Tiger at the gates

J. Giraudoux

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How can you be a pacifist when all the big guys in the world want war?
This was Giraudoux’s question just before the Second World War.

It was in 1935.

Isn’t it worth looking into it again?

It is a rather simple play, which tells, starting from this immemorial war that was the Trojan war, how those who want war at all costs obtain it, in defiance of righteousness, truth, good.

At that time, everyone saw the war coming and nobody did anything about it.
Some people thought that they would gain glory and fame easily: it is so easy to be the good guy in a war against the bad guys.
Some saw their money interests in it.
Some dreamed of becoming the poets of war, of justice…

Compagnie du théâtre mantois – 01/2022

And too little loved were those who wanted peace – those who said that peace is only made with enemies.
Booed were those who told about the catastrophes of war for the nations – for all nations, there are no good or bad nations.

Hector – the divine Hector and his wife the great Andromache try to convince Pâris to return Helen to her husband.
Paris dodges – he does not want to be responsible. He lets the king decide – the king, the old Priam who sees nothing coming.
Priam is annoyed, they are both in love, Helen and Pâris – and then, is it so serious?
He lets Helen choose.
Helene doesn’t choose, she finds ways to delay the decision…. nothing happens – except the war which is still smoldering, and the Gates of War which are just waiting to open.

Hector does not want to give up – he asks the people’s advocate to convince the world to give up the war.
But this lawyer gains money and prestige in this story. He tells all the bad things the Greeks do that “naturally” lead to war.
Hector, for whom “law is the most powerful school of the imagination”, says that “no poet has ever interpreted nature as freely as a lawyer interprets reality”. What we can see live.

The lawyer will only find arguments for peace when Hector threatens to keep him imprisoned for the duration of this war.
Curious, isn’t it?

Then comes Odysseus – the one who didn’t want war either. All hope is allowed – ah yes but no – don’t forget those who want war. Those who dream of it. Those who provoke it. Those who look for incidents. And the incident happened. It was the poet who provoked it – the one who wanted war. In every country there are false artists who are so happy to see blood spilled for ideas – as long as theirs is protected.

The poet lied – war would no longer be avoided.

Despite all the efforts for peace, it will be war. The end of Troy. The death of Hector. The death of the righteous. The death, blind.

It is interesting, this piece, because, as in all moments of war, it is the emotion which prevails – and one sees reappearing these ancient speeches which say that the war is the peace –

It is not useless to see pieces like this one – and to ask oneself, caught in the emotions of the time, if the emotion is well judicious in times of war.

The path to peace requires more wisdom – and less artificial flare. It is so much harder to follow, after all.

The English translation has been done for a long time – so there is no language problem to deal with – how fortunate!

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Featured Image : Tiger at the gates / la guerre de Troie n’aura pas lieu – by Compagnie du théâtre mantois – 01/2022

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