7b 1938 EXILE IS AN EXPENSIVE DISEASE
Franz Werfel and an American Reporter in Alma's house Casa
Mahler in Venice. March 1938.
Werfel! Mister Werfel! Your novel is sweeping America! It's
made you one of literature's immortals! May I take a picture
of you, with the book?
aspetti, voglio indossare la corona di alloro.
it's publication, this novel has been marked by greatness.
It's absorbing, thrilling, inspiring! Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer,
recognizing the unusually dramatic plot possibilities of your
book, is now preparing it for the screen as one of the year's
biggest pictures. Do you have any explanation for all this
reason isn't hard to find. Not only is it literature of great
social importance - but it is also one of the most exciting
stories ever told. It is an adventure story, a love story,
a great character portrayal - no wonder America talks about
comparatively few weeks, this novel has sold over 125.000
copies, it has outsold every other book published in America
in the last year. It was a featured choice of the Book-of-the-Month
Club and recommended by three other book clubs. They say no
one can put it down till the last page is read! It was greeted
by a critical ovation unequalled in recent times.
The book got unanimously favourable reviews in the literary
Werfel, how did you get the idea to write this book? What
was inspired you to write it?
was a visit to Palestine that I took with my wife, Alma, twelve
years ago. From Palestine we went on to Damascus. And on the
road to Damascus we met a group of Armenians who were survivors
of the massacre the Turks had staged among the Armenian people.
They told me their stories. It was unimaginable! Horror upon
horror! The Turks had massacred an entire People
villagers refused exile, agreed to follow a certain Gabriel
Bagradian, and fought to the death on Musa Dagh, the mountain
extraordinary! Of its many dramatic scenes, what do you consider
this book's greatest moment?
Gabriel must choose between being faithful to his faithless
foreign wife and his new love born on the mountain top of
Franz!!! Where have you been hiding? I've been looking for
got lost in my memories. I went back to the times we were
in Palestine. Was it in 1926 or in 1925?
ALMA I don't
remember. - Listen
I must ask you something I've never asked you before ----
Franz: I am going to sell the house.
ALMA My house
here in Venice.
Mahler? Are you joking?
no turning back. I've just signed the contract.
you out of your mind?! How can you do that? You know how much
I love that house!
time I wasn't thinking of you for a change, although since
your triumph with your 40 Days it's almost impossible
you're discontented with my success? Amazing! Till now you
blamed me for not being as successful as Thomas Mann, and
now you blame me for being more successful than him! Splendid!
My book was chosen by the Book-of-the-Month Club and recommended
by three other clubs, this is something this poor son of a
merchant has not yet achieved!
ALMA I don't
blame you, sweetheart. Of course it's not your fault! You've
always been a faultless child. And I'm so proud of my Armenian
National hero! Ever since this book of yours came out, you've
been transformed into another state of being. You're interviewed
by every feeble minded journalist in the world, you are constantly
invited to silly literary gala's. One day you're off to New
York to attend the premiere of one of your plays which has
astoundingly been directed by Max Reinhardt, and then you
go to Paris as a guest of the Society of Nations to talk on
the future of world-literature. You meet James Joyce,
you meet Romain Roland, its you and you and always only you!
It seems as if you've become the center of the world!
all that - thanks to you, darling! What's wrong, my heart,
my soul, my life?! You are the reason for all that! If I hadn't
met you, I would have written another few poems, and then
I would have sunk into oblivion. (To the journalist:) You
may write that. She's the one who led me to discover my inner
forces. She turned me into a serious artist. She pushed me
hard, even refusing to have sex unless I came to her with
a finished chapter every day! Hahaha! I would have re-written
Zola's Rougon Macquard for her.
ALMA I see!
So »it's not the murderer's but the victim's fault«!
victim's?! For a dead person you strike me as being unusually
ALMA On the
contrary! Your success is killing our marriage, if you can
still call it a marriage. I'm living at your side without
joy. I don't know you any more. You've become so infatuated
with yourself that your monologues go on forever. , I feel
like a microphone in one of your countless radio speeches.
