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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… machine-guns… 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… ahh… 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.

He exits.

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?!

GROPIUS   …and if Alma was in her seventh month…

WERFEL   But she was…

GROPIUS   …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?

WERFEL   Never!

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.

WERFEL   When?

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?