Arrabal, Fernando (Vol. 18)
Arrabal, Fernando 1932–
A French playwright born in Morocco, Arrabal writes in the Theatre of the Absurd tradition. In his plays, Arrabal attacks political, theological, linguistic, and psychological restrictions on freedom. A recipient of the Grand Prix du Théâtre, Arrabal is best known for L'Architecte et l'Empereur d'Assyrie. (See also CLC, Vols. 2, 9, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.)
[Arrabal's] modernism is strongly colored by the most nightmarish aspects of a certain brand of surrealism. The whole thing is deeply rooted in the history of our times, by the very fact of the writer's personal life (see his novel Baal Babylone), strongly marked by the Franco regime in Spain and a formidable mother image. (p. 116)
[Like Charlie Chaplin's "tramp," Arrabal's heroes] are gentle and innocent; they do their best within their poverty and their clumsy love affairs. Proud of their meager successes, they soon lose any benefit they might have derived from them. They love and betray what they love with the same innocence. They are often cowards, but have spurts of dignity. They are always bewildered by the world, sometimes manage to cheat it, but instead of happily or doubtfully going off into the sunset, they end by being crushed in some frightful way.
Yet Arrabal's works are not merely a reflection of influences or a reminder of illustrious predecessors. First of all, most of his gentle heroes are murderers or accomplices in murder and physical torture. (pp. 116-17)
Crime in Arrabal, whether committed by the heroes or inflicted upon them, is spectacular. But the spectacle is horrifying or sordid…. In a world, whether Franco's Spain or any other, in which torture has been re-established in the name of order, Arrabal's fantasies permit him to escape from the lie of clean and dignified...
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Janet Winecoff DíAz
JANET WINECOFF DÍAZ
Unnoticed heretofore is the considerable philosophical substratum of Arrabal's work, wherein much importance is given to epistemology, the inquiry into the nature of knowledge, wrestling with the unknown, the absurd, the limits of human understanding, and a special emphasis on memory. There is, as in the theater of the absurd in general, a predominance of existentialist themes, while other preoccupations of Arrabal are particularly suggestive of Bergson, either directly or through his Spanish disciple, Antonio Machado. Intuition, the problem of time, duration in relation to human consciousness, the issue of mechanism versus life (automatic behavior, clichés, convention), the distrust of reason—all occur insistently in these three writers, while the symbolic use of labyrinths and mirrors, related to philosophical and epistemological implications is frequent in both Machado and Arrabal. The threat posed to the individual by the technological state is a persistent theme which Arrabal shares with Machado and Ortega (The Revolt of the Masses). At the risk of misleading the reader, however, it should be noted that the philosophical in its overt manifestations is often overshadowed in Arrabal's work by other considerations, and tends to appear more in his narratives than in his theatrical works. (pp. 144-45)
Certain aspects of Arrabal's life help to clarify his works. His having grown up...
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Common to many of [Arrabal's] plays is a naïve, childish dialogue that reveals cruelty and tenderness as twin aspects of each character. (p. 29)
Arrabal's works contain the high color, flamboyant sensuality, erotic cruelty, and grotesque humor of the countrymen he admires—Calderón, Goya, Valle-Inclán, and Lorca…. Arrabal has written anti-war satires—Picnic on the Battlefield, Guernica. More of his plays focus on couples as he explores the horrors of the love relationship, in an idiom quite different from that of Strindberg—Orison, Fando and Lys, Bicycle of the Condemned, The Coronation, The Great Ceremony. Child-couples with invented nicknames exist in their private worlds, into which others occasionally intrude. Devoid of conventional morality, whose clichés they may voice mechanically, the couples resort to games and rituals. Like the paranoid victims of Adamov's early plays, the not-so-innocent children of Arrabal are crushed, whatever they do.
Though these plays syncopate disparate incidents in a dream-like way, Arrabal has denied that they are surrealistic…. (pp. 29-30)
Particularly in his longer plays, The Coronation (1964), The Great Ceremony (1964), and The Architect and the Emperor of Assyria (1967) it is evident that Arrabal creates … confusion through careful manipulation and articulation of theatrical techniques. Not only are characters...
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Gloria Feman Orenstein
[Arrabal] reworked the ideas of Salvador Dali's Theory of Confusion into a synthesis with Artaud's Theater of Cruelty and Breton's quest for le merveilleux quotidien, and this resulted in the creation of the Panic ceremony in the theater. (p. 240)
Yet the concept of panic in the Panic Theater owes more to the influence of Dali than to that of Breton. Dali, in La Femme Visible, said that the moment was propitious for him to "systematize confusion and thus discredit completely the world of reality." It is Dali's idea of confusion that Arrabal systematizes in order to create the concept of the Panic ceremony in this theater: "I arrive at this conclusion: in life two great forces are acting that are summed up in confusion, that is to say, on the one hand the present and the future … on the other hand, memory."
In combination with Artaud's Theater of Cruelty, we find, then, that it is either an act of personal or of metaphysical cruelty that serves as the catalytic agent which awakens in the initiate the desire to depart from a somnolent state of death-in-life inertia, and to evolve to a more impassioned experience of existence. The protagonist is initiated into the Panic world of confusion in order to attain enlightenment and ecstasy so that he may permanently live in the marvelous.
Before 1962, the dichotomy between an intimation of a surrealist vision of liberation and the...
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John J. Michalczyk
Luis Buñuel, the father of the surrealist film …, has figuratively engendered two sons who continue to shock, revolt, and entertain in the same surrealist vein. Alexandro Jodorowsky … and Fernando Arrabal … on one hand have returned to the roots of this movement and on the other hand have driven Buñuel's technique, perspective, and content to the outermost limits of aesthetic tolerance.
The action of [Arrabal's] L'Arbre de Guernica—a satirical allegory set in the Spanish Civil War—alternates between Villa Ramiro, a stronghold of fascist and bourgeois ideals, and the town of Guernica, bombed by the Nazis on 26 April 1937. (p. 761)
Besides the cult of the imagination, anti-rationalistic optic, and episodic development, Arrabal's cinematic thesis is reinforced with scenes of the bizarre (snakes), strange juxtapositions (a skeleton among the bourgeois at a bullfight), dream sequences (a homosexual scene with a priest at Mass in a ludicrous helmet), and humour noir (capers of perverted dwarfs). Interspersed with actual footage from the Civil War are found four fundamental subjects precious to Aragon, Breton, Eluard and other surrealists of the twenties and thirties—an anti-religious spirit, sexual fantasies, and Leftist politics, ultimately culminating in a quest for absolute liberty.
Where Buñuel and Fellini jokingly toy with religion, Arrabal definitely turns it into black...
(The entire section is 525 words.)