Lyceum

Únor 13, 2018

excerpt of scenes X. – XXIII. from the literary screenplay

translated by Gerald Turner

*****

Scene X.
INT. Classroom in the lyceum. Day.

           It is a longish classroom with several rows of desks. At the first two rows, just in front of the teacher’s desk, sit about a dozen students aged from around fourteen to twenty. Various objects are strewn about the desktops, such as notebooks, some books, a paper bag, bits of food and a few greasy pieces of paper – the informal surroundings of a school club. At the front by the blackboard there is a separate chair for the team leader, a good looking blond youth called Igor. He stands by the chair. There is a notice board at the side of the classroom with various sheets pinned to it legibly headed Phaidros Debating Team. The laconic sentences of the debaters follow each other in quick succession.

TEAM LEADER IGOR:
Truth cannot prevail. It has nothing to prevail over.

LYDIA:
Over the lie, maybe?

TEAM LEADER IGOR:
Lies don’t exist.

EDGAR:
Prove it.
 
TEAM LEADER IGOR:
Try it yourself, Edgar.
 
EDGAR:
All right. As a category the lie does not exist outside the category of truth. The lie is part of truth. 
 
TEAM LEADER IGOR:
That’s sophistry. Have another go.
 
EDGAR:
Are the lie and the truth equivalent categories?
 
TEAM LEADER IGOR:
You can’t ask your opponent unless your question is rhetorical.
 
EDGAR:
Of course.
 
TEAM LEADER IGOR, looking around the classroom:
Would anyone like to help Edgar?
 
EDGAR:
If we accept that the truth and the lie are equivalent categories …
 
JAMES raising his hand:
Refutation!
 
EDGAR:
I want to finish.
 
TEAM LEADER IGOR:
James has a refutation that might disprove your opinion by means of a hypothesis. Let us try to nip mistakes in the bud.
 
JAMES:
The truth and the lie cannot be equivalent categories if we have accepted the proposition that everything is truth. I have therefore understood that there exists just one category – that we can call truth unless we call it lie.
 
LYDIA:
And if we do call it lie, then we will still mean truth.
 
TEAM LEADER IGOR with a faint smile:
Yes. Why is that?
 
JAMES:
Because the original proposition spoke about truth and not lie.
 
EDGAR:
Refutation! Circulus in demonstrando – that is not a proof, just matter of the proof. Prove that truth and lie are one and the same.
 
            James briefly fixes his gaze and then eagerly comes alive with a jerk
 
JAMES:
May I go to the blackboard?
 
            Igor nods with pleasure and points to the ledge with the chalks. James comes out of the desk and dashes to the blackboard. Taking a piece of chalk he draws two straight lines at a right angle to each other. He turns to the class.
 
JAMES:
What is that angle?
 
EDGAR:
Ninety degrees
 
JAMES:
Two hundred and seventy degrees!
 
            This receives an appreciative response from the class; there are smiles on the faces of the students. James is triumphant.
 
JAMES:
You say ninety. Yes – but in that case is my statement a lie just because yours is true?
 
            He then turns back to the blackboard and with a deft stroke he draws a ring around the lines so that their apex is now at the centre of a circle. He describes the circle with a gesture of his hand.
 
JAMES:
That is all the space of truth. It contains within itself two interpretations – but their opposition is not contradiction. Are we amazed at the ability of a coin to contain both a head and a tail?
 
            Igor smiles with pleasure, his extended index finger resting on the tip of his nose.
 
LYDIA chiming in:
The contradiction between truth and lie is not concealed in the tension of two complements. So the question as to what is truth and what is lie ceases to have any meaning..
 
JAMES:
The truth aspect loses its meaning. Truth is everything or nothing.
 
TEAM LEADER IGOR removing his index finger:
Just a moment. A slight error.
 
LYDIA:
Truth is everything… and nothing?
 
TEAM LEADER IGOR points at Lydia:
That’s better, Lydia.

