S³awomir Mro¿ek was born in 1930 in Borzecine, Poland. He is one of Europe’s most prominent playwrights. In 1963, he emigrated from Poland for political reasons and lived in Italy, France, and Mexico. In the fifties he published prose: The Elephant (1957), The Wedding Party (1959), Small Summer (1956), and Escaping Southwards (1961). Mrozek’s theatre is dynamic. He see the world as absurd. His first play, The Police, was produced in 1959. It was followed by The Turkey (1961), Tango (1964), The Prophets (1969), The Tailor (1977), Emigrants (1975), The Ambassador (1982) and other dramas. „What do we need? What we need is one person who we could lock up, whom we could arrest for something which could in some slight degree be described as anti-government activity. It has become apparent that we shall not find him in the ordinary course of events, or in what we call the natural manner. We must, so to speak, compose this man ourselves. My choice has fallen on you.“ S³awomir Mro¿ek lives in Krakow.
We all stood at the bar pondering our drinks.
“Spring’s in the air,” said the Accountant.
“How’d you know?” we asked in surprise, “it’s only the middle of may.”
“Observing nature, that’s how I know, they’re serving vodka warmer by the day.”
“Indeed,” said the Clerk dreamily, “even the beer is getting warmer.
Summer must be around, time to think of holiday, chaps. Where you’re off to this year?”
“God knows,” answered the Accountant, “maybe I’ll move to the Golden Horn. They’ve got the door at each end and when they’re chucking out their guests up front you get a nice cool draught. What about you gents?”
“Well, when it comes to July and August, I’d take the No. 6 Pub, you know. They’ve got such amazing sandwiches, any fly that comes to sit on them drops dead – and does not bother you!”
“That’s right, flies ain’t clever.”
“Elephants would be different, they’d drink vodka and wouldn’t touch the snacks.”
“And what about you,” we all asked the Cashier, who stared in the eye of a pickled herring, where are you going?”
“Abroad,” answered the Cashier, to Bristol.
We all looked at him shocked.
“Oh, you must have got an invitation – from relatives, haven’t you.”
“You don’t have any, there? In the reception or the snack bar?”
“Don’t you know anyone there?”
“No, I don’t.”
“You must be going officially, then, or with a delegation.”
“I knew someone who was going to Zagaia and changed it into Hawaia. They found him out. He made a spelling mistake,” mused the Clerk.
“I am not going officially, if you must know, I am going privately,” replied the Cashier.
Our eyes met with understanding and although it was hard for us, we had to do it. We informed on him. And we were proved right. The audit found a few things.
Besides, we did it for his own good. Why, he should have been happy with the No. 6 Pub or The Golden Horn. After all, summer can be very hot and he will be better off in the shade.
Novosadecký, Majer and I rented a chalet in the mountains where we wanted to spend our holiday.
Majer planned to pick mushrooms, Novosadecký wanted to sunbathe and I didn’t have any concrete plans.
It was a good idea. Quiet, peace, nature, no people anywhere around. But after dusk we noticed a little light in the distance. It wasn’t a normal light. Just a small bright spot.
At first we thought that it was a star, but it was too low to be a star. And it even shone when it was overcast, when there isn’t usually any trace of stars.
Could it be some other chalet? But there weren’t any other chalets for miles around, just ours, the only one. Could some tourists have lit a fire? But fire burns red and flickers, whereas this shone golden and constant.
“It’s annoying me,” said Novosadecký.
“Let it shine,” Majer took up the opposing position. “It’s far away, it’s not bothering us.”
“I’m not annoyed that it’s shining,” Novosadecký made himself clearer. “Just that I don’t know what is shining.”
“Typical hunger for knowledge,” I commented on the situation. “A basic human characteristic. Man is not just interested by the phenomenon as such, but also by its causality. Man wants to know the cause.”
“Since we’re talking about nature,” said Novosadecký crossly, “we’ve been cheated. They promised us solitude in nature but it looks like there are some other people here. I wanted solitude.”
“And how do you know that the light isn’t a natural phenomenon?”
“I don’t know! That’s what annoys me.”
