISABETH
Yes, only land gives legitimacy. That’s why we won’t leave. You ask me from where I’m speaking. I answer: from Germany. I’m speaking to you from our German lands that you are currently caressing with your foreign feet. This land is German. It was bought with something much more precious than money. You offend me by asking for money. Money has no reliable exchange value. It’s too uncertain, too capricious to serve as a means of doing business between men. In Germany, only Jews use it, and for minor negotiations, the kind of business quickly done in a tent between two oases. To buy your land, we paid the highest price there is, the blood price. The blood of a German whose body lies buried here and who paid for your land with his life, land which will evermore be German. And I warn you: even if you add up all your ancestors buried nearby, the sum will not surpass the value of a German’s blood, as pitiful as he was. Why? Because a German carries within him centuries of history, music, and genius. A lone German encompasses as much memory as your entire continent. He carries in his blood an infinite variety of myths, of legends, of uninterrupted greatness. So my question is simple: can you fight against that? Are you able to buy back from me the blood buried on this land and the heritage it represents? Can you do that?

CIRILIO
Señora Förster, you know I could give the order to evacuate and you’d have no choice. Since I’m completely in my right, I could expropriate each settler, each family, each child conceived and fed by the milk and honey of this land and corral them all like a herd of cattle, pack them into a steamer—as one would do with rare wood which in this case is also riddled with worms—and deport them to Europe. If I so chose, I could remove from here without further ado your house, your secrets, and all the extravagance you’ve been so careful to cultivate. I’d be delighted to see you leave, with your dreams of purity all bundled up—like a refugee, in a line of refugees, carrying her possessions on her head. All I’d need to do for you to stop existing would be to give a signal, a gesture, a crack of the whip. But I won’t do it. Why? Precisely because you’ve never really existed. One doesn’t attack a ghost. Do you know what the peasants call you, you and your kind? La gente perdida. La gente perdida. You say you understand our language. You know what that means. You understand the measure of scorn they’re directing towards you for the scorn you’ve shown them. Do you understand, señora, how clearly this primitive people has grasped the waste you represent of a race they believed superior? If I don’t expulse you violently, it’s because of them. They wouldn’t understand our raising our swords against ghosts, against la gente perdida. In this land, we go to war against rebels, barbarians, bloodthirsty adventurers who are worth the trouble. Not against an assembly of sad sacks fueled by a decadent ideology—who are just waiting for me to give them, by an act of violence, a reason to treat us as faithless and lawless savages. I won’t give you that opportunity. Don’t count on it. Your departure is going to take place according to the rules, in writing—just like our contract—in writing. And if you intend to contest this, I ask you to notify me. In writing. To settle our differences, I’m going to seek justice in the most civilized manner possible from the most competent courts of this country. In writing.

ELISABETH
Writing you say? I wouldn’t advise it. You’ll lose the battle before you begin. Writing… The pen is mightier than the sword. And I’ve been a master of the art much longer than you’ve possessed even the smallest parcel of land. Since I left the old Germany, I have to my credit some 30,000 letters. Written by this hand. And that isn’t all of it by any means. Don’t think about writing. You’ll never survive. I’ll lead a campaign in legendary fashion that will ruin you and yours. People will still be talking about it to your great-grandchildren; and generations will say: here lies the ancestor defeated by a pen dipped in the ink of slander. I’ll write to every human being, every landowner, every Paraguayan and bear witness to your manipulations, your deals, your dishonesty. I’ll write to every member of your family and denigrate your name, your virility. I’ll write to the entire Solindade line, living and dead, and tell them in the most minute details of your treachery. I’ll cover you with shame. And it that isn’t enough, I’ll send a letter to Bismarck and accuse you of being responsible for the greatest massacre Paraguay has ever known. CIRILIO SOLINDADE, the butcher of Paraguay! Murders, rapes, infanticides, cannibalism… I’ll attribute to you the most atrocious crimes—the crimes everyone knows to be the daily fare of tropical climates. And you’ll see God’s anger descend on you. I swear it: there will be nothing left of Paraguay, not a stone. This is a prophecy. You want your land back? You’ll lose a country and maybe even a continent. Listen to me: Don’t write! Don’t use that arm. It will be fatal for you. Use, instead, the weapons you know so well—real weapons. Tell your men to shoot us. Make it normal and clean, the way it’s always done to innocent people in your country. It won’t shock anybody. They’ll just acknowledge a few German settlers at the ends of the earth victims of the endless rebellions in Paraguay. Your President will ask for forgiveness. Ours will accept. They’ll be even. And you’ll get back your lands, and they’ll be more German than ever.

(Silence)

CIRILIO
Who are you Señora Förster? Where do you come from? What do you want? What kind of monster lives in your guts to give you such confidence? What animal ignites such audacious fires? How dare you be so insolent? It was a mistake to confuse you with that dilettante, that coward who pretended to be your husband and who made your whole community ashamed. It didn’t make sense for a woman like you to be with a man like him. It was incoherent. He was stupid, limited, racist, and ignorant. You’re intelligent, determined, intrepid and…beautiful, so very beautiful… What are you doing here, more than 8000 kilometers from a land that surely needs you? What are you looking for in the deadly torpor of our faraway place? You’re not in your place. Your place is in Germany, the real Germany, in its drawing rooms, standing by a man of the world who would know how to appreciate your beauty and your talent for intrigue. Your place is beside a lucky man who would know how to use you to transform himself into a prince or a hero. You have what it takes in skill and cruelty to be a diplomat or a politician. Especially a politician, in your country, in Germany. But not here, no, not here. My country is way too young, too immature to welcome a monster like you. Can’t you see that your temperament is too big for this territory? We’re too narrow for you. Whatever you’ve come here to hide can only overflow, overrun and slap us in the face like quick-spreading leprosy. We weren’t prepared and we don’t have enough hands to gather up all the energy disgorged by your secret sun. What are you hiding?