            There are windows on the opposite side of the classroom and at one of them two faces can be seen peering through the glass: Andrew’s childish face and below it the face of Florette, who just manages to peer in over the window ledge. The students at the desks have their backs to them and the group leader pays no attention to the figures at the window, as they are a considerable way from the blackboard.

TEAM LEADER IGOR:
We have clearly come to an interesting conclusion. (Looking around the circle of debaters with satisfaction.) James came up with a splendid demonstration and we are obliged to award him ten points.

            James heads back to his desk, and the class relaxes somewhat. Andrew looks on from the corner while Igor sums up the debate from his notebook.

TEAM LEADER IGOR:
Excellent, James. At the training session they would award you even more – but we shall be frugal. I’m awarding Lydia three points for her contribution to the discussion. And I declare this round of discussion finished.

Scene XI.
EXT. Street outside the lyceum building. Day.

           Florette is standing on the pavement in front of one of the windows holding little Andrew, who is perched on her shoulders looking through the window into the classroom. Team Leader Igor can be just made out sitting at his desk saying something to the students, although nothing can be heard.

ANDREW:
What do you think they’re talking about?
 
FLORETTE:
Hard to say. Maybe they’re talking about the stars and the universe. Or about God. Maybe they’re explaining the origins of the world.
 
ANDREW:
I thought you said they were discussing?
 
FLORETTE:
What’s wrong with discussing the creation of the world?
 
ANDREW:
That’s just stupid. You can’t discuss fairy tales that people made up just to cheer themselves up.
 
FLORETTE:
I’ll box your ears when I put you down.
 
ANDREW imploringly:
Don’t put me down.
 
            He tears himself away from the window and Florette turns with him towards the street and slowly walks a few paces.
 
FLORETTE:
I hope no one noticed you.
 
ANDREW:
Why?
 
FLORETTE:
Your mother mustn’t find out we were here together. (She suddenly stops short.) So down you get. You’re heavy.
 
ANDREW imploringly:
I’ll try and be as light as possible. Carry me a little way, please…

            When he looks around him from Florette’s shoulders Andrew feels like an adult; he is at an unaccustomed height and is able to look far below him to where he would probably be standing if he was walking on his own two feet.

Scene XII.
EXT. The town. Day.

            Florette walks acquiescently through the streets of the town with Andrew on her shoulders and he is able to enjoy the view from on high. He watches spellbound as the surrounding houses, buildings and gardens. It is a picturesque town with a village-like cosiness.

Scene XIII.
INT. Drawing office. Day.

            The drawing office is a design studio lit by large, wide windows set side by side in the wall, corresponding to the row of tall drawing desks of the individual draughtsmen. Figures stand over white sheets of paper and work with concentration, using various measuring instruments. Uncle Ilya walks along the aisle at the side of the desks with Andrew pattering alongside him, looking around him with curiosity. Ilya walks at a firm and proud pace, greeting his colleagues, who glance back at him in surprise.

UNCLE ILYA:
I’ve brought my nephew with me. He’s interesting in drawing.
 
            They all look up wordlessly from their drawings and fix their gaze on Andrew. When Andrew sets eyes on the face of the man at the neighbouring desk, he greets him.
 
ANDREW:
Good morning.
 
FIRST COLLEAGUE, somewhat disconcerted:
Good morning…
 
            Uncle Ilya observes the general embarrassment with satisfaction. By way of explanation he says to his colleagues:
 
UNCLE ILYA:
We’re here clandestinely. (To Andrew.) You mustn’t tell anyone.
 
ANDREW:
I know.
 
            They reach Ilya’s drawing desk . Now Andrew can only see the white trouser legs of the designers and the wooden legs of the desks
            We hear Andrew reading from his diary.
 
ANDREW’S VOICE:
Sometimes I’m tempted by the thought that legs have their own language which they deliberately use to communicate together.
 
            One of the legs bends at the knee and rubs the calf of the other leg with its heel. Other legs slowly rise up on tiptoe.
 
ANDREW’S VOICE:
At such moments legs are simply legs. They begin and end as legs. I prayed that I should not see any body above them when Ilya lifted me up, that there would be nothing above the desk tops. 
 
