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Existentialism
Jean Paul Sartre (1905 - 1980)
No Exit (1)


Nous sommes un condamné à mort qui se prépare bravement au dernier supplice, qui met tous ses soins à faire belle figure sur l'échafaud et qui, entre temps, est enlevé par une grippe espagnole.
Jean Paul Sartre
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1  2  3  4

GARCIN:

(enters, accompanied by the VALET, and glances around him): So here we are?

VALET: Yes, Mr. Garcin.
GARCIN: And this is what it looks like?
VALET Yes.
GARCIN: Second Empire furniture, I observe... Well, well, I dare say one gets used to it in time.
VALET Some do, some don't.
GARCIN: Are all the rooms like this one?
VALET How could they be? We cater for all sorts: Chinamen and Indians, for instance. What use would they have for a Second Empire chair?
GARCIN: And what use do you suppose I have for one? Do you know who I was?...Oh, well, it's no great matter. And, to tell the truth, I had quite a habit of living among furniture that I didn't relish, and in false positions. I'd even come to like it. A false position in a Louis-Philippe dining room-- you know the style?--well, that had its points, you know. Bogus in bogus, so to speak.
VALET And you'll find that living in a Second Empire drawing-room has its points.
GARCIN: Really?...Yes, yes, I dare say...Still I certainly didn't expect-- this! You know what they tell us down there?
VALET: What about?
GARCIN: About...this- er--residence.
VALET: Really, sir, how could you believe such cock-and-bull stories? Told by people who'd never set foot here. For, of course, if they had--
GARCIN: Quite so. But I say, where are the instruments of torture?
VALET: The what?
GARCIN: The racks and red-hot pincers and all the other paraphernalia?
VALET: Ah, you must have your little joke, sir.
GARCIN: My little joke? Oh, I see. No, I wasn't joking. No mirrors, I notice. No windows. Only to be expected. And nothing breakable. But damn it all, they might have left me my toothbrush!
VALET: That's good! So you haven't yet got over your--what-do-you-call-it?--sense of human dignity? Excuse my smiling.
GARCIN: I'll ask you to be more polite. I quite realize the position I'm in, but I won't tolerate...
VALET: Sorry, sir. No offense meant. But all our guests aske me the same questions. Silly questions, if you'll pardon my saying so. Where's the torture-chamber? That's the first thing they ask, all of them. They don't bother their heads about the bathroom requisites, that I can assure you. But after a bit, when they've got their nerve back, they start in about their toothbrushes and what-ot. Good heavens, Mr. Garcin, can't you use your brains? What, I ask you, would be the point of brushing your teeth?
GARCIN: Yes, of course you're right. And why shouild one want to see oneself in a looking- glass? But that bronze contraption on the mantelpiece, that's another story. I suppose there will be times when I stare my eyes out at it. Stare my eyes out--see what I mean?...All right, let's put our cards on the table. I assure you I'm quite conscious of my position. Shall I tell you what it feels like? A man's drowning, choking, sinking by inches, till only his eyes are just above water. And what does he see? A bronze atrocity by-- what's the fellow's name?--Barbedienne. A collector's piece. As in a nightmare. That's their idea, isn't it?...No, I suppose you're under orders not to answer questions; and I won't insist. But don't forget, my man, I've a good notion of what's coming to me, so don't you boast you've caught me off my guard. I'm facing the situation, facing it. So that's that; no toothbrush. And no bed, either. One never sleeps, I take it?
VALET: That's so.
GARCIN: Just as I expected. WHY should one sleep? A sort of drowsiness steals on you, tickles you behind the ears, and you feel your eyes closing-- but why sleep? You lie down on the sofa and-- in a flash, sleep flies away. Miles and miles away. So you rub your eyes, get up, and it starts all over again.
VALET: Romantic, that's what you are.
GARCIN: Will you keep quiet, please! ...I won't make a scene, I shan't be sorry for myself, I'll face the situation, as I said just now. Face it fairly and squarely. I son't have it springing at me from behind, before I've time to size it up. And you call that being "romantic!" So it comes to this; one doesn't need rest. Why bother about sleep if one isn't sleepy? That stands to reason, doesn't it? Wait a minute, there's a snag somewhere; something disagreeable. Why, now, should it be disagreeable? ...Ah, I see; it's life without a break.
VALET: What are you talking about?
