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This report is taken from PN Review 82, Volume 18 Number 2, November - December 1991.

Anouilh's Little Soldier David Arkell
My first translation from the French - Anouilh's Bal des Voleurs - was turned down by the author in a brief telegram reading CHARMING PLAY BUT NOT QUITE MINE. It's true that he had other things on his mind at the time, having just become the father of his second daughter Caroline …

Now Caroline, in her turn, has produced a book about her father (Drôle de Pòre) which I can honestly say is more than charming, it's even important in that it reveals all those things about Anouilh one never knew.

Who would have thought, for instance, that the unassuming Anouilh (1910-87) had an obsessional urge to acquire property and build around himself impregnable fortresses guarded by women? The houses changed regularly but the list of characters remained the same: mother, mother-in-law, wife, daughters, daughter's daughter, governess, au pair. Few authors have had so many houses filled with so many female relatives - not because they imposed themselves upon him but because he passionately wanted it that way.

Caroline's revelations are most valuable when she is writing about a period she never knew. But this is not really surprising for she has the inestimable advantage of being the daughter of the original 'petit soldat'. Her mother was Anouilh's ideal woman, who had already been the heroine of such plays as Léocadia, Le Rendezvous de Senlis and L'Invitation au chateau even before he met her - which was in 1948 at René Simon's theatre school ...


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