            Suddenly the viewpoint travels upwards from the standing legs, via their work coats, to the heads of the figures at their desks as they would be seen by an adult.
            The humdrum activity of drawing implements and the subdued hum of drawing office work.
            Uncle Ilya has raised Andrew above the drawing board. On it lies a large, almost transparent sheet, with a regular grid of horizontal and vertical lines.
 
UNCLE ILYA:
Do you know what this is? These lines ensure the exactness and symmetry of the entire drawing. They’re something like a signpost; a design is created out of them. It’s complicated work. 
 
ANDREW:
May I borrow some compasses?

UNCLE ILYA:
I’ll buy you a pair of your own, if you like.

Scene XIV.
INT. Inn. Day.

            The inn is light and airy; it’s not a pub in the usual sense. It can have more of the appearance of a clean, elegant restaurant on Tyrolean lines. Ilya and Andrew are seated at one of the few occupied tables and at another, on the other side of the room, a little seven-year-old boy with a fringe of hair under a blue beret stands and fidgets in the company of his parents. 
            A waiter in a white apron stands by Ilya and Andrew, waiting to take their order. He is a thickset, genial-looking middle-aged man. 

UNCLE ILYA:
The place is empty today. A pity. I wanted Andrew to see some people.
 
WAITER:
If he likes it here he could come here more often. (Finally turning to Andrew.) What do like best, young man?
 
ANDREW:
I like my Mummy’s milk best.
 
WAITER, slightly embarrassed:
I see. Quite right. What else do you like?
 
UNCLE ILYA, smiling politely:
Give it a bit of thought.
 
ANDREW:
I speak the truth.
 
UNCLE ILYA, with a resolute wave of the hand:
We won’t we eating today.
 
WAITER, immediately nodding:
As you wish. Anything else you’d like?
 
UNCLE ILYA:
Bring me a beer in the meantime.
 
            The waiter bows and departs. Uncle Ilya follows him with his eyes until he eventually disappears into the narrow side passage. There is no beer engine in the room, which is full of trophies and other paraphernalia. Antlers are fixed to one of the walls. On another is hung an oil painting of a hunting scene with horses and hounds in romantic style
            As soon as the waiter is out of sight, Uncle Ilya starts to speak quietly.
 
UNCLE ILYA:
You have disgraced yourself.
 
ANDREW:
I haven’t. You have. Now he is bound to think you’re a liar.
 
UNCLE ILYA, intently:
Andrew, now listen to me. I’m serious. You refuse to eat. Fine. You’re perfectly entitled to. We are, each of us, our own lord and master, aren’t we? (After a slight pause) Which is why we each give thought, in good faith, to what is best and healthiest for us.
 
ANDREW:
Food disgusts me.
 
UNCLE ILYA:
You can’t drink your mother’s milk for ever. For many reasons.
 
ANDREW:
I don’t know any.
 
UNCLE ILYA:
There are many, Andrew.
 
            The little seven-year-old boy in the beret jumps up and down restlessly on the chair at the side of the table. His parents admonish him.
 
UNCLE ILYA:
Everyone else eats food. You’re the only one who doesn’t. If some people find it natural, I don’t. You have all your teeth haven’t you?
 
            The waiter emerges from the narrow passage carrying a tray. He puts a foaming earthenware mug of beer down onto a white glazed coaster in front Uncle Ilya. 
 
UNCLE ILYA:
Thank you, Albert. I have one other request.
 
WAITER:
Yes, sir?
 
UNCLE ILYA, raising two fingers:
I’d like two sets of cutlery.
 
WAITER:
Just cutlery?
 
UNCLE ILYA:
Yes. (To Andrew) To start with, at least.
 
            The waiter leaves obediently and for a moment Ilya sits looking gravely at Andrew. He looks him straight in the eye as if wanting to gain the upper hand with his gaze.
 
UNCLE ILYA:
No one is natural from the start. That’s just a superstition. The truth is that people have to learn to be natural. Each of us learned it. I learned to and so did your father.
 