GARCIN: Your eyelids. We move ours up and down. Blinking, we call it. It's like a small black shutter that clicks down and makes a break. Everything goes black; one's eyes are moistened. You can't imagine how restful, refreshing, it is. Four thousand little rests per hour. Four thousand little respites--just think!...So that's the idea. I'm to live without eyelids. Don't act the fool, you know what I mean. No eyelids, no sleep; it follows, doesn't it? I shall never sleep again. But then--how shall I endure my own company? Try to understand. You see, I'm fond of teasing, it's a second nature with me-- and I'm used to teasing myself. Plaguing myself, if you prefer; I don't tease nicely. But I can't go on doing that without a break. Down there I had my nights. I slept. I always had good nights. By way of compensation, I suppose. And happy little dreams. There was a green field. Just an ordinary field. I used to stroll in it...Is it daytime now?
VALET: Can't you see? The lights are on.
GARCIN: Ah, yes, I've got it. It's your daytime. And outside?
VALET: Outside?
GARCIN: Damn it, you know what I mean. Beyond that wall.
VALET: There's a passage.
GARCIN: And at the end of the passage?
VALET: There's more rooms, more passages, and stairs.
GARCIN: And what lies beyond them?
VALET: That's all.
GARCIN: But surely you have a day off sometimes. Where do you go?
VALET: To my uncle's place. He's the head valet here. He has a room on the third floor.
GARCIN: I should have guessed as much. Where's the light-switch?
VALET: There isn't any.
GARCIN: What? Can't one turn off the light?
VALET: Oh, the management can cut off the current if they want to. But I can't remember their having done so on this floor. We have all the electricity we want.
GARCIN: So one has to live with one's eyes open all the time?
VALET: To live, did you say?
GARCIN: Don't let's quibble over words. With one's eyes open. Forever. Always broad daylight in my eyes-- and in my head. And suppose I took that contraption on the mantelpiece and dropped it on the lamp-- wouldn't it go out?
VALET: You can't move it. It's too heavy.
GARCIN: You're right. It's too heavy.
VALET: Very well, sir, if you don't need me any more, I'll be off.
GARCIN: What? You're going? Wait. That's a bell, isn't it? And if I ring, you're bound to come?
VALET: Well, yes, that's so-- in a way. But you can never be sure about that bell. There's something wrong with the wiring, and it doesn't always work.
GARCIN:
It's working all right.
VALET: So it is. But I shouldn't count on it too much if I were you. It's-- capricious. Well, I really must go now. Yes, sir?
GARCIN: No, never mind. What's this?
VALET: Can't you see? An ordinary paper-knife.
GARCIN: Are there books here?
VALET: No.
GARCIN: Then what's the use of this? Very well. You can go. (Garcin is by himself. He goes to the bronze ornament and strokes it reflectively. He sits down; then gets up, goes to the bell-push, and presses the button. The bell remains silent. He tries two or three times, without success. Then he tries to open the door, also without success. He calls the VALET several times, but gets no result. He beats the door with his fists, still calling. Suddenly he grows calm and sits down again. At the same moment the door opens and INEZ enters, followed by the VALET)
VALET: Did you call, sir?
GARCIN: (About to answer "yes", but sees INEZ and says) No.
VALET: This is your room, madam. If there's any information you require--? Most of our guests have quite a lot to ask me. But I won't insist. Anyhow, as regards the toothbrush, and the electric bell, and that thing on the mantelshelf, this gentleman can tell you anything you want to know as well as I could. We've had a little chat, him and me. (Exits.)
INEZ: Where's Florence? Didn't you hear? I asked you about Florence. Where is she?
GARCIN: I haven't an idea.
INEZ: Ah, that's the way it works, is it? Torture by separation. Well, as far as I'm concerned, you won't get anywhere. Florence was a tiresome little fool, and I shan't miss her in the least.
GARCIN: I beg your pardon. Who do you suppose I am?
INEZ: You? Why, the torturer, of course.
GARCIN: Well, that's a good one! Too comic for words. I the torturer! So you came in, had a look at me, and thought I was--er--one of the staff. Of course, it's that silly fellow's fault; he should have introduced us. A torturer indeed! I'm Joseph Garcin, journalist and man of letters by profession. And as we're both in the same boat, so to speak, might I ask you, Mrs.--?
INEZ: Not "Mrs." I'm unmarried.
GARCIN: Right. That's a start, anyway. Well, now that we've broken the ice, do you really think I look like a torturer? And, by the way, how does one recognize torturers when one sees them? Evidently you've ideas on the subject.
INEZ: They look frightened.
GARCIN: Frightened? But how ridiculous! Of whom should they be frightened? Of their victims?
INEZ: Laugh away, but I know what I'm talking about. I've often watched my face in the glass.
GARCIN: In the glass? How beastly of them! They've removed everything in the least resembling a glass. Anyhow, I can assure you I'm not frightened. Not that I take my position lightly; I realize its gravity only too well. But I'm not afraid.
