Who do we love when we love?

  Who do we love when we love? Who do we love when we love? Do we ever know who the beloved one is ? Is mutual affection but a happy and lucky misunderstanding?

Love is a mystery and the very reason why, on the stage, one man faces.
On one side, Abel Znorko, a Nobel Prize of literature who lives far from men and civilization. On his island lost in the middle of the Norwegian sea, he keeps on remenbering the woman he loved passionately and with whom he corresponded for a long time. On the other: Erik Larsen, a journalist who wants to interview the writer.

But the interview is only a pretext. So what is Larsen's secret motive?
What is the link between him and this woman Znorko claims he has never forgotten? And most of all, why has the misanthropist agreed to meet him?

The encounter will quickly turn into a very cruel and vicious truth game. The two men, like two boxers, will in turn reveal their secrets in many dramatic turns and with a suspense distilled with much talent.

The play, featuring Antoine Kerbaje and Jihad Al Andary will be shown in Arabic with French Subtitles.

In his presentation of the play, Eric Emmanuel Schmitt presents the dichotomy that makes him write:

“My characters talk a lot but they very seldom speak the truth. Otherwise there would not be any play at all.Once they have spoken their truth, life is going to deny it. Otherwise I would not acknowledge the play as one of mine.

The clash between our thoughts and reality may be the main theme to be found in my plays. It is easy to have convictions but it is necessary to get rid of them. Men cannot always keep hiding from life behind their beliefs, their choices, their convictions. Life is full of surprise; it does not always come up to our expectations, it keeps upsetting our plans, it brings some density and forces itself upon us with all its mysteries. Not one abstract point of view can stand against life. Not one philosophy has never succeeded in solving life and its mysteries. As far as truth is concerned, i'm a widower. But a merry one. I do enjoy mysteries. I can understand with much delight that life cannot be understood.
Enigma Variations is certainly my most autobiographical play. Like Znorko, I know what treason means, I have listened to endless lies, I have gone through many lonely hours and I have seeked refuge in my writing. Like Larsen, once I loved, in a very simple and humble way; from day to day, I looked after the beloved woman in sickness and in death. Like these two men, I was inflicted these masquerades when identities have all been exchanged; I experienced the love which is not necessarily in harmony with one's sexual tastes, I was confused and I nearly lost myself, but in the end, it enabled me to find much more than my own self. I have often walked around the same emotional labyrinths as my two characters.
But I will say no more. We have to put an end to the game of resemblances. You cannot rely on life as much as on fiction: contrary to Znorko, I haven't been awarded the Nobel Prize of literature yet and I do live on an island but I have to share it with other people...
Znorko and Larsen embody two ways of loving.
Znorko needs to be far to love whereas Larsen needs to be very near the person he loves. Znorko is a romantic hero, Larsen on the contrary is a realistic character. Znorko is very sensuous. Too sensuous. He does not think that sexuality is the right manner to attache someone to someone else. He very well knows that sexual things are like some short-lived, unstable and inconsequential fever. He is perfectly aware of the utter helplessness of sex in a love-story. That is exactly why Znorko has tried everything to spiritualize his love for Hélène, to make it stronger, by keeping her at a distance, by putting an end to their embraces. He forced bodies to be parted. But he goes on living his passion for Hélène through a daily correspondence with her. He turned his love-story into a literary affair. Contrary to what he wants us to believe at the beginning of the play, he thinks highly of love. We must not forget that he even managed to sacrifice both the body and the presence of the beloved to that high ideal.
Larsen, on the contrary, has no preconceived ideas on love. He lets himself be carried away by it. When he married Hélène, he agreed on anything: from everyday life to routine and its limits, from illness to agony and to death. After the funeral, he even went as far as to accept being betrayed. He accepted Hélène's other love. He even accepted the loss of his sexual identity.When you first look at him, he seems dull, grey, ordinary and shy, but in fact, he is the real soldier of love. He agreed on his life being invaded and changed in the name of love.
Who is right? Neither of them: and it is a comedy. Both: and it becomes a tragedy. Znorko and Larsen are the embodiments of our conflicting tensions. Their position is so extreme that they suffer a great deal and they are on the verge of neurosis. Neither of them can be contented with his own excesses. Znorko, at the beginning of the play is desperately lonesome. Larsen at the end needs the correspondence to go on.
For years, I have been receiving hundreds of letters and they all ask the same question: "What happens when the last cue is said?"
My answer is always the same:
1) I don't know otherwise I would have added some more scenes after the final one.
2) I wrote the play for the audience to ask themselves the question. What may happen? Are the two men going to write to each other as if Hélène was still doing it? Without her, is it still possible ? Are they going to meet again? Up to what point will they acknowledge that there is some love between them?
I really think that a play is not restricted to the time of the performance and the pleasure you get out of it. A play must disturb, must force people to ask themselves and about the play itself...Very often, spectators have told me what is supposed to happen when the play is over. And I realized that they were not speaking about the play but about themselves. As human beings, they were reacting in their own way to that very strange love-story.
And this was my sole aim.”

Malvern, England, May 12th 2000

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