The Night Just Before the Forests (Excerpt) – Koltès

Excerpt from “The Night Just Before the Forests.” (La nuit juste avant les forêts, Minuit, 1977) by Bernard-Marie Koltès, translated by Amin Erfani, forthcoming in Bernard-Marie Koatès: Seven Plays, Martin Segal Theater Publishing, 2021.


“[…] –, I look, that’s it and it’s all right: there’s music, far away, behind my back, one who’s got to be begging for money at the end of the corridor (it’s ok, man, but whatever you do, don’t move), right in front, on the other platform, sitting, a crazy old lady, dressed all in yellow, waving with smiles (I’m looking, I’m listening, it’s still all right), on the guardrail, up there, there’s a woman who stopped dead to catch her breath, right next to me an Arab is sitting down and he sings to himself things in Arabic (I think to myself: don’t get worked up about it, man, whatever you do), and in front of me I see, I am sure that I see: a girl in a nightgown, her hair down her back, she passes in front of me with her fists closed tight, in her white nightgown, and, right in front of me, her face’s all mixed up, she starts crying, and keeps on passing to the end of the platform, her hair tangled, her fists like this, and her nightgown, then, all of a sudden, me, I’ve had it up to here, this time that’s it, I can’t hold it in any longer, I’ve had it up to here, me, with everybody here, everybody with his own little story in his own little world, and all their faces, I’ve had it up to here with everybody and I want to throw punches, the woman up there hanging to the rail, I want to punch her, and the Arab singing his thing just to himself, I want to punch him, the coughed-up behind my back, at the end of corridor, and the crazy old lady right in front, I’ve had it up to here with their faces and with all this wreck, with the girl in the nightgown, at the other end of the platform, who keeps crying, and me, I’m going to throw some punches, man, I feel like beating up, the old ladies, the Arabs, the coughed-ups, the tiled walls, the subway trains, the conductors, the cops, punch the ticket-machines, the signs, the lights, this filthy smell, this filthy noise, I think about the gallons of beer I had already drunk and that I could still be drinking, until my belly can’t hold it in anymore, I kept sitting with this urge to punch, until everything ends, until everything stops, and then, all of a sudden, everything stops for good: the trains don’t come anymore, the Arab turns silent, the woman up there stops breathing, and the girl in the nightgown, no one hears her sniffing anymore, everything stops all of a sudden, except the music in the back, and the crazy old lady who’s opened her mouth starts singing with a voice that ain’t possible, the coughed-up’s playing it, back there, without being seen, and she sings it, they’re answering back to each other and go together like it was rehearsed (a music that ain’t possible, something of an opera or some shit like that), but so loud, so together, that everything stopped for real, and the old lady all in yellow, her voice fills up everything, me I think to myself: ok, I get up, I rush through the corridor, I leap up the stairs, I come out of the underground, and I run on the outside, I still dream of beer, I run, of beer, of beer, I think to myself: what a wreck, the opera arias, the women, the cold earth, the girl in the nightgown, the whores and the cemeteries, and I run and I don’t feel myself anymore, I’m looking for something that looks like grass in the middle of this wreck, and the doves fly above the forest and the soldiers shoot at them, the coughed-ups beg for money, the thugs all dressed up chase the young rats, I run, I run, I run, I dream of the secret song of the Arabs between themselves, brothers, I’ve found you and I grab you by the arm, I need a room so bad and I am soaking wet, mama, mama, mama, say nothing, don’t move, I look at you, I love you, brother, brother, me, I’ve been looking for someone who would be like an angel in the middle of this mess, and here you are, I love you, and the rest, some beer, some beer, and I still don’t know how I could say it, what a wreck, what a mess, brother, and still the rain, the rain, the rain, the rain


Bernard-Marie Koltès