INEZ: That's your affair. Must you be here all the time, or do you take a stroll outside, now and then?
GARCIN: The door's locked.
INEZ: Oh!.. That's too bad.
GARCIN: I can quite understand that it bores you having me here. And I too--well, quite frankly, I'd rather be alone. I want to think things out, you know; to set my life in order, and one does that better by oneself. But I'm sure we'll manage to pull along together somehow. I'm no talker, I don't move much; in fact I'm a peaceful sort of fellow. Only, if I may venture on a suggestion, we should make a point of being extremely courteous to each other. That will ease the situation for us both.
INEZ: I'm not polite.
GARCIN: Then I must be polite for two.
INEZ: Your mouth!
GARCIN: I beg your pardon.
INEZ: Can't you keep your mouth still? You keep twisting it about all the time. It's grotesque.
GARCIN: So sorry. I wasn't aware of it.
INEZ: That's just what I reproach you with. Ther you are! You talk about politeness, and you don't even try to control your face. Remember you're not alone; you've no right to inflict the sight of your fear on me.
GARCIN: How about you? Aren't you afraid?
INEZ: What would be the use? There was some point in being afraid before, while one still had hope.
GARCIN: There's no more hope--but it's still "before." We haven't yet begun to suffer.
INEZ: That's so. Well? What's going to happen?
GARCIN: I don't know. I'm waiting. (Enter ESTELLE with the VALET. She looks at GARCIN whose face is still hidden by his hands.)
ESTELLE: No. Don't look up. I know what you're hiding with your hands. I know you've no face left. What! But I don't know you!
GARCIN: I'm not the torturer, madam.
ESTELLE: I never thought you were. I --I thought someone was trying to play a rather nasty trick on me. Is anyone else coming?
VALET: No, madam. No one else is coming.
ESTELLE: Oh! Then we're to stay by ourselves, the three of us, this gentleman, this lady and myself. (laughs.)
GARCIN: There's nothing to laugh about.
ESTELLE: It's those sofas. They're so hideous. ANd justlook how they've been arranged. It makes me think of New Year's Day--when I used to visit that boring old aunt of mine, Aunt Mary. Her house is full of horror like that...I suppose each of us has a sofa of his own. Is that one mine? But you can't expect me to sit on that one. It would be too horrible for words. I'm in pale blue and it's vivid green.
ESTELLE: It's those sofas. They're so hideous. ANd justlook how they've been arranged. It makes me think of New Year's Day--when I used to visit that boring old aunt of mine, Aunt Mary. Her house is full of horror like that...I suppose each of us has a sofa of his own. Is that one mine? But you can't expect me to sit on that one. It would be too horrible for words. I'm in pale blue and it's vivid green.
INEZ: Would you prefer mine?
ESTELLE: That claret-colored one, you mean? That's very sweet of you, but really- no, I don't hink it'd be so much better. What's the good of worrying, anyhow? We've got to take what comes to us, and I'll stick to the green one. The only one which might do at a pinch, is that gentleman's.
INEZ: Did you hear, Mr. Garcin?
GARCIN:
Oh-- the sofa, you mean. So sorry. Please take it, madam.
ESTELLE: Thanks. Well, as we're to live together, I suppose we'd better introduce ourselves. My name's Rigault. Estelle Rigault.
INEZ: And I'm Inez Serrano. Very pleased to meet you.
GARCIN: Joseph Garcin.
VALET: Do you require me any longer?
ESTELLE: No, you can go. I'll ring when I want you.
INEZ: You're very pretty. I wish we'd had some flowers to welcome you with.
ESTELLE: Flowers? Yes, I loved flowers. Only they'd fade so quickly here, wouldn't they? It's so stuffy. Oh, well, the great thing is to keep as cheerful as we can, don't you agree? Of course, you, too, are--
INEZ: Yes. Last week. What about you?
ESTELLE: I'm-- quite recent. Yesterday. As a matter of fact, the ceremony's not quite over. The wind's blowing my sister's veil all over the place. She's trying her best to cry. Come, dear! Make another effort. That's better. Two tears, two little tears are twinkling under the black veil. Oh dar! What a sight Olga looks this morning! She's holding my sister's arm, helping her along. She's not crying, and I don't blame her, tears always mess one's face up, don't they? Olga was my bosom friend, you know.
INEZ: Did you suffer much?
ESTELLE: No. I was only half conscious, mostly.
INEZ: What was it?
ESTELLE:
Pneumonia. It's over now, they're leaving the cemetery. Good-by. Good-by. Quite a crowd they are. My husband's stayed at home. Prostrated with grief, poor man. How about you?
