2d 1932 WHOSE CHILD WAS MY CHILD?
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Franz Werfel and Walter Gropius in conversation.
WERFEL You'd better stay with me. I know a few things about the true Alma that no one else does. Not even this crazy Almaniac! And I'm going to find out once and for all who was the father of my son Martin.
GROPIUS That's not hard. I was Alma's husband then, so I must be Martin's father!
WERFEL That's complete nonsense. Martin was my child. And anyway, he's dead.
GROPIUS I'm sorry, Franz; I'm 100% sure it was me who got Alma pregnant in December 1917. You weren't even in Vienna.
MAHLER Excuse me?! - May I step in ?
WERFEL No, no! No way! Many thanks! It's not possible! We've already had the pleasure of suffering from your presence. Thank you. It has to o end at some point!
GROPIUS Now go away, will you?!
MAHLER Well where am I supposed to go? After all, I've only got my music.
GROPIUS Well! If only you had studied something respectable
MAHLER This is just what it was like when I was alive... - Alma?! Alma!!!
GROPIUS Martin was born in July 1918
WERFEL No, it was August 1918.
GROPIUS No, it was July 1918!
ALMANIAC It was in November 1918! An unforgettable day! I will never forget it ! The street-fighting in Vienna... hundreds of thousands in the city centre
swarming in from all boroughs
a huge crowd! They gathered near the opera house, in front of city hall
Then suddenly, a red flag on the roof of the parliament! Silence
! Dead silence! And then the shooting
explosions, smoke, street fighting - a riot! That was the end of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy... the end! Two left dead, two left dead
GROPIUS Believe me, it was in July. The end of July 1918. I would remember , don't you think ? So: when the child was born, Alma was in her eighth month.
WERFEL No, no, no. Alma was in the seventh month. It was a seventh-month child. That I know for sure. Otherwise everything would have been much easier!
GROPIUS How do you know that?
WERFEL Well, that's what she has been claiming over and over for years. The child was born prematurely because
errr- well, because
I don't know!
GROPIUS By the way: what was the reason for that premature birth? She refused to talk to me about it. Did she ever tell you? No? Isn't that strange
? The medical record didn't say what caused that awful bleeding.
ALMANIAC Maybe she inherited it from Gustav Mahler--- along with his royalties --- I bequeath upon my wife the estate on the Semmering -- the score of Anton Bruckner's third symphony, the $100,000 in my American bank account, and My Subterranean Streams ---
GROPIUS His subterranean streams'? What's that? A posthumous Cantata? An 11th symphony?
ALMANIAC No, it's his haemorrhoids, in equal monthly instalments.
GROPIUS How disgusting!
ALMANIAC You call that disgusting? It's nothing compared to the naked truth. You've only seen the medical reports of the Viennese doctor, Professor Halban. (He flushes his livery exposing a blood stained document) What a shame the first record of that incident written by the village practitioner Dr. Erich Fleischhacker was never found...
GROPIUS What difference would it have made?
WERFEL (quickly:) No difference at all! Leave us alone with your horror stories! (To Gropius:) Some waiters are so disgusting, they ruin the reputation of the finest households.
ALMANIAC And some lovers don't spare their mistresses, even when they are very pregnant. Love can be a bloody business, especially in times of war! When everyone's emotions are on fire, and the real men are far from home... bleeding for their fatherland while the most beautiful ladies are left at the mercy of the corrupt useless cowards at the military press headquarters!
WERFEL We've had enough of your information. We'll call you if we need anything. Thank you. (He gives him a tip.)
ALMANIAC Sorry. You can't bribe me.
GROPIUS I thought your evidence was harder than this crazy nut.
WERFEL It's no evidence at all. This man is cracked. Alma was right. She has such a good heart, keeping all these poor creatures under her roof. He'd make a good character for a novel. By the way, did I tell you I'm planning to write the Divine Comedy for our time? Star for the Misbegotten but unfortunately Eugene O'Neil beat me to it.
GROPIUS Then call it Star of the Unborn! You've every right, in your position as a childless father.
WERFEL What do you mean a childless father?
GROPIUS Well, of course you cannot be Martin's father, if the child was born at the end of July
WERFEL Why not?!
and if Alma was in her seventh month
WERFEL But she was
then the child was conceived in the last week of December 1917, or in the first week of January 1918.
WERFEL What is this going to prove?
GROPIUS just tell me this: Were you with Alma in the beginning of 1918?
WERFEL In the beginning of 1918? How can I remember?
GROPIUS Just try!
WERFEL In the beginning of 1918
in the beginning of 1918
That was the stone-age!
GROPIUS No, it wasn't the stone age, I was still married to Alma, you know.
WERFEL Thank you for reminding me.
GROPIUS You are most welcome. Now, then, were you or were you not with my wife during the first week of January 1918?
WERFEL You're driving me crazy with your constant nagging and pestering! I'm completely confused already! I don't know what you want! January 1st, January 3rd, January 5th, Epiphany...! Why is that so important to you?
GROPIUS I want to know once and for all: who was the father of my child! Was he my son, or were you his father?
WERFEL Our child died before he was one year old. Leave him in peace.
GROPIUS Don't worry about the child. He rests in peace. All I'm trying to do, is find my own peace of mind.
WERFEL If that is so important to you, let's call Alma and ask her.
GROPIUS Since when do you believe Alma? Have you suddenly gone mad? She is a born liar. If she happens to speak a word of truth, it's either an oversight or a mistake. The few years I lived with her polluted my life with so many lies! They are a cancer gnawing away at the most intimate tissues of my soul.
