Readings — From the December 2016 issue

Candid Camera

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From transcripts of conversations between Maria Irene Fornes, a Cuban-American playwright and director, and Michelle Memran, a filmmaker. Memran’s documentary about Fornes’s life, The Rest I Make Up, is currently in postproduction.

michelle memran: Of all your lovers, I’ve only heard you talk about Susan Sontag. Why is that?

maria irene fornes: If I say, “Because she is the love of my life,” would you get any more information? Right now my eyes begin to tear up and this is 155 years later, right? Why is someone the love of your life? It cannot be explained. It’s as real as this table, and yet you cannot analyze it. Explaining it to someone, I said, “Do you have any allergies?” “I do, a little bit of this or that.” “Can you explain why?” There is something in a person’s system that is chemical, that has a need. You go to a doctor, you feel weak, the doctor takes a blood test, they analyze it, from that analysis they figure out that you need vitamins C and B and to drink as much milk as you can and it has to do with a balance of certain chemicals in the system. People ask, “Why were you so completely in love through the years, even after you broke up?” “Because I was!” If you fall down and hurt your knee and you’re limping for the next ten years and somebody asks, “Why did you fall?” you say, “I fell because I fell! I didn’t plan on it.”

Each one of my lovers was a diva. Each one of them was out of this world.

memran: Are you a diva?

fornes: No. I am a poor, honest, simple, truthful little girl who’s always looking for the meaning of life, but it seems that I adore divas and waste all my time with them.

memran: What’s the meaning of life?

fornes: I haven’t found it, that’s what I’m telling you. If I knew what it was do you think I’d waste my time looking for it? If I knew what it was it would love me. It would adore me and be next to me all the time. But because I don’t know what it is, it doesn’t recognize me, I don’t recognize it. That’s why there’s no meaning in my life.

memran: There’s no meaning in your life?

fornes: No meaning at all. It is all despair, it is all anguish, it is all desire. They think I am in for fun, they think I am in for sex, they think I am in for romance. No, no, no, no, no, no. I am all for the meaning of life. Now I say good night to you because I have given too much of my inner self to this camera and the camera does not understand. I’m sorry, darling, but the camera — you are a camera, right? It is too complex for you, poor little camera. All you understand is the moment: today, right now, this instant and nothing more. Life is much more profound than that! I did explain it to you beautifully, and you can watch the reel over and over until you understand, and then you call me on the telephone and say, “Irene, I finally understand!” Then I will rejoice beyond belief that you, my little camera, have understood. I might even call you and say, “Darling, will you tell me what it was you understood, because I don’t understand it?” Not every day. I will call you those days and ask, “Tell me, little camera, what is the fulfillment of life? Where is it? Is it in my sexual organs? Is it in my brain? Do you have the answer now, my little camera?” “No.” “You do?” “No.” Little camera, because you don’t understand everything, you have made me think about things that I haven’t thought ever. I adore you for that, my little camera. Do you love me, too? Yes, thank you.

memran: That was a whole monologue.

fornes: That was a very profound monologue, don’t you think? Did the little camera take it all? Did you have enough film? Because I would love to see that. It wasn’t all stupid, was it? It came from a very innocent or naïve mentality, but it went into very profound things. Usually when I have a camera focused on me I go very flat. Here I felt that I could go on and on. Was I boring? It would be funny if you said, “You were terribly boring.” I would say, “Why didn’t you stop me?” And you would say, “Well, that’s what I was looking for, I was looking for the boring section of the movie. Every movie needs a boring section and that’s what I was looking for, so I was quite happy with it.”

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