Unexpected Man Paperback – Jul 7 1998
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"A consummately elegant translation by Christopher Hampton." --The Independent on Sunday
"Crisply translated . . . Delicate, witty, neatly constructed and peppered with irony. It captures the slippery, fleeting nature of the possibilities that surround us." --Financial Times
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"The Unexpected Man" is, quite simply (although, as The Woman says, nothing is truly 'quite simple') true. True to many things - true to life, true to the human conscious, true to emotion, true to tension, just - true. The digressions, the personalities, the ending, the million-to-one premise - all of it is undeniably true. And yet, about all of this truth their exists and underlying mysteriousness - the ambiance is not casual - it is tense, and somewhat poetic (though it does not STRETCH the truth - do I repeat myself? har har har.) - all in all, The Unexpected Man provides a conflux of many elevated elements that are difficult to intertwine - successfully. But success is so, for Reza.
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While Parsky is mulling over comments on his work and thinking that his observations have "no value in the practice of literature," Martha is silently conversing with him, telling him that "you personally invent protective misunderstandings, because you're haunted by the fear of being understood." While he wonders if there is "anyone in the whole world who might know how to read [The Unexpected Man]," Martha is revealing her superior understanding of both him and his book, which she finally takes from her purse to read. When, at the end of the "play," an awkward conversation finally begins, Parsky, not admitting his identity, tries to persuade Martha that the author of the book is irritating, selfish, and unable "to turn a single moment into an eternity."
Published in 1998, and translated from the French by Christopher Hampton, Yasmina Reza's "play" is not a play in the traditional sense. Though the audience comes to know both characters through their monologues, they do not interact until briefly at the end, and though both may learn something, especially Parsky, the moment of recognition--in which light dawns on one of the characters as a result of the action in the play--is so brief it is almost unrecognizable. Witty and filled with thoughtful comments about life, eternity, and the meaning of literature, this subtle drama leaves most of the action up to the viewer's imagination, creating, ironically, "a nostalgia for what's never taken place." Mary Whipple