WERFEL Surely you exaggerate.
GROPIUS Do I? How many times has she betrayed you?
GROPIUS Ha ha ha!
WERFEL Why are you laughing?
GROPIUS My dear friend, my beloved rival, you're either naive, or a master of self-deception.
WERFEL You mean you know ---
GROPIUS Not everything, but
WERFEL What exactly?
GROPIUS I know what I know about myself.
WERFEL You mean, she betrayed me with you?
GROPIUS Does it really surprise you?
WERFEL I can't believe it!
GROPIUS If you wish to deceive yourself - my congratulations! I'll not trouble your peace of mind.
GROPIUS What when?
WERFEL When was it?
GROPIUS When she was lying in the hospital, after she gave birth to Martin.
WERFEL You made love to her right after she gave birth
GROPIUS Are you crazy?!
WERFEL So what do you mean she betrayed me?
GROPIUS I visited her in the hospital. I surprised her there when she was on the phone with you. From the way she spoke on the phone, I suddenly understood she was having an affair with you. With you, Franz! That was a surprise, really! I wasn't prepared for you! For you least of all. I asked her if you had been her lover. Instead of answering, she played the sick one. I understood everything. I didn't insist anymore. Get away, get away! she whispered. I am sick and tired of you! I suggested she call you. That made her mad, angry,, hysterical, shouting and yelling: Get him out of my sight, that fat bow-legged Jew with his swollen lips, nicotine-stained fingers, and oozing eye-slits!
WERFEL Is that all?
GROPIUS Of course not, it only explains everything that happened before - and later with you, with me, and with Kokoschka
WERFEL don't even mention his name.
GROPIUS Why not? He was the only man she ever really desired, while she was cheating on both of us with one another. I hear now she's flirting with the Catholic church. There's a rumour that she's having an affair with a certain Father Hollnsteiner.
WERFEL Hollnsteiner?! Oh, no! Ever Since he gave that beautiful sermon for Manon's funeral, he's become Alma's confessor.
GROPIUS Her confessor? I see! That's why he spent a night in her hotel-room in Vienna last Sunday.
WERFEL Hollnsteiner spent a night in her hotel room in Vienna? Who told you?
GROPIUS I heard it in New York.
WERFEL Goddamn her! The bleeding horny hag! !
GROPIUS Relax, relax! Don't get excited.
WERFEL I've cheated on her too.
GROPIUS Oh, really? With whom? one of your heroines? With Barbara? With Bernadette? Certainly not with Jacobovsky!
WERFEL You can laugh, but at the time I was quite a rascal! I had an ongoing affair with a certain Gertrud Spirk when I started seeing Alma. Neither of them knew about the other. It was easy, as long as Gertrud stayed in Prague, but things got complicated when she insisted on coming to Vienna.
GROPIUS And you let her come to Vienna while you were having an affair with Alma?! How could you do that?
WERFEL I couldn't help it! Both of them were clinging to me. Gertrud sensed I wasn't whole-heartedly so to speak with her, so she said: Don't you think I'm going to let go of you! She was a sweet little thing in her own way, I must say...
GROPIUS When did it all happen?
WERFEL It was... let me see... by Summer it was all over... so it must have been the winter of 1917, ... shortly after Christmas... probably the beginning of January---
GROPIUS You mean, the beginning of January 1918?
WERFEL That's right.
GROPIUS That was exactly when Alma got pregnant.
WERFEL yes, that's when it was... now that you mention it, I remember that Alma felt sick. She invited me to join her at a spa where she was staying ----
GROPIUS Did you join her?
WERFEL No, of course not. I invented some silly pretext... I said I needed to feel absolutely secure in order to open up, to offer myself entirely and to enjoy....
GROPIUS That means your affair was already under way at the time?
WERFEL Yes, certainly.
GROPIUS So by the end of December 1917 and during the first days of January 1918 you were having sex with Alma.
WERFEL How am I supposed to remember after all this time?! I didn't keep a diary of it all! My God! You're like a man obsessed! I told you I'm not sure of the dates. Anyway, there was a break in our relationship during Gertrud's short stay in Vienna.
GROPIUS When was that?
WERFEL I don't know! You hear me?! I don't know!!
GROPIUS But I understand that this break in your relationship occurred when Alma was already sick due to the early stages of pregnancy.
WERFEL If that's what you say -
GROPIUS No, that's what you just said.
WERFEL I don't know, I don't know, I don't know! Leave me in peace! Please!!!!
GROPIUS Try to think, man! Try to think! It's as important to you as it is to me!
The Almaniac enters and interferes again:
ALMANIAC Not finished yet? Whose son was it after all? Kokoschka's?
WERFEL Can't you leave us in peace, you insufferable loon?
ALMANIAC Some people recover from their Alma-mania, some never do. And for some of them it becomes very important to understand what their Alma has done to them.
WERFEL For me, too, I can assure you! Alma is the only person who could make me an artist, and she has done it. If I hadn't met her, I would have written another few poems, and then sunk into oblivion. It's thanks to her that I've become a world-renowned novelist, a popular playwright and a successful script-writer. It is Alma who made me a famous artist! It's thanks to her that I will one day write The Divine Comedy of the twentieth century! The day I get the Nobel prize, it will be thanks to Alma's endless love! Yes! She loved a great many talented men, but she loves me much more than she loved the others! And baby Martin was my child! I'm sure of it.
ALMANIAC So why did you kill him?