Monday, 10 February 2020


This is an extract, quoted by Tom Stoppard in a 1999 NYRB article, 'Pragmatic Theatre', from a play by James Saunders, entitled Next Time I'll Sing To You.  Saunders was an exponent of Absurdist theatre.  He died in 2004.  Next Time I'll Sing To You was staged in the West End in 1963, and featured Michael Caine, Barry Foster and Liz Fraser.  Stoppard credits the play for providing the impetus to write for the stage himself.

There lies behind everything, and you can believe this or not as you wish, a certain quality which we may call grief. It’s always there, just under the surface, just behind the fa├žade, sometimes very nearly exposed, so that you can dimly see the shape of it as you can see sometimes through the surface of an ornamental pond on a still day, the dark, gross, inhuman outline of a carp gliding slowly past; when you realize suddenly that the carp were always there below the surface, even while the water sparkled in the sunshine, and while you patronized the quaint ducks and the supercilious swans, the carp were down there, unseen. It bides its time, this quality. And if you do catch a glimpse of it, you may pretend not to notice or you may turn suddenly away and romp with your children on the grass, laughing for no reason. The name of this quality is grief.

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