(excerpt from the text The Absurd and Anti-utopia in Kole Čašule’s Plays as part of the book “Kole Čašule: Ten Plays“)
Starting with “A Twig in the Wind”, and from then on, the main preoccupation of Čašule, one could say, is totalitarianism – in all its forms, as well as portraying society – any society – as twisted. In “A Twig in the Wind “, capitalism is a twisted society that throws into despair its members… totalitarianism, on its half, is a part of the relations between them. “Darkness: does not portray anything else but for totalitarianism – totalitarian achievement of even more so totalitarian ideas; “Whirlpool”, “Musical Score for a Myron”; “As you Please…” etc. all to the last one, portray totalitarianism and the “ideal” societies (or the way of constructing such a society).
The anti-utopia is a portrayal of the twisted in society, the perversion of man, the perversion of existence itself. The anti-utopia is a conclusion – each society, however it may be portrayed of what ever its manifestation, is in its essence totalitarian, ugly, evil and wicked; that each government is monstrous and destructive, and that each human being carries that badness within, veiled, pending on just the right moment to demonstrate it. Precisely this insight is the main vital force in Kole Čašule’s work. It is the axis around which everything else turns. Čašule discovers the perversion of society and creates anti-utopias. In some of them, it can only be sensed – this horrific perversion, that lack of faith of a future, the absurdity, darkness. In the rest of them, it is noticeable in each spoken (written) or unspoken (unwritten) word.
Several components, all connected, create the complete picture for this anti-utopia:
– First of all, regardless of the type of society in question, Čašule drags out the twisted in it, perversion, totalitarianism and horror.
– Everywhere (this is generally true for all anti-utopias), perversion of society is connected with the feeling of absurdity, lack of faith, darkness. Absurd and anti-utopia come together – the first follow the other.
– Almost in all his plays, and in all anti-utopias (Orwell’s; Zamyatin’s, Huxley’s, Nabokov’s, Kafka’s…), Čašule writes about the Ultimate Government, about The Big Brother, about some Shadow ruling in the background; there is always someone behind someone, behind someone, behind someone… maybe this goes on to infinity, and no one is ever introduced to the last one.
– Same as in all other anti-utopias, Čašule’s anti-utopia reveals, beside the twisted in society – the twisted in human beings. Each human being carries within evil, the devil that emerges to the surface when he has clawed his way to power, a doppelganger – the ferocious double. Čašule reveals this –literally. In many of his plays this doppelganger appears ass some kind of illusion or destiny.
– Another component pointing out this anti-utopia is the complete loss of identity of the characters in Čašule’s works; all of them are pressed by different darkness, they are melted into a faceless mass, into shadows, numbers, into new darkness. Each one of them has lost not only its identity and face, but also everything human. Only in the moment of the closeness of death, freed from the darkness, Čašule’s characters manage to recover part of their being… as lost souls, repenting and finding salvation. That is also one of the last components of each anti-utopia, death – we might say, thought as something religious and eschatological, as return to the source of existence.
“Darkness” is the first play where anti-utopist ideas are sensed, but they are merely an introduction of what is to come later. Nevertheless, “Darkness” is a play in which anti-utopia releases the worm of curiousness, to munch further on. Here, for the first time, the issue of totalitarianism is clearly attacked (primarily the one introduced by the Organization), and against “the perfect, ideal” future foreseen by this Organization. And, indeed, the characters carry within themselves the fever of the characters of some kind of anti-utopia, who, in a way, have embraced destiny and are filled with fear. Ivan and Neda maybe resemble Orwell’s, Zamyatin’s or Huxley’s main characters, the only ones even attempting to escape the enchanted circle in which they have fallen, without hope and believe in their salvage.
“Darkness” is where an anthology of the Big Brother appears, and it is the Organization itself, abstract, undefined Shadow which stands (existent or non-existent in reality) somewhere in the background. Because behind Lukov, there is Ivanov; behind Ivanov is a second person, a third, and the phantom Organization is always here and no escape is possible from it. This concept appears repeatedly in each play written by Čašule, the Shadow that haunts everyone. It has no name, or is familiar by different names: is it Orwell’s Big Brother, or Zamyatin’s “Benefactor”, or He, or The One, or the Organization or maybe Kafka’s “Castle”, it is present everywhere and threatening and incredibly powerful.
In “Darkness”, this haunting power of the Organization is strong, the helplessness of the possibility to escape it. Some, like Ivan and Neda, are still not aware of its power; others, such as Fezliev, have accepted their faith and plunged in the hallucinogen anaesthetic of alcohol (or maybe it was called soma somewhere else). However, those are characters in an enchanted circle that doesn’t allow them to wander from the set path, not even for a slight moment. The young man therefore, does not belong to this circle… He comes from another dimension, in which the hopelessness and darkness still have no entrance, a dimension in which “the peaks of Pirin intertwine the red rays of the rising sun”… He is a savage, a mountain man (half Indian – Huxley’s), that falls into a black hole and exits in a world with no hope.
