“It is a much harder task to honour the memory of nameless people than of celebrities. The historical construction is consecrated to the memory of those who have no name.”
Presentation by Nicola Savarese
Port-Bou is the small Spanish town on the border with France where the German philosopher Walter Benjamin, hunted by the Gestapo, fled from France invaded by the Nazis.
On the night between the 25th and 26th of September 1940, fearing that he would not be able to embark for the United States and join his already exiled friends, Benjamin committed suicide at the age of forty-eight by taking a massive dose of morphine.
As a Jew and a suicide, Benjamin is not buried in the beautiful cemetery of Port-Bou overlooking the waves. But about fifty metres away we find a strange downward slope to the sea, a tunnel supported by iron slabs corroded by rust and salt with steps, also in iron, which go down to the blue water.
It is a monument by the Israeli sculptor Dani Keverian dedicated to the German philosopher, recalling one of the Parisian passages celebrated by Benjamin, rather than a descent into the abyss.
When we go down the staircase we suddenly face our own image reflected on a glass plate, which allows to see the sea, on which, in German, Spanish, French and English, the following inscription is engraved in capital letters:
“It is a much harder task to honour the memory of nameless people than of celebrities. The historical construction is consecrated to the memory of those who have no name.” [Walter Benjamin]
Recalled this story by Eugenio Barba in the Italian journal “Teatro e Storia”, to honour the memory of one of its founders, Fabrizio Cruciani, who died in 1992 and who Barba recognised as a historian who took upon himself the difficult task of remembering the thousands of anonymous artists who have contributed and contribute to theatre history.
The Conversations are conducted by Julia Varley and Claudio La Camera. Translations in Italian, English and Spanish. Participation is free and limited. Information and registration: fondazionebarbavarley @ gmail.com
The submerged part of the iceberg
“Today there is not one theatre, there are theatres: dissimilar in terms of techniques, purposes and spectators. They appear as an indistinct mass that appears to be drifting – an immense iceberg.
The upper part of the theatre iceberg is known and its actors, on the top, are visible and present in newspapers, on social networks, on televisions and in history books. The submerged part of the iceberg the most conspicuous part of its material reality – is made up of unnamed theatres.
They represent the majority of the performances that take place on the planet. They are precarious refuges of hope and attempts at beauty, temporary dens of obstinacy, rejection and anger: germs of change.”
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Brecht writes: “Thebes of the seven gates, who built it? The names of kings are in the books. Did the kings drag those blocks of stone?” Behind the names of kings, Brecht was thinking of the“nameless” who had obeyed orders”.
An army of nameless
“Many anonymous women work with theatre in situations of social marginalisation, turning theatre into politics by other means. The relationship with the spectators gives meaning to what we do. It is a hope without illusions, but it gives us the strength to go forward in the midst of an army of nameless.”