            He keeps his ingratiating gaze on Andrew. But at that moment the waiter arrives with the cutlery on a tray. He places it in front of Ilya, who takes two sets and nods in thanks. He lays out one set in front of himself and the other in front of Andrew, as if they were both waiting for a meal. Andrew stares at the knife and fork dumbfounded. Ilya continues his speech.
 
UNCLE ILYA:
Albert the waiter learned to as well. (He smiles slightly at his quickwittedness. Andrew does not budge, but merely stares at the knife and fork.) Of course you don’t have to take notice of others. I appreciate that. I also didn’t care what other people thought about me. But you ought to care about yourself. (He earnestly looks Andrew straight in the face as if trying to draw his gaze. He speaks with extreme emphasis.) It’s perverse.
 
ANDREW:
I want to go home.
 
UNCLE ILYA:

I thought you were wiser, Andrew. I thought you were almost adult. There are certain things that adults simply do not do. (Andrew remains stubbornly silent and draws circles.) Promise me you’ll think about it, at least.

            The knife and fork no longer lie opposite Andrew’s chin but have been shifted to one side, as far out of his sight as possible. His little hand lies abstractedly a short distance from the cutlery.

Scene XV.
EXT. Street outside the inn. Day.

            Ilya and Andrew slowly walk away from the inn down the gently sloping street.

UNCLE ILYA:
Will you think about it, at least Andrew? (Andrew makes no reply. They walk along in silence for a while.) I know it’s hard. When I was small my father also had to make me eat. He once told me a cautionary tale about a Chinese prince who ate very little. I’ll now tell it to you. It’s not a fairy story; it’s based on fact.
 
            Andrew has stopped walking with Ilya. He stands a few paces behind him fixed to the spot, staring blankly ahead of him.
 
UNCLE ILYA:
Come along, you little rascal, and listen. You’ll find it useful. (But Andrew goes on standing there. Ilya takes a pace towards him but is halted by Andrew’s voice.)
 
ANDREW:
I’ll go home on my own.
 
UNCLE ILYA, with a forced smile:
Whatever next? Come along and no more nonsense.
 
ANDREW, still making no move:
You go. I’ll go by myself.
 
UNCLE ILYA:
You’re out of your mind, Andrew. I can’t leave you here, can I? I can’t come home without you, can I? I took you with me in all good faith and this is how you repay me? Come along, and stop making such a fuss. (He takes another pace towards him and Andrew objects even more vehemently.)
 
ANDREW:
Don’t get near me.
 
UNCLE ILYA:
Andrew, this has ceased to be a joke.
 
ANDREW hypnotically:
I’ll scream. If you don’t leave me, I’ll start to scream. And I’ll be in the right!
 
            Ilya stands perplexed for a moment. He hesitates. Then he finally makes up his mind. He sounds bewildered.
 
UNCLE ILYA:
You’re so hard-headed. You take everything too seriously.
 
            He hesitates a little longer, gazing at Andrew, but it looks as if his mind is made up. At last Ilya reluctantly turns and walks away from him. He walks down the street, glancing behind one last time. Andrew stands alone in the middle of the empty sloping street.

ANDREW’S VOICE:
I felt as if every one of my nerves was as taut as a piano string.

Scene XVI.
EXT. A street in the town. Day.

            Ghostlike facades of houses, windows and treetops flash past Andrew’s face. But the streets are empty. The scenes succeed one another.

Scene XVII.
EXT. Various streets. Day.

            Andrew dashes wildly along the stone paving of one of the streets, his little legs in a blur. He stops. He changes direction and disappears round a bend.
            A view down a narrow street with part of a house visible at the other end. Andrew is running that way. It only takes a moment before he turns the corner and disappears once more.
            He has just reached the display window of some little shop. He stands in front of the shiny surface in which his entire figure is clearly reflected. Out of breath, he stares in confusion at himself as if in a mirror. Then he suddenly gives a jerk of his body and dashes off again in a different direction.
            Several scenes without people: still lifes of houses, parts of a street, passageways, staircases. Everything is always stark and bare – but all the time the sound of Andrew’s footsteps can be heard on the stone paving.