INEZ: The gas stove.
ESTELLE: And you, Mr. Garcin?
GARCIA: Twelve bullets through my chest. Sorry! I fear I'm not good company among the dead.
ESTELLE: Please, please don't use that word. It's so--so crude. In terribly bad taste, really. It doesn't mean much, anyhow. Somehow I feel we've never been so much alive as now. If we've absolutely got to mention this--this state of things, I suggest we call ourselves--wait!--absentees. Have you been--been absent for long?
GARCIN: About a month.
ESTELLE: Where do you come from?
GARCIN: From Rio.
ESTELLE:
I'm from Paris. Have you anyone left down there?
GARCIN: Yes, my wife. She's waiting at the entrance of the barracks. She comes there every day. But they won't let her in. Now she's trying to peep between the bars. She doesn't yet know I'm-- absent, but she suspects it. Now she's going away. She's wearing her black dress. So much the better, she won't need to change. She isn't crying, but she never did cry, anyhow. It's a bright, sunny day and she's like a black shadow creeping down the empty street. Those big tragic eyes of hers-- with that martyred look they always had. Oh, how she got on my nerves!
INEZ: Estelle!
ESTELLE: Please, Mr. Garcin!
GARCIN: What is it?
ESTELLE: You're sitting on my sofa.
GARCIN:
I beg your pardon.
ESTELLE: You looked so--so far away. Sorry I disturbed you.
GARCIN: I was setting my life in order. You may laugh but you'd do better to follow my example.
INEZ: No need. My life's in perfect order. It tidied itself up nicely of its own accord. So I needn't bother about it now.
GARCIN: Really? You imagine it's so simple as that. Whew! How hot it is here! Do you mind if--
ESTELLE: How dare you! No, please don't. I loathe men in their shirt-sleeves.
GARCIN:
All right. Of course, I used to spend my nights in the newspaper office, and it was a regular Black Hole, so we never kept our coats on. Stiflingly hot it could be. Stifling, that it is. It's night now.
ESTELLE: That's so. Olga's undressing; it must be after midnight. How quickly the time passes, on earth!
INEZ: Yes, after midnight. They've sealed up my room. It's dark, pitch-dark, and empty.
GARCIN: They've strung their coats on the backs of the chairs and rolled up their shirt-sleeves above the elbow. The air stinks of men and cigar-smoke. I used to like living among men in their shirt-sleeves.
ESTELLE: Well, in that case our tastes differ. That's all it proves. What about you? Do you like men in their shirt-sleeves?
INEZ: Oh, I don't care much for men any way.
ESTELLE: Really I can't imagine why they put us three together. It doesn't make sense.
INEZ: What's that you said?
ESTELLE: I'm looking at you two and thinking that we're going to live together...It's so absurd. I expected to meet old friends, or relatives.
INEZ: Yes, a charming old friend-- with a hole in the middle of his face.
ESTELLE: Yes, him too. He danced the tango so divinely. Like a professional...But why, why should we of all people be put together?
GARCIN: A pure fluke, I should say. They lodge folks as they can, in the order of their coming. Why are you laughing?
INEZ: Because you amuse me with your "flukes."As if they left anything to chance! But I suppose you've got to reassure yourself somehow.
ESTELLE: I wonder, now. Don't you think we may have met each other at some time in our lives?
INEZ: Never. I shouldn't have forgotten you.
ESTELLE: Or perhaps we have friends in common. I wonder if you know the Dubois-Seymours?
INEZ:
Not likely.
ESTELLE:
But everyone went to their parties.
INEZ: What's their job?
ESTELLE: Oh, they don't do anything. But they have a lovely house in the country, and hosts of people visit them.
INEZ: I didn't. I was a post-office clerk.
ESTELLE: Ah, yes... Of course, in that case-- And you, Mr. Garcin?
GARCIN: We've never met. I always lived in Rio.
ESTELLE: Then you must be right. It's mere chance that has brought us together.
INEZ: Mere chance? Then it's by chance this room is furnished as we see it. It's an accident that the sofa on the right is a livid green, and that one on the left's wine-red. Mere chance? Well, just try to shift the sofas and you'll see the difference quick enough. And that statue on the mantelpiece, do you think it's there by accident? And what about the heat here? How about that? I tell you they've thought it all out. Down to the last detail. Nothing was left to chance. This room was all set for us.
ESTELLE:
But really! Everything here's so hideous; all in angles, so uncomfortable. I always loathed angles.
INEZ: And do you think I lived in a Second Empire drawing-room?

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Ce qu'on fait n'est jamais compris mais seulement loué ou blâmé. Nietzsche, Gay Science

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