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Madwoman of Chaillot


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A: Jean Giraudoux Pf: 1945, Paris Pb: 1945 Tr: 1949 G: Com. in 2 acts; French prose S: A café and a cellar in the Chaillot Quarter of Paris, spring 1945 C: 27m, 12fFinanciers meet in a café to discuss their latest moneymaking venture. Oil has been discovered beneath the streets of Paris, and they are preparing to wreck the city in order to exploit this hidden wealth. They are constantly distracted by the colourful poor people of the quarter and especially by a madwoman, who claims to be the Countess Aurelia. A Young Man is brought in half-drowned. He had been given the task of laying explosives to frighten the authorities into giving permission to drill for oil, but in desperation threw himself in the river. He falls in love with the waitress Irma. The Madwoman encourages him to enjoy life again and protects him by hitting his boss over the head with a soda siphon. The Madwoman, resolving to rid the world of these corrupt capitalists, sends out notes, claiming that there is oil in the cellar of her house. Summoning madwomen from other Parisian quarters, she holds a mock trial, in which the capitalists are condemned. Eventually, financiers, oil-prospectors, politicians, and newspaper men arrive, and are shown a tunnel where they will find oil. They rush to descend, and the Madwoman closes the trap so that they cannot escape. Suddenly the world is transformed, and, encouraged by the Madwoman, the Young Man kisses Irma.

A: Jean Giraudoux Pf: 1945, Paris Pb: 1945 Tr: 1949 G: Com. in 2 acts; French prose S: A café and a cellar in the Chaillot Quarter of Paris, spring 1945 C: 27m, 12f

Giraudoux's best-known play, performed posthumously at a premiere attended by Charles de Gaulle, is a joyful, sentimental celebration of the common people of Paris. Although it offers no serious political analysis, it was an achievement for Giraudoux in the last year of his life to be looking beyond the immediate concerns of German occupation to post-war issues of capitalist exploitation and the environment.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Jean Giraudoux (1882—1944)


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