Introduces Tadzio to the audience. The set and Tadzio's opening words
(Moonlight bathes the stage. The set is minimal – a deckchair with an abandoned newspaper, a linen jacket draped over the back and a suitable hat; a striped beach towel center stage towards the back; an old-fashioned high-backed armchair next to a side table on which sits a solitary book.)
(TADZIO – 50s or older, tall, thin, elegant – enters. Daylight rises as he walks slowly round the stage contemplating each element of the set, coming to rest at the armchair. During the play different parts of the set remind him of incidents in his story.)
TADZIO: I never spoke to him. I knew his name, but it was years before I realised who he was.
I was in Paris, a student at last, searching for something to read among the bouquinistes. A thin, unshaven man with a tired, dog-eared collection pushed a volume into my hand. "There, monsieur, read this. A marvellous book, the story of our times." It was The Abject, an old French edition. I was ashamed of my ignorance and showed it to the friend I was with. "You know it?" I asked. "Of course," he said. "It’s his masterpiece. He died before the war." Only that evening, as I sat down to read and saw his name, did I once again remember the old man in his chair, the hazy sun, the sea and the sand.
We’d been at the hotel for a week when he appeared. I had been bored on the long train journey as field after field rushed past. Find a boy to play with," said Maria while Mother and Mademoiselle dozed in our compartment. "But there are none in this carriage," I said, "and Mother told us to stay here." "Always doing what Mummy says," Olga jeered. "Don't you?" I asked. "Yes," she replied, “but I’m a girl.” I fell silent and for the rest of the journey wavered between self-pity, anger and hatred towards all three of my sisters.
The hotel was full at the height of the season. At dinner the first evening we followed Mother around the room greeting people we knew. I was happy to see the Andrzejewskis, especially Jaschiu, a boy a little older than me, and there were other families and children that we would get to know, but as I looked round I was slightly disappointed, as if I’d expected someone, an old friend or a new acquaintance, who wasn’t there.
Most days, whatever the weather, we sat on the beach with a parasol and table in front of our cabin. The sea air was good for my health, Mother said, who was never convinced that the shortness of breath I’d suffered when younger would not return. She would calmly read or write letters while Mademoiselle fussed over towels and bags and other paraphernalia. The girls sat and gossiped, hiding from the sun and brushing sand off their clothes. I didn’t realise that they didn’t enjoy themselves; too old to play games, they could only talk or go for walks no further than Mother could see. I, meanwhile, a fourteen-year-old boy, could play with other children, build sandcastles, rush into the sea or lie on the sand whenever I wished. All I had to suffer was Mother's frown and Mademoiselle’s fussy reminders not to exert myself – reminders that I usually ignored.
Foreman, Martin. Tadzio Speaks . . . (Death in Venice Revisited), Arbery Publications, 2014, pp 5-9.
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