The next day he went to pick mushrooms and Majer sunbathed. I didn’t do anything in particular so I don’t have anything to add about myself.
Novosadecký returned from mushroom-picking in a bad mood.
“I wasn’t very successful, I couldn’t concentrate.”
“But why not? The weather is perfect and there are plenty of mushrooms.”
“But the whole time I had to think about the fact that the day would end, evening would come, and that little light would appear again.”
“Maybe it won’t appear.”
“Exactly, it isn’t certain. If it’s going to appear or not – the uncertainty is killing me.”
“Well, let’s assume that it won’t appear. Do you feel better?”
“If it doesn’t appear it’ll be even worse. Then I’ll be thinking about why it appeared before but now it hasn’t.”
“You’ll forget about it.”
“I won’t forget, you never forget your memories. And anyway, I won’t be able to watch it any more – just in my memories.”
“Wait ‘till evening, then it’ll turn up again. There’s no point in suffering in advance.”
As evening drew closer and closer, so Novosadecký grew more and more nervous, although logically it ought to be the other way round. As the end of the waiting draws closer, one ought to be less and less impatient. Just before dusk we met on the bench in front of the chalet.
“I really soaked up the sun today, didn’t I?” said Majer.
“Quiet,” Novosadecký snapped at him. “We’re waiting, don’t distract us.”
Dusk fell slowly, too slowly for Novosadecký.
“It’s not there,” announced Novosadecký nervously. “And it won’t be.”
“Perhaps we only dreamed it yesterday?” I tried to calm him down. “That sometimes happens.”
“To one person yes, but to three? One of us might have been mistaken, but not all three.”
“There is such a thing as mass hallucination. It’s true that mass experience is the normative foundation of our consciousness, but consensus does not stand up under philosophical examination.”
“Bullshit!” responded Novosadecký indignantly. “Don’t try and confuse me!”
“I’m not trying to, I’m only analysing.”
“There it is!” cried Majer, who hadn’t taken part in our argument but had only watched. And sure enough, a small bright spot was fastened onto the dark mountain massif.
“Good God!” shouted Novosadecký. “There it is again!”
“That’s what you wanted though. If it hadn’t appeared again you’d have been even more annoyed.”
“Why are you having a go at me, have a go at that!” He pointed to the light.
“I can’t. You’re my friend, but that… I don’t even know what it is.”
“Exactly,” agreed Novosadecký. “There it is, but what is it?”
After supper Majer rubbed in Nivea cream, I didn’t do anything, and Novosadecký went out in front of the house. He stared fixedly into the night, or rather at that small bright spot engulfed by darkness. There was nothing strange in that. The night really was breath-taking, vast and endless, but the whole of it hung only from that one small spot as if from a nail.
Majer came to breakfast well-rested, while Novosadecký was pale and unslept.
“I couldn’t sleep,” he complained.
“You stared into the distance for ages, so it’s not surprising.”
“Well I went to bed but still I couldn’t sleep. I was constantly thinking about what it was, what it could be.”
“Have you got a theory?”
“No. It’s just there. It shines. That’s it.”
He didn’t even go out to pick mushrooms that day. He hung around the chalet, swept out each and every corner, and only at noon went out into the courtyard, where Majer lazed around on a sun-chair.
“This is the best time for tanning,” said Majer, and pointed at the sun which had just reached its zenith.
“What do I care?” growled Novosadecký and went back inside. He was obviously waiting for dusk and the day seemed much too long to him.
At dusk we sat down again on the bench in front of the house. It is strange how different people can be. Neither Majer nor I were as tense as yesterday – had we begun to get used to it? – whereas Novosadecký was even more excited.
Majer showed the least interest; he was afraid that the sun had baked him too much during the day and that his skin would definitely peel.
“That Nivea is useless,” he complained.
“Quiet!” shouted Novosadecký.
“Why? We’re waiting for an optical, not an acoustic phenomenon. If the light is going to appear, it will appear, even if I bang a drum and Majer blows a trombone.
As if in confirmation of my words, in the bluish, greying and darkened space a tiny golden spot appeared.
“Right, I’m off to cook the noodles,” said Majer and stood up.