All that matters are your plans, your words, your this and
your that! You've seem to have forgotten how much my words
used to mean to you.
now you've decided to sell the house here in Venice to punish
me for dislodging you from the centre of the universe! How
amazing how inconsiderate a man can become when the world
is lying at his feet! Do I really have to remind you how much
this house is still pregnant with the memory of my beloved
sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you, Alma. I know what Manon
meant to you. Peace to her soul. She was an angel.
ALMA I have
to get rid of that wheelchair as well. It is a horrible memory
of her. - You have to help me to forget, Franz, I need you.
I want to forget. You have to help me do that. You have to
help me. You have to help me.
won't you let time do its work in peace? Time is the best
wrong, Franzl! Time isn't a healer. It's a killer, especially
nowadays. There's no time and there's no peace anymore. We
have to try to think rationally, for a change. Listen, Franz
not so easy to think rationally in this country, Alma. Italy
always reminds me of Verdi! A propos Verdi, when I was in
Paris, I met James Joyce. We sat on the terrace of the café
Fouquet's, and we started to sing, to the great consternation
of the French. We sang Verdi. (He sings Don Carlos)
The owner came running over to us, very angry. Joyce of course
wanted to stop, but I, I said: No! Let's go on! And I sang
- urging Joyce on - and we
I know. I was sitting next to you.
yes, you were there, of course. Sorry, I forgot.
Franz! Chancellor Schuschnigg went to Brechtesgaden to meet
did you say?
annexation of Austria to the Third Reich is about to take
place any minute. I just heard it on the radio.
can't be true!
ALMA It is!
Ever since I returned from Vienna I've been trying to talk
to you, but you won't listen!
to me about what? ?
just before leaving Vienna, I met Father Hollnsteiner.
So you did meet him... Where? In your hotel room?
be ridiculous. He's a priest. Ever Since he gave that beautiful
sermon at Manon's funeral, I have a special feeling for that
wonder what kind of speeches your »noble man«
is making these days.
ALMA He made
an impressive sermon on the glories of fascism.
you are. I hope he converted you.
he did not. But in these uncertain times, I'll take good advice
from anyone who offers. .
good advice, if I may ask?
question is do you want to return to Vienna, or would you
prefer to settle down elsewhere?
you sold the house here in Venice, Italy is out of the question.
I don't feel Czechoslovakian anymore. Vienna is the only place
where I feel at home.
we have to do something about your Judaism.
heard me. About your Judaism.
is there to do about it?!
Hollensteiner promised me he'd help organize something for
you know, it might help if
well, he promised
me he'll do all he can to help us if you'd only
what? You're not talking about converting!? You're not seriously
asking me to get baptized?
ALMA He said
he could try to get you a special status.
special status? I have already a special status! You can tell
him that. thanks to the success of »The 40 Days of Musa
as an Armenian National Hero. Franz, open you eyes! when the
time was right Even Gustav Mahler converted , for a lesser
have no ambitions to become director of the Royal Opera.
talking about the Opera? Do you ever want to go back to Vienna?
Yes or no?
Moses convert? Hmm? It might have facilitated the acceptance
of the ten commandments! Or did Jesus convert to make his
life easier in the Roman empire? he was crucified as king
of the Jews, have you forgotten that?! Or maybe Spinoza converted
to pave the way for his message, without which it's impossible
to imagine Goethe's Faust! Doctor Ehrlich, who freed Humanity
of the demon of Syphilis, maybe he converted? Or Albert Einstein,
or Sigmund Freud? Go, give them Father Hollensteiner's advice!
Maybe they'll accept, who knows?! Maybe they'll all convert!
