Les laveurs de cerveaux


or The human Traschen

Editions L’Harmattan & L’Institut Français de Bucarest, Paris 1994

Translated from the French by Sharon E. Gerstenberger

Actors : one, two, three, etc… it is the director who decides.



The texts gathered under this title are actually theatrical modules to assemble.The author imposed no specific order.

These texts are like the fragments of a broken mirror. At one time, the object existed in perfect condition. It reflected the sky, the world, and the human soul. And there was - no one knows when or why - the explosion. The remaining pieces are undoubtedly part of the original substance. And it is within this adherence to the original substance that their unity resides, their perfume, their atmospheric identity.

For the rest, the game lies in trying to reconstruct the original object. But to do so is impossible because no one has ever seen the original mirror, or knows how it used to be. And perhaps certain pieces are missing… Nevertheless, the task is fascinating because each time we assemble the modules, we still construct something… a mirror that is never perfect, but reflects many things. The game has no end. It can also enable the actors to search, each time they perform, for another story, another mirror.

With these monologues, which invite the construction of a whole, the author would like to impose upon the director a single constraint: absolute liberty.

The Man in the Circle

If I want to be alone, I stop. I take a piece of black chalk from my pocket, and I trace a circle around myself. In my circle, I am sheltered. No one has the right, or the power to say a word to me while I am inside my circle. No one has the right or the power to enter it, to touch me, or even to look at me for too long.

When I am in my circle, I no longer hear the noises of the street, the ocean’s waves, the cries of birds. I can remain here motionless as long as I want. I don’t care about anything that happens around me anymore. The circle isolates me from the outside world and from myself. It is total bliss, it is peace.

Inside the circle we cease to feel cold, hunger or pain. Time stops. We plunge into the abstract like a protective dream. We become the center of the circle.

When I want to leave the circle, I simply reach out with my hand and break the line of the circle. No one can do this but me. No one can break the circle for me from the outside. The miracle of the circle is that it offers us complete security.

Since the circle was invented, the world is getting better. There are no longer wars, famines or disasters. Crime has dropped. If we are overcome by nausea, we encircle ourselves. If someone gets on our nerves, we enter the circle. If a thief breaks into our house at night, we quickly close ourselves within the circle.

If we leave for a long voyage and are tired, we can rest within the circle. If we cannot find the answer to a fundamental question, the circle is the best place to think about it. If death approaches and we do not want to die, we can vegetate indefinitely in the circle.

We can never lock two people in the same circle at the same time. Some tried, but happened. A circle for two does not exist, and we are certain that it never will.

There are people who have tried to bring small animals in the circle with them: dogs, cats, mice. But still nothing happened. If there is another living being next to you inside the circle, it doesn’t work anymore.

Since people have taken to using the circle regularly, the appearance of the city has completely changed. Circles are everywhere. There are people who simply situate themselves on the sidewalk or in the middle of the street, closed in their circles. There are those who don’t come out of it for days at a time. In large waiting rooms, in public places, in train stations, we see nothing but people curled up, as if forgotten in their circles. It is much quieter and cleaner now.

At first, it was necessary to have magnetic black chalk to be able to draw the circle. The chalk was rather expensive and most people were unable to buy it. Little by little, the price of chalk dropped and colored chalks were also for sale. Finally, they were given out for free in the city halls.

Today, we are aware that one no longer needs chalk to draw a circle around him or her. The circle can be drawn using the end of a pencil, a lipstick, or even with a fingernail.

Everyone agrees that the circle presents the ultimate miracle cure. Here it is the end of the century and no one is unhappy anymore.

Polls show that the inhabitants of the city spend more than one hundred days each year in their circle. They have already completed a census of those who have not left their circles for five years, ten years, twenty years. Undoubtedly, they have tasted eternity.

But I’m not bothered by those certain rumors that have been running through the city recently. They say that the circles conceal a trap, that sometimes we enter it forever. They speak of people blocked in their circle against their will. They claim that those who live in their circles for ten or twenty years are, in reality, prisoners. It is also said that, for some time now, the majority of circles no longer obey men. It is said that there are many people who, once encircled, discover that they can on longer reopen their cages.

And that they will never leave again.

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This simplicity of language is crucial to the meaning of Visniec’s text, creating a contrast between the straightforwardness of the language and the complexity of the ideas. These images are so immediate and direct for their simplicity, instantly grasped and instantly visualized, allowing the listener to be struck first by their imagery and then slowly by their message. (…)

It is this emotion at the core of each piece—very often loneliness, solitude and alienation—that I have tried to convey through my translation. These monologues are unusual in that they contain almost no direction from the playwright as to how each is to be staged, and almost no description of the person speaking. The age, race, gender, nationality, religion and profession of the speaker are never mentioned, and instead only their emotional state is revealed.

Visniec has accomplished this through a remarkable mixture of directness and ambiguity. The characters speak simply and directly about the daily events of their lives, but never fall into self-reflection or psychoanalysis. (…)

Another effect of this mixture of directness and ambiguity in this text is to blur the line between reality and fantasy. Visniec himself describes these texts as “dreamlike.” The situations described aren’t striking for their strangeness so much as for resembling everyday life gone wrong. “The Runner,” for example, is not just about a man who cannot stop running, but a man who runs every single day under the watchful eyes of the city and cannot communicate his state of emergency to them. The routine of a daily run, of greeting the same people everyday on your run, of being trapped on a course with no opportunity for change are all familiar experiences expressed through the surreal experience of starting a run that you cannot stop. This tension between the familiar and the unfamiliar is crucial to the effect of the piece.

(Sharon E. Gerstenberger)

First produced in Romania by THEATRE MUNDI and French Cultural Institute, directed by Catalina Buzoianu, 1993

Festival International des Francophonies en Limousin, France 1994

Company Drolatic Industry, France 2005, directed by Eric Deniaud

International Theater TEP, Paris 2004, directed by Gabriel Garan

Others productions : Romania, Moldavia, Canada, Italy…



English (translation Sharon E. Gerstenberger)

Italian (translation Ivano Bruno)

Serbo-Croatian (translation Julijan Ursulesku, Sonja Jovanovici)

Russian (translation Larissa Ovadis et Natalia Levkoeva)

German (translation Agata Mozolewska)

Arabic (translation Romeo Yousif)

Arabic – Maroc (translation Brahim Hanaï)

Bulgarian (translation Ivan Radev)

Japanese (translation Kanta Tanizima)


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