As it was already mentioned, hopelessness or absurdness are the concepts that reappear in Kole Čašule’s plays; the absurd is also a part of the anti-utopia concept. In “Darkeness”, the presence of absurd is much more subtle than in his other plays, for example in “Whirlpool” or in “Musical Score for a Myron” and “Divertissement of a Strez” (the two latter ones have a lot in common with the drama of absurd, but in the name of this text’s consistency, we will not make such categorizations). In these plays absurdity is openly present in each replica, remark, pause or silence, whereas in “Darkness” it is only a subtext, a hidden code of the obvious. But it is present primarily in the title itself, Darkness; and whether it is called absurd, or darkness, or hopelessness, or nausea, is completely irrelevant. What is important is the presence.
In the remarks for “Darkness”, absurdity (or darkness) can be sensed, because precisely in the remarks, the author has let, that which is only a hidden code in the dialogue, emerge to the surface. Čašule writes:
Desolation – framed in them.
Frozen fingers of light are slaughtered on the skins.
Somewhere off a suppressed feminine resistance.
The door is opened.
In the desolation she is framed first – Neda and immediately he –
The desolation darkens and sinks into the gloom where it came from.
Somewhat more than three days later in the same desolation.
Lukov is at the window looking at the raindrops that resemble long and forgotten weeping.
Time seems to be measured with the going in and coming out of the bullets in the revolver.
The conversation is muffled.
He sinks into the abyss of darkness, he and everything around him.
From these remarks of the author, the entire hopelessness and absurdity in which the characters in “Darkness” are thrown. It is not necessary to interpret or analyse these remarks searching for the meaning – the absurdity simply emerges, and the darkness hangs over.
Pressed by absurdity, found in an anti-utopia, Čašule’s characters are people who, losing their hope, have lost their identity. They have melted in the muddy waters of the river that surrounds them, they have stuck in the mud, they have suffocated. The only salvation for these people is death, as the last hope or revelation.
Anti-utopia, in general, includes the concept of losing ones identity, the turning into a faceless number, a government mercenary, a party mercenary… it includes the melting of personality, facelessness, turning people into zombies, following the instructions of an intangible, higher consciousness.
Ever since “A Twig in the Wind”, Čašule introduces the concept of melting, facelessness and disintegrating into the mass that surrounds his characters. He sets his example in America, the most ideal place where man can melt and disintegrate completely and remain with nothing left of his identity. This happens with the characters in the play, to Magda, Velko and Jimmy. Each one of them (entirely hopeless), each in their own way, tries to resist and takes on a struggle with the current that wants to take them; each one of them chooses a different road in that struggle, but end up being repeatedly pulled back in the whirlpool.
In “Darkness”, this concept is more accentuated: literally, everyone is melted and moulded into what the environment requires, the Organization; they are instruments and mercenaries of the Organization. Despite the attempts to get out, they are pulled into the whirlpool, pulling them deeper with each minute. Somewhere at the beginning of the first act, Neda says: I can feel him around me like a ghost. Sometimes it seems all the shadows and darkness in this home are his allies… as if they were persecuting me, talking about Lukov, but what actually presses her is much more than that, it is the Shadow itself and the very darkness of existence. And the only salvation from the darkness is death, and a moment of relief. Also, the character of Magda, in “A Twig in the Wind” follows the example of Fesliev in “Darkness”, who decides to free himself and to confront death – that is his way to repent all sins and to awaken within himself – in his words “The Macedonian”, or better yet – the Human being. Death is a way for one to escape/to adopt shape from the faceless/nameless mass and to, once again, become a human being. Whereas the case with the young man is different. He never had the opportunity to melt, to become faceless; he has never been part of the world in which he has fallen. His exit, suicide, is not an escape, but a desperate scream provoked from the horror that surrounds him – from the world that has become horrific. (We need to make reference, once more, to Huxley’s character – the “savage” who screams faced with the horrors of the brave new world – the case is the same with the character of the young man).
“Darkness” is the starting point for Čašule’s ideas – the ideas that we have discussed. “Darkness” is a synthesis of questions, answers, dilemmas. It still is a compromise. After “Darkness”, there is no compromise, no questions. The destiny of what is to come is sealed beforehand…
In “Whirlpool” all components describing the sick, the twisted, the conducted society are present: totalitarian government; mercenaries of government; means used by the government to break the human being (in an Orwell manner)… But, what is most important in “Whirlpool”, is the fact that it introduces something – how the melting of identity is done and how the human being is turned into machine, into non-human. This issue will receive complete attention in the following presentation.
The base of “Whirlpool” are actually the methods of totalitarianism. Gloomy (in the spirit of anti-utopia), as in Orwell’s “1984”, Čašule reveals the methods that break the human as a personality – the methods of the Investigator used on the Prisoner. The question imposed is: Who is the traitor? Totalitarian methods are serving ones deceptions, making the heroes look like traitors, and the greatest traitors, heroes.
But analysing deeper, another truth is revealed, The question: ‘Is someone a traitor?’, a question that Čašule poses in several other occasions (in “Judgment”, in “A Dream and Another Dream After It” and in “Duets”, is meaningless – all are traitors. This is a truth discovered by Orwell as well – that in an anti-utopian, dreadful society – there are no heroes, only traitors*. The regime, those Shadows and Darkness, manage to break people, to depersonalise and to dehumanise. In anti-utopias, people fall and sink and lose everything they have ever been or had.