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The Nobel Prize in Literature 1997
Dario Fo

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Prose

The Birth of the Jongleur

from Mistero Buffo (1969)

Illustration

 

Kind people, gather round and listen. The jongleur is here! I am the jongleur. I leap and pirouette, and make you laugh. I make fun of those in power, and I show you how puffed up and conceited are the bigshots who go around making wars in which we are the ones who get slaughtered. I reveal them for what they are. I pull out the plug, and ... pssss ... they deflate. Gather round, for now is the time and place that I begin to clown and teach you. I tumble, I sing and I joke! Look how my tongue whirls, almost like a knife. Remember that. But I have not always been ... Well, I would like to tell you how it was that I came to be.

I was not born a jongleur; I didn't suddenly turn up as I am now, with a sudden gust from the skies and, hopla, there I was: 'Good day ... Hello.' No! I am the result of a miracle! A miracle which was carried out on me. Do you believe me? This is how it came about! I was born a peasant.

A peasant? Yes, a real countryman. I was happy, I was sad, I had no land. No! I worked as all of us work in these valleys wherever I could. And one day I came by a mountain, a mountain all of rock. It was nobody's. I found that out. I asked people. 'No! Nobody wants this mountain!'

Well, I went up to its peak and I scratched with my nails and I saw that there was a little bit of earth there, and I saw that there was a little trickle of water coming down. So I began to scratch further. I went down to the river bank, and I wore my fingers to the bone bringing earth up onto this mountain. And my children and my wife were there. My wife is sweet, sweet and fair, with two round breasts, and a gentle way of walking that reminds you of a heifer as she moves. Oh, she is beautiful! I love her, and it gives me such pleasure to speak of her.

Anyway, I carried earth up in my own hands, and the grass grew so fast! Pfff ... ! It grew of its own accord. You've no idea how beautiful it was! It was like gold dust! I would stick in my hoe, and pfff ... a tree sprang forth. That earth was a miracle! A marvel! There were poplars, oaks and other trees everywhere. I sowed them when the moon was right; I knew what had to be done, and there, sweet, fine, handsome crops grew. There was chicory, thistles, beans, turnips, there was everything. For me, for us!

Oh, how happy I was! We used to dance, and then it would rain for days on end, and then the sun would blaze, and I would come, and go, and the moons were always right, and there was never too much wind, or too much mist. It was beautiful, beautiful! It was our land. This set of terraces was really beautiful. Every day I built another one. It was like the tower of Babel, beautiful, with all these terraces. It was paradise, paradise on earth! I swear it. And all the peasants used to pass by, saying:

'That's amazing, look what you've managed to bring forth out of this pile of rocks! How stupid that I never thought of that!' And they were envious. One day the lord of the whole valley passed by. He took a look and said:

'Where did this tower spring up from? Whose is this land?'

'It's mine,' I said. 'I made it myself, with these hands. It was nobody's.'

'Nobody's? That "Nobody's" is a word that doesn't exist. It's mine!'

'No! It's not yours! I've even been to the lawyer, and he told me it was nobody's. I asked the priest, and he said it was nobody's. And I built it up, piece by piece.'

'It's mine, and you have to give it to me.'

'I cannot give it to you, sir. I cannot go and work for others.'

'I'll pay you for it; I'll give you money. Tell me how much you want.'

'No! No, I don't want money, because if you give me money, then I'll not be able to buy other land with the money that you give me, and I'll have to go and work for others again. No, I don't want to. I won't.'

...

Translated by Ed Emery

© Dario Fo, Ed Emery & Methuen Drama, London, 1988

 

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