If you promise them a special status! Maybe Hollnsteiner
can organize a mass baptism. That will make things much easier
ALMA If you
don't stop your monologue -
dear Alma! The contribution of the Children of Israel to Human
Culture preceded your Father Hollnsteiner and his good advice,
and it will outlive him! Religion is not a whore you go to
bed with for a few hours to have a good time! Tell that to
your Father Hollnsteiner! Tell him Franz Werfel will never
it!! Stop it!! Stop it!!! I can't listen to your monologues
you want to convert our dead son Martin as well!
What did you say?!
not? I wouldn't be surprised if Father Hollnsteiner found
a way to convert even the dead! That way he could make sure
our poor Martin will not be troubled by bigots in his tiny
you completely crazy?!
only if Martin is really my son in the first place ! After
all he could just as easily have been spawned from true Aryan
origins, couldn't he? Since your beloved architect got his
leave on the 14th of December 1917, you had a chance the next
afternoon to finally have sex with your pure Aryan thorough-bred,
and deprive him of his precious Aryan seed. Something you'd
never get from a bleeding Jew of a lover with fat bow-legs,
swollen lips, nicotine-stained fingers, and oozing eye-slits!
- Correct me if I'm misquoting you.
dare you read my diary?!
Hollnsteiner doesn't have to have him exhumed and dissolve
his ashes in holy water like instant coffee! Maybe Martin
was born a thorough-bred Aryan too, like your beloved daughter
Manon, and he doesn't even have to convert! his soul might
already be saved for eternity, a pure-blooded Aryan prototype
- despite his hydrocephalus!
ALMA Oh no,
my dear, you don't have to worry about that. Martin is your
creation. One of your masterpieces! Maybe your friends in
Hollywood could turn it into a film, »Jakobowsky and
the Imbecile« or »The Song of the Feeble-minded«?!
What do you think?!
was born prematurely because you fucked him out of my womb,
in your insatiable lust, which almost cost me my life! And
he was born a sick weakling because he was conceived with
your rotten semen!
and do you know why it's so unsavory? Because, every since
you were a child, you've been ruining your semen with your
constant masturbation! I had to work hard to get you out of
the habit! - I know what I'm going to do. I'm going back to
then! Get out! You pure Aryan, faultless Christian! What took
you so long to get rid of me, the way you got rid of all your
other men?! »Whoever falls, should be given a push!«
that's your philosophy, isn't it?! And a Jew is not exactly
a life-insurance policy these days! You'll see: life will
be much easier for you once you've left me! Go! Go to Vienna!
Go to your Father Hollnsteiner!
are such a fool, Franz! Such a fool! Nobody's leaving you,
you stupid man? I'm going to Vienna to liquidate all my assets
there. (She starts to pack for the journey.) I'll give my
step-father Carl Moll power of attorney to handle my affairs
in Austria, he's the right man to do it, he's experienced
in financial matters, and he is close to the new men in power.
I'll just take Anna and Gustav's manuscripts. I'll withdraw
all the money I've left in my bank account in Vienna, and
I'll put it in a bank in Switzerland. We are going to need
every penny ...
a minute! What's all this crazy talk about?
my dear Franzl, is a very serious and expensive disease.
emigration? What do you mean
talking about America.
Which America?! Wait a minute!
to dress Werfel:) Come on! Come on! Are you paralysed? What's
the matter with you?! Pull yourself together, Franzl! And
stop staring at me with that senile look in your eyes! We're
going to need all our resources, if we want to survive. And
we will survive! And how! You can rely on me! Come on, relax!
Relax!! That's better ! Where's my little chick? Hmmm? My
poor baby? My man-child? Come, my suckling. Come on. Are you
hungry, hmm? Does my baby want to drink? Your mouth is watering
to eat my tits, isn't it? Hush. Hush. No more words. No more
silly questions. We'll overcome it all! We'll outlive everyone
of them. We'll be reborn into a new world! You'll see! Come,
my sweet little suckling-pig! Come to me. Come! Come! Yeeees
You' re dying to get into my stomach. You' re
dying to get back to where you come from. You want to hide,
don't you? Now come, come! They say there's nothing like the
erection of a dying man. I'll devour you, my sweet little
cadaver! Come now, come!