Scene XVIII.
EXT. Park. Day.

            A space full of fresh greenery, an avenue of deciduous trees. Between them a path with visible signs of fresh, tiny footprints.
            Andrew has found a neglected little piece of ground with sandy soil and he is standing drawing something in it with a stick.

ANDREW’S VOICE:
There was nothing that could help me at that moment but circles.

Scene XIX.
EXT. Street. Day.

            Ilya dawdles down an empty street. At the corner he passes a young newspaper vendor, his arm out holding the newspapers. Ilya almost doesn’t notice the vendor and goes on walking, as if going nowhere in particular. He stops and retraces his steps, slowly returning to the vendor. He buys a copy of the paper while saying something to the vendor a bit sheepishly. They exchange a few words. Ilya indicates Andrew’s height with a gesture of his hand above the pavement. The vendor shakes his head.

Scene XX.
EXT. Park. Day.

            Andrew stands on the sandy piece of ground with a fixed expression on his face.

ANDREW’S VOICE:
I calmed down.

            The whole area in front of him is covered with drawn circles, one next to the other. The spaces between them are regular and all the circles are perfect.

ANDREW’S VOICE:
And then I noticed. I realised I had compasses in my head.

Scene XXI.
INT. Andrew’s study. Night.

            Andrew sits in the darkness of his bedroom, which can only be identified by a few indistinct signs – the outlines of furniture or shutters. The only illumination is by a little paraffin lamp, which casts an orange light on Andrew’s face and lets him see what he is doing.

ANDREW’S VOICE:
Ilya was waiting for me at the front door. He had been standing there the whole time and watching out in case I arrived.

            He draws a sort of geometrical design on some paper: a right angle that is then divided by another line into two half angles, one of which he again bisects. He does everything freehand with absolute precision.

ANDREW’S VOICE:
That evening I drew from own head for the first time and pondered on the peculiarity of angles.

            He finishes by drawing a perfect circle around the angles.

Scene XXII.
EXT. Street in front of the lyceum building. Day.

            Andrew is once more sitting on Florette’s shoulders peeping into the classroom, where a session of the Phaidros debating team is in progress. Through the window one can dimly see the students at the front rising from their seats; the session is over.

FLORETTE:
James has already scored fifty five points this month.

ANDREW:
Is that a lot?

FLORETTE:
It’s lots of points. Except that James looks like something the cat brought in.

            James, who has just made his way out of his desk catches sight of Andrew’s face in the distant window and their eyes meet. James goggles at him for a moment through his glasses. Florette gazes at Igor, whose blond curls shine like gold in the sun’s rays

FLORETTE:
Igor ought to get points too. He’d have most of all

ANDREW:
I’d have most of all...

            Florette steps away from the window and turns towards the street. They both stiffen in astonishment: They are being watched from a distance by Andrew’s father and mother. Neither Florette nor Andrew can think of anything to say; they have been caught red-handed.

MOTHER:
I knew it.

Scene XXIII.
INT. The parents’ bedroom. Night.

            Andrew’s parents have separate beds with a narrow aisle between them. A small lamp shines by the side of the mother’s bed; the father’s bed is in semi-darkness.

MOTHER:
Do you think he likes us?
 
FATHER:
I don’t think he has ever thought about it in those terms.
 
MOTHER:
It’s not something one thinks about, is it?
 
FATHER:
That’s what’s wrong.
 
            The mother turns her face to him in desperation. He waits a moment before continuing. His voice is dry and sounds almost exhausted.
 
FATHER:
We’re more like accessories to him. I reconciled myself to that, insofar as it was possible to be reconciled to anything.
 
MOTHER:
Leo, you mustn’t talk that way. At least while he was sleeping with us…
 
FATHER:
I really wanted a child. You know that.
 
MOTHER in a whisper:
And now you don’t?
 
FATHER:
Now it doesn’t matter.
 
            They fall silent. Mother pulls herself together.
 
MOTHER:
May God forgive you.