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The Red Countess

Hermynia Zur Mühlen

4. Feuilletons and Fairy Tales: A Sampling

The Red Redeemer

Hermynia Zur Mühlen
Traduction de Lionel Gossman

Texte intégral

1(A church. The candles on the altar have been lit. Above the altar there is a large black wooden cross. In front of it, on the steps, a man in rags, barefoot, with a worn, tormented expression. He is leaning on one arm, which rests on the altar.)

2The priest (in his vestments, enters through the open church door, followed by two altar-boys in surplices. He marches up to the altar, suddenly stops in his tracks, and stares at the man in rags): A man in front of the altar. Unconsecrated hands touching the most holy. Sacrilege! Away with you! Away with you!

3The man in rags: This is my house.

4The taller altar-boy (shyly pulls at the priest’s vestments): Reverend Father, the cross…

5The priest (quickly turns to look at the cross and cries out): Gone! Where is the Redeemer?

6The smaller altar-boy: On the altar, don’t you see?

7The man in rags: Blessed are they who are pure in heart, for they shall behold the Lord.

8The priest (glares at the man in rags and seems gradually to recognize him. He is horrified.): What? What is going on here? The Redeemer belongs on the cross.

9The man in rags: And if he got down from it and came among the living? Don’t you yourself teach that your God is not dead? Now you can see that he is alive.

10The priest (confused): The Redeemer’s place is on the cross… The faithful will be coming to Mass… If they find the cross empty… and the Redeemer here, alive, like a man…. (Shouting) Get back on the cross. We need a God that is dead.

11The man in rags: Yes, a God that neither sees nor hears, a lifeless piece of wood.

12The priest (desperate): Such disorder! You get up off the cross like a man getting out of bed. You sow confusion in people’s minds… This conduct does not become our Redeemer…

13The man in rags: Aren’t all of you celebrating my Resurrection today? So you know that I am alive.

14The priest: That’s what we teach the ignorant, the people.

15The man in rags: Why?

16The priest: They yield to our wishes better when they believe in you.

17The man in rags (astonished): I don’t understand.

18The priest: They are afraid of angering you if they oppose us.

19The man in rags: That is not what I taught.

20The priest: Your teaching is a distorting mirror. Everyone finds a distorted image of himself in it.

21The man in rags. The lesson of my life is something quite different.

22The priest: Your life? Do we know that you ever lived?

23The man in rags: So you teach something you yourself don’t believe in?

24The priest: Who believes in fairy tales today?

25The man in rags: What do you call a fairy tale?

26The priest: The Resurrection.

27The man in rags: You are all blind! I rose from the dead a hundred times before your eyes and yet you didn’t see it?

28The priest (correcting him sternly like a schoolmaster): You appear not to know the legend that was spun around your name. You arose from the dead only once. In Jerusalem.

29The man in rags: No, a hundred times, in everyone in whom love was stronger than death. I lived in every rebel languishing in prison in his chains. I was crucified in everyone who was hanged on your gallows.

30The priest: Blasphemy!

31The man in rags: Can God himself be guilty of blasphemy?

32The priest: Your divinity is questionable. You yourself described yourself as the son of man.

33The man in rags: There is only one God: the man who loves.

34The priest: You speak of love. Did your rebels love the victims they killed?

35The man in rags: In pure hands, killing can be good.

36The priest (outraged): Criminal! Murderer! Communist!

37The man in rags: Are you going to call the police?

38The priest: Why am I talking to you? You don’t exist. You never really existed.

39The man in rags: For you and your like, I don’t.

40The priest: No one may arise from the dead. That is not permitted by law. A dead man must stay dead. Get back on the cross!

41The man in rags: Doesn’t the Church teach that with the commission of every sin the Redeemer is crucified anew?

42The smaller altar-boy (eagerly): Yes, that is what I learned in Sunday school.

43The man in rags (suddenly fearsome): You all crucify me every day, every hour. Wherever someone suffers because of you, wherever a child cries because it is hungry, wherever someone sick dies in misery, wherever someone is worn out by daily drudgery, I am crucified.

44The priest: You are a dead, lifeless piece of wood. You cannot see.

45The man in rags: Your guilt is so enormous that dead matter acquires eyes to see it and a mouth to scream in protest against it.

46The smaller altar-boy (begins to cry): I’m scared.

47The man in rags (gently): You need not be scared. (He kneels down next to the boy). Look, now I am smaller than you, and that is as it should be, for you, little Man, little God, are the future.

48The priest (shrieks): Blasphemy!

49The man in rags (rises): It is all of you who blaspheme against God. Every act of yours, every gesture is blasphemy. The potbelly that waltzes past the hungry, the silk dress that rustles past the half-naked, that is blasphemy. The factory that reaches to the heavens and devours its workers is blasphemy. The foul-smelling hovels where the poor are housed, that is blasphemy. The brothel, where love is put up for sale, that is blasphemy. The battlefield where human beings die like dogs so that you all can line your pockets, that is blasphemy. You yourselves, your very being, your persisting, that is blasphemy.

50The priest (mockingly): You won’t ever be able to rid the world of us.

51The man in rags: You think not? Perhaps you aren’t aware that I have already come down from every cross you all have nailed me to. Perhaps you don’t know that I have risen from every grave you all buried me in.

52The priest (bewildered and unsettled): You speak like a madman. Who are you?

53The man in rags: I am the Resurrection and the Life in Humanity.

54The priest (dully, as if he had lost his wits): What is the Resurrection and the Life?

55The man in rags (in a strong, clear voice): The revolution!

56The priest (shrieks): Revolution… Help… Police… (To the altar-boys): Run! Call the police! I always suspected that if Jesus did really exist he had to have been insane. Normal people don’t get themselves crucified.

57The man in rags: No, they look around for ministerial positions.

58The priest (in despair): Nothing is sacred for this individual. Now he is maligning the government! That is more dangerous than blaspheming against God, for God doesn’t have servants with rubber truncheons and machine-guns that he can call into action. Get a move on, boys, run. Get the police. (The two altar boys rush off. The church bells begin to ring.)

59The priest: The faithful will be here in a moment. The empty cross above the altar… All this disorder… If the Bishop hears of it… Why did all this have to happen in my parish?… (Pleading) Get back on the cross and I will be your servant for the rest of my life.

60The man in rags: How often have you said that same thing to the people?

61The priest (at a loss): The people, the people! What does the people matter to me?

62The man in rags: I am the people, the people that you all have crucified. I am the people that was killed and that has arisen from the dead. Woe unto you. (Two policemen rush into the church,)

63The priest (panting): Here… This is the man… Blasphemy… Incitement to class hatred… A Communist…

64One of the policemen: That’s enough.

65The other policeman: Wait. (To the man in rags) Do you have identity papers? Who are you?

66The man in rags (rises to his full height) I am the red Redeemer who has come to pass judgment.

67The first policeman: There you have it. A Red. (The two policemen take hold of the man in rags and drag him out of the church)

68The priest (confused): A bad dream… a terrifying nightmare. Didn’t someone come and say that the story we tell about Christ is true, that God is alive?

69(The organ begins to play. The choir is heard singing lustily: Christ is arisen. Halleluja! Halleluja!)


Der rote Heiland (Leipzig-Plagwitz: Verlag Die Wölfe, 1924), pp. 49–52.


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