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Eliot maintains that Baudelaire's descent into hell implies the possibility of a positive state of beatitude, that his suffering is already a kind of presence of the supernatural and an unsuccessful struggle towards the spiritual life. Only in the final scenes did one sense this struggle and this suffering, but one sensed it so strongly that the entire evening was redeemed. The Terrible but Unended Story of Norodom Sihanouk: King of Cambodia Helene Cixous Directed by Ariane Mnouchkine Th6btre du Soleil (Paris) Rosette Lamont Wearing austere black, four men and a woman stand at the edge of the vast, square beechwood stage of Ariane Mnouchkine's Thb&tre du Soleil at the Cartoucherie de Vincennes (a former munitions storehouse offered by the French government to the Mnouchkine company in 1970). The five are the leaders of the Khmer Rouge: Saloth Sar (later known as Pol Pot), Khieu Samphan, Hou Youn, leng Sary and leng Thirit (Sary's wife). These Sorbonne-educated Intellectuals, steeped in Marxism and the philosophy of terrorism, have taken advantage of the King's exile-the result of a coup d'etat fomented by Sihanouk's conservative cousin, Prince Sirik Matak, and General Lon Nol during their sovereign's diplomatic voyage through the Soviet Union and China-to launch an offensive against the corrupt, dispirited forces of Lon Nol's American-supported army and air force. Clear-, ly America's assistance has failed. Raising their binoculars to observe the capital on the other side of the river, the victors fill their nostrils with the sweet scent of success. However, the breezes over the Mekong also carry the stench of rot and death. Pol Pot is facing the most challenging problem of his entire career as a revolutionary, that of organizing the peace. The leaders debate with ruthless objectivity the matter of administering "a crocodile that will tear (them) to shreds." Phnom Penh is a city peopled with an urban middle-class and, following the Khmer Rouge's murderous advance through the devastated countryside, the uprooted peasantry. To these potential enemies, only one solution presents itself: "We've got to empty out the trash can, kick it over," suggests leng Thirit, an oriental Lady Macbeth. The leaders are ready to evacuate two and a half million inhabitants, to drive them out into the rice patches. "They'll eat what they'll grow!" When Hou Youn, a former minister in King Sihanouk's 1966 coalition government, raises his voice in protest against this final solution, he signs his own death warrant. Helene Clxous's nine-hour modern history play, based on the reign and fall 46 N of the King of Cambodia, bears the unmistakable stamp of Shakespeare's histories and comedies. It is in fact the extension into modern times of Mnouchkine's immensely intriguing and strangely Elizabethan, Kabukistyle productions of Richard 11 (1981), Twelfth Night (1981), and Henry IV (1984). Mnouchkine herself translated Shakespeare's texts for these productions . Most probably she was advised, if not assisted, by the playwright, essayist, and novelist, Cixous. It Is not surprising therefore that, having completed her Shakespeare cycle, Mnouchkine should ask Cixous to write a play for the company. Mnouchkine wanted to apply her Eastern style to an Eastern culture. The two women chose Cambodia in order to tell the story of a genocide that would echo other examples of inhumanity in the twentieth century. A milltant feminist, CIxous has been committed to the protection of thbe downtrodden of all nations. But this active participation in various causes has not driven her In the direction of didacticism. As a writer, Cixous Is concerned with the texture of language. Her historical drama Is written in a style at once poetic and direct. Thoroughly researched and conscientiously true to facts, the play testifies to her background as a scholar. There Is nothing cold, however, about its tone; It is a passionate portrait of a wellIntentioned monarch and the troubled waters of history which he was unable to sail. Both Cixous and Mnouchkine were intrigued by the complex character of Sihanouk, a patriotic ruler,a wily charmer, an avid reader of world literature, a sensitive musician. They saw in him a fellow artist who...


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pp. 46-50
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