Academic journal article West Virginia University Philological Papers

Dramatizing History: La Educada Visita by Antonio Noceda Arias

Academic journal article West Virginia University Philological Papers

Dramatizing History: La Educada Visita by Antonio Noceda Arias

Article excerpt

Finalist of the 2008 Serantes Prize, La educada visita by Antonio Noceda Arias (1) is comprised of three unnumbered parts. The play opens and closes in the present day with a monologue by an unnamed man (Hombre) in his seventies. The central part of the work is an extensive dialogue that takes place in Normandy in the fall of 1944 between a sadistic SS captain named Hans Steiner and a French widow named Madame Bronchard. (2) The context of their long conversation, a highly dramatic exchange due to "el alto nivel de enfrentamiento dialetico que mantienen los dos personajes centrales" (Gil Zamora 6), is as follows: the French Resistance mistakenly blew up a convoy of trucks transporting German soldiers rather than the food and supplies they intended to destroy. Although the Allied Forces will soon reach the town and end the German occupation, the local Nazi commander, Steiner, responds to the recent bombing of the truck convoy by hatching a brutal plan to punish the townspeople in reprisal. One of his victims is Madame Bronchard. Toward the end of their confrontation, the calculating Officer presents the widow with an impossible choice that forces her to make a heart-wrenching decision.

This study first examines the fundamental core of the work and shows that the discourse seems to function as a melodrama of good (Madame Bronchard) versus evil (Captain Steiner). However, when considered with the present-day monologues that frame the central dialogue, my analysis will demonstrate that, ultimately, Madame Bronchard is portrayed as a multi-dimensional character whose actions supersede the simplistic formula of melodrama. In addition, my reading will underscore the importance of the play's three-part structure and its created dialectic between past and present.

Highly cultured individuals, Captain Steiner and Madame Bronchard share a deep appreciation for the arts and especially far music. When Steiner arrives at her home, a sonata is playing on the gramophone. Walking towards it, the Officer stops to tell Madame that she is known as "la persona mas respetada no solo del pueblo sino de la region" (17). Steiner then considers the composer and says: "Felix Mendelsshon. Musico realmente elegante.... Aunque judio" (17). His ethnic prejudice, a stereotypical Nazi loathing of Jews, immediately elicits a bold response from Madame Bronchard who retorts: "No creo que la sensibilidad de un artista este renida con su raza o su religion" (17). When she offers to turn off the music, Steiner requests that she leave it on, declaring that the piece is a favorite he has not heard or played in years. As their conversation continues, we learn that Steiner descends from a family of musicians and that he studied piano and composition for three years before political circumstance forced him to choose between public service and personal desire: "tuve que escoger entre Alemania o nu propia carrera individual" (17). His assessment of Bronchard's favorite composers (Brahms, Chopin, Shostakovich, and Ravel) indicates that his musical knowledge is far from superficial, for her part, Madame Bronchard is a former teacher who runs the family orchard and vineyard business since her husband's death at the onset of the German occupation. From the beginning, both characters are portrayed as extremely cultured individuals.

While they share a deep appreciation for music, their political views, as oue would expect, totally diverge. The SS officer staunchly defends the goals and actions of the Third Reich, all of which the widow not only opposes but daringly criticizes. In fact, Madame Bronchard denigrates Germany's invasion of France and other countries, its attacks on England, and the complete lack of individual freedom that its totalitarianism implies. For example, although she acknowledges England's colonialism, she applauds the freedom of its citizens to voice their opposition: "Ya le dije antes que estoy en contra de las posiciones colonialistas. …

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