Novosadecký didn’t come to supper. He stayed on the bench in a daydream. When Majer and I went to lie down he was still sitting there.
“I just hope he doesn’t go nuts,” Majer shared his worries with me.” “Good night.”
Only the two of us, Majer and I, came to breakfast.
“Is he still sitting there?” I asked Majer.
“He’s not moving. He’s been sitting like that all night.”
I brought Novosadecký a mug of hot coffee. He was shaking with cold because in the mountains the nights, and particularly the mornings are very chilly, even in the summer.
“Why didn’t you at least cover yourself with a blanket?” I asked.
“I couldn’t go for a blanket because I didn’t want to lose sight of it. The observation must be accurate.”
“And did you see anything new?”
“No. The only thing I can find out is that it starts to shine in the evening and goes out at dawn. Otherwise it doesn’t even flicker.”
“So why are you still sitting here when it’s already gone out? It’s broad daylight.”
“Really,” Novosadecký realised, and looked at me with a less absent expression.
He slept the whole day. In the meantime Majer had turned a nice colour and his worries about his skin turned out to be needless.
Novosadecký only woke up before supper.
“Are you going to eat today?” asked Majer.
“Just something cold. I’ll take it with me for the journey.”
“What journey?” we asked, surprised.
“I’m going to go and take a look at what it is.”
“Oh come on,” Majer tried to stop him. “Where are you going to go at night?”
“I won’t find it during the day.”
“Let him go,” I supported him. “Why should he bother us? Better if he goes and finds out, otherwise he’ll spoil our whole holiday.”
He went, returning the next day around midday.
“So?” Majer and I welcomed him.
“Nothing. It’s too far. You can’t get there in one night.”
Majer looked at me and I at Majer. We already knew what would follow.
And so it was. Novosadecký slept the whole day again and in the late afternoon he packed his rucksack.
“I don’t know when I’ll return, maybe in a few days time. You guys stay here and wait for me.”
We waited one day, then two. The first night we slept as usual. Even during the second day we weren’t worried about Novosadecký because we knew that he needed at least two nights. Late in the afternoon of the second day we began to be concerned.
“No worries,” Majer reassured me. It might take longer than we expected.”
“Of course: two nights there and two back, or a day and a night if he comes back without resting. We can expect him in the morning at the earliest.”
Despite all the logic of our reasoning we didn’t move from the spot; we looked in the direction where, in the night-time mountain depths, lay a small, bright spot. Somehow we didn’t feel like talking so we just sat for a long time.
“What’s the time?” I asked at last.
“Just before midnight.”
“Let’s go to bed then. He definitely won’t come before dawn.”
I had already turned and set off towards the chalet when Majer cried:
And I saw it – in the darkness, in the emptiness, there wasn’t just one small bright spot but two. One next to the other, absolutely identical. There was no way to tell which was there first and which second. Majer didn’t know either even though to begin with he insisted that the light on the left had started to shine after the one on the right. But when I pressed him he changed his mind and insisted the opposite, that the one on the right had started to shine after to the one on the left. I put it to him that neither the left could have started to shine after the right, nor the right after the left, because as long as there was only one it couldn’t have been either left or right. Then he had to admit that he also couldn’t tell them apart and that he was only trying to be tidy. The lights looked like two eyes.
We slept badly that night.
Novosadecký didn’t come back either on the third or the fifth day. When the seventh day had come and gone Majer said:
“What if we went to meet him?”
“He told us to wait. And apart from that…”
“What apart from that?”
We sat as ever on the bench in front of the chalet and looked at the two lights.
“If only one shone before, and now, when Novosadecký hasn’t come back, two are shining, then we’re forced to the hypothesis…”
“What hypothesis?” Majer urged me on because I was procrastinating.
“That Novosadecký is shining as the second one.”
Majer thought about this.
“Quite possible,” he said finally. “But in that case what was shining as the first?”
“How am I supposed to know?” I answered angrily. “That interested Novosadecký too. But if you really want to know, let’s go and see for ourselves.”
“Out of the question,” Majer reassured me. “We’re just here on holiday.”