ELISABETH
Your presence on my lands has gone on long enough and I don’t see any reason to answer your questions. They’re indiscrete. I hasten to add “discourteous” because you ask about my private life… But I will admit you’re a good loser. I choose, then, to answer you. (Pause) At the core of my decision to leave Germany is betrayal—and the suffering that accompanies it. And by suffering I mean humiliation. That same humiliation you so generously offered up to us as a form of contract we were trying to renegotiate… It’s because of this humiliation that I had the courage to fight you. And here you are—tumbled to the ground, or, rather, pushed off my grounds. And I’m still not happy. It’s because humiliation is normally a deep wound. Yours was shallow—as is my satisfaction. I loved a man. He betrayed me. I was humiliated. To forget him, I traveled very far away, and I tried to reconstruct what he stole: my self-confidence. The heat, the humidity, even the difficulties of this country so far from his arms suit me. To forget his voice I needed mountains to cross. I’m crossing them one after the other, day after day, and I’m finding the courage and the strength to face mosquitoes, other disgusting insects, and shady landowners. I believe in myself. But I’m still suffering, which leads me to see that the man whom I loved more than anything in the world, the man whom I venerate with everything I have and even more than imaginable, the partner who’d promised me the same kind of love, took something else from me. He took my emotional security. And I’m humiliated to feel so weak, so mortal without him. And now I know that it will take many long years and perhaps all of my life, far away from him, here, to attempt to survive such humiliation. I won’t leave. My life is in New Germany, in the New Germany of Paraguay.

VI: Departure!

EL PEÓN
Se fue!

SETTLER I
What’s going on?

EL PEÓN
Se fue!

SETTLER II
What’s he saying?

SETTLER I
She’s left!

EL PEÓN
La dueña se fue!

SETTLER II
Left? Who left?

SETTLER I
Frau Förster!

SETTLER II
Frau Förster?

SETTLER I
Frau Förster!

SETTLER II
That’s not possible. Left to go where?

SETTLER I
To Germany!

SETTLER II
To Germany?

SETTLER I
To Germany!

SETTLER II
That’s not possible.

EL PEÓN
Su hermano está muriendo!

SETTLER II
What’s he saying?

SETTLER I
Her husband… He says her husband is dead!

EL PEÓN
Su querido hermano está muriendo!

SETTLER II
Her husband’s been dead a long time!

SETTLER I
Not her husband, her brother.

SETTLER II
She had a brother?

EL PEÓN
Su hermano está loco!

SETTLER I
Her brother went crazy!

EL PEÓN
Completamente loco!

SETTLER II
Is he dead or is he crazy?

EL PEÓN
Loco! Loco! Loco!

SETTLER I
Crazy! Crazy! Crazy!

SETTLER II
How crazy?

SETTLER I
Crazy! Completely crazy! That’s what he says…

SETTLER II
What does he know about it?

EL PEÓN
Se fue! Para siempre! Se fue!

SETTLER II
When is she coming back?

SETTLER I
He doesn’t know!

SETTLER II
She’ll never come back!

SETTLER I
That’s not possible!

SETTLER II
What will we do?

SETTLER I
What will happen to us?

SETTLER II
It’s not possible!

EL PEÓN
Se fue! La dueña se fue! Se fue! Se fue!

Bios

José Pliya

José Pliya was born in Cotonou, Benin, West Africa in 1966. Playwright, actor, director, and teacher, he holds a doctorate in Modern Literature from the University of Lille, where he also taught. Artistic director of Écritures Théâtrales Contemporaines en Caraibe (Contemporary Caribbean Playwriting) and former director of the Alliances Françaises of Dominica and Cameroon, Pliya is the author of numerous plays, several of them published by L’Avant- Scène Théâtre, in its Quatre Vents collection. His plays have been produced in major French theaters such as La Comédie Française (Les Effracteurs, 2004); Cannibales (Théâtre National de Chaillot, 2004), Une Famille Ordinaire at the Théâtre de l’oeuvre, in 2004 and Le Complexe de Thénardier at the Théâtre du Rond-Point Champs Elysées, in 2002 and again, at the Lucernaire Theater in 2005. In 2005, José Pliya was appointed artistic director of l’Artchipel, the National Theatre of Guadeloupe, French West Indies.

Judith G. Miller

Judith G. Miller is Chair and Professor of French at NYU. She specializes in French and Francophone theatre, text, and production, and has translated numerous plays from the French. Among her publications are Ariane Mnouchkine (a study of one of France's most important contemporary theatre directors, Routledge, 2007); Plays by French and Francophone Women Writers: A Critical Anthology (an anthology of plays, translated from the French, by contemporary women writers, Michigan, 1994); and, Theatre and Revolution in France (a study of the interweaving of theatre and politics in France after May 1968 (French Forum, 1977).

The Sister of Zarathustra. Copyright (c) Jose Pliya, 2007. English translation copyright (c) Judith G. Miller, 2007.