Quevedo. A Play in 12 Scenes


Quevedo: Näidend 12 pildis

Quevedo. A Play in 12 Scenes (Plays, Estonian)
Published by Perioodika, 2003, pp. 136

Jaan Undusk is an outstanding literary critic and writer, whose scientific production has so far been more numerous than his literary woks. All his books have attracted equal attention (see Magical Mystical Language ). Aspiration for magical tension characterises also Undusk’s literary texts – his short stories, a novel Hot (Kuum), which can be treated as an essay about young love, written in the format of the novel, and his plays, which are his latest passion. He made his breakthrough into drama with Goodbye, Vienna (1999), which had success on the stage. The fact that Quevedo was by far the best entry at the play-writing competition in 2003 and won the first prize came as no surprise – when Undusk takes part in a competition, he wins.

Similarly to Goodbye, Vienna, Quevedo is full of intellectual and erotic tensions, enhanced by figurative language and aphorisms, which result in a real fireworks of philosophical dialogues. The hero of the play is a Spanish genius of the 17th century Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645), the eternity, death, beauty, spirit, and naturally, power are its subjects.

The main intrigue of the play is the contradiction between the poet and politician Quevedo and the Prime Minister of the Spanish kingdom Olivares. This is the eternal struggle between the spirit and the power, resulting in different ways of conceiving the social responsibility of an individual, but it is also a duel between two powerful gamblers. The struggle between Eros and Thanatos adds spice to relationships described in the work. In Undusk’s world, suffering is a pleasure, all his heroes are characterised by the fear that the pleasure might end, and they fear fulfilment and satisfaction that would cancel the pleasure. Undusk contrasts closure and openness, the general and an individual’s aims and pleasures, the metaphysics of ugliness and the beauty of expectation, and values unceasing movement. The scene is laid in the 17th century, but numerous hints refer to the universality of the subject. Quevedo and Olivares will keep confronting each other in the infinity, and Quevedo’s last question “I cannot comprehend, why they will envy and imitate us” can be interpreted both in an ironic and philosophical key. The book closes with Prof. Jüri Talvet’s informative overview “Quevedo redivius”.

Text by Rutt Hinrikus

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