Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Screens

by Jean Genet Translated from French by Bernard Frechtman

“Only a true poet, a man possessed of verbally imagined artistry, could write such a play as The Screens. . . . [It] reveals a fabulous theatrical imagination, a joy in the creation of stage hyperbole.” —Harold Clurman, The Nation

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 208
  • Publication Date April 01, 1971
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5158-2
  • Dimensions 5.38" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

Jean Genet was one of the world’s greatest contemporary dramatists, and his last play, The Screens, is his crowning achievement. It strikes a powerful, closing chord to the formidable theatrical work that began with Deathwatch and continued, with even bolder variations, in The Maids, The Balcony, and The Blacks.

Explicitly political, The Screens is set within the context of the Algerian War. The play’s cast of over fifty characters moves through seventeen scenes, the world of the living breaching the world of the dead by means of shifting the screens—the only scenery—in a brilliant tour de force of spectacle and drama.


“Only a true poet, a man possessed of verbally imagined artistry, could write such a play as The Screens. . . . [It] reveals a fabulous theatrical imagination, a joy in the creation of stage hyperbole.” —Harold Clurman, The Nation

“A play of epic range, of original and devastating theatrical effect. . . a tidal wave of total theater.” —Jack Kroll, Newsweek

“A shocking, brutal, but magnificently dramatic and human work . . . a culmination of everything Genet has done.” —Roger Blin


Scene One

Four-paneled screen. Painted on the screen: a palm tree, an Arab grave.

At the foot of the screen, a rock pile. Left, a milestone on which is written: AÏN/SOFAR, 2 Miles.

Blue light, very harsh.

SAÏD’S costume: green trousers, red jacket, tan shoes, white shirt, mauve tie, pink cap.

THE MOTHER’s costume: violet satin dress, patched all over in different shades of violet. Big yellow veil. She is barefooted. Each of her toes is painted a different—and violent—color.

SAÏD (twenty years old), tie askew. His jacket is completely buttoned. He enters from behind the screen. As soon as he is visible to the audience, he stops, as if exhausted. He turns toward the wing from which he entered and cries out.

SAÏD: Rose! (A pause.) I said rose! The sky’s already pink as a rose. The sun’ll be up in half an hour. . . . (He waits, rests on one foot, and wipes his face.) Don’t you want me to help you? (Silence.) Why? No one can see us.

(He wipes his shoes with his handkerchief. He straightens up.) Watch out! (He is about to rush forward, but remains stock-still, watchful.) No, no, it was a grass snake. (He speaks less loudly as the invisible person seems to draw closer. His tone finally becomes normal.) I told you to put your shoes on.

Enter an old Arab woman, all wrinkled. Violet dress, yellow veil. Barefooted. On her head, a cardboard valise. She too has emerged from behind the screen, but from the other side. She is holding her shoes—a red button-boot and a white pump.

THE MOTHER: I want them to be clean when I get there.

SAÏD (crossly): You think they’ll have clean shoes? And new shoes besides? And even clean feet?

THE MOTHER (now coming up to SAÏD): What do you expect? That they have new feet?

SAÏD: Don’t joke. Today I want to stay sad. I’d hurt myself on purpose to be sad. There’s a rock pile. Go take a rest.

He takes the valise, which she is carrying on her head, and puts it down at the foot of the palm tree. THE MOTHER sits down.

THE MOTHER (smiling): Sit down.

SAÏD: No. The stones are too soft for my ass. I want everything to make me feel blue.

THE MOTHER (still smiling): You want to stay sad? I find your situation comical. You, my only son, are marrying the ugliest woman in the next town and all the towns around, and your mother has to walk six miles to go celebrate your marriage. (She kicks the valise.) And to bring the family a valise full of presents. (Laughing, she kicks again and the valise falls.)

SAÏD (sadly): You’ll break everything if you keep it up.

THE MOTHER (laughing): So what? Wouldn’t you get a kick out of opening, in front of her eyes, a valise full of bits of porcelain, crystal, lace, bits of mirror, salami. . . . Anger may make her beautiful.

SAÏD: Her resentment will make her funnier looking.

THE MOTHER (still laughing): If you laugh until you cry, your tears’ll bring her face into focus. But the point is, you wouldn’t have the courage . . .

SAÏD: To . . .

THE MOTHER (still laughing): To treat her as an ugly woman. You’re going to her reluctantly. Vomit on her.

SAÏD (gravely): Should I really? What’s she done to marry me? Nothing.

THE MOTHER: AS much as you have. She’s left over because she’s ugly. And you, because you’re poor. She needs a husband, you a wife. She and you take what’s left, you take each other. (She laughs. She looks at the sky.) Yes, sir, it’ll be hot. God’s bringing us a day of light.

SAÏD (after a silence): Don’t you want me to carry the valise? No one would see you. I’ll give it back to you when we get to town.

THE MOTHER: God and you would see me. With a valise on your head you’d be less of a man.

SAÏD (very surprised): Does a valise on your head make you more of a woman?

THE MOTHER: God and you . . .

SAÏD: God? With a valise on my head? I’ll carry it in my hand. (She says nothing. After a silence, pointing to the valise): What did you pay for the piece of yellow velvet?

THE MOTHER: I didn’t pay for it. I did laundry at the home of the Jewess.

SAÏD (counting in his head): Laundry? What do you get for each job?

THE MOTHER: She doesn’t usually pay me. She lends me her donkey every Friday. And what did the clock cost you? It doesn’t run, true enough, but it’s a clock. . . .

SAÏD: It’s not paid for yet. . . . I still have sixty feet of wall to mason. Djellul’s barn. I’ll do it the day after tomorrow. What about the coffee grinder?

THE MOTHER: And the eau de Cologne?

SAÏD: Didn’t cost much. But I had to go to Aïn Targ to get it. Eight miles there, eight miles back.

THE MOTHER (smiling): Perfumes for your princess! (Suddenly, she listens.) What’s that?

SAÏD (looking into the distance, left): Monsieur Leroy and his wife on the national highway.

THE MOTHER: If we’d stopped at the crossing, they might have given us a lift.


THE MOTHER: Normally they wouldn’t have, but you’d have explained that it’s your wedding day . . . that you’re in a hurry to see the bride . . . and I’d have so enjoyed seeing myself arrive in a car.

A silence.

SAÏD: Want to eat something? There’s the roast chicken in a corner of the valise.

THE MOTHER (gravely): You’re crazy, it’s for the meal. If a leg were missing, they’d think I raised crippled chickens. We’re poor, she’s ugly, but not enough to deserve one-legged chickens.

A silence.

SAÏD: Won’t you put your shoes on? I’ve never seen you in high-heeled shoes.

THE MOTHER: I’ve worn them twice in my life. The first time, the day of your father’s funeral. Suddenly I was up so high I saw myself on a tower looking down at my grief that remained on the ground, where they were burying your father. One of the shoes, the left one, I found in a garbage can. The other, by the wash-house. The second time I wore them was when I had to receive the bailiff who wanted to foreclose on the shanty. (She laughs.) A dry board shanty, dry but rotten, rotten but resonant, so resonant you could see our noises zooming by, only them, our noises shooting through, your father’s and mine, our noises reflected by a slope, we lived there, slept there, in that drum, as in broad daylight, which let our life shoot through the rotten boards where our sounds, our noises, our voices shot through, a rip-roaring place that shanty! And the bailiff wanting to foreclose on it, but me . . . standing there, on the tips of my toes and resting on my heels, I felt mighty proud, and even haughty. My head was touching the corrugated tin. I pointed to the door and put the bailiff out.

SAÏD: Good for you, mother! Put on your high-heeled shoes.

THE MOTHER: But child, there’s still two miles to go. My feet’ll hurt and I may break the heels.

SAÏD (very sternly): Put on your shoes. (He hands her the shoes, one white, the other red. THE MOTHER puts them on without a word. He looks at her while she straightens up.) You’re beautiful in them. Keep them on, and dance! Dance! (She takes two or three steps, like a model, quite elegantly in fact.) Keep dancing, madame. And you, palm trees, lift your hair, lower your heads—or brows, as they say—so you can look at my old lady. And, for a second, let the wind stop short, let it look, there’s the party! (To THE MOTHER): Dance, old girl, on your unbreakable legs, dance! (He bends down and speaks to the stones.) And you too, pebbles, look at what’s going on above you. Let my old lady stamp on you like a revolution on the king’s highway. . . . Hurrah! . . . Boom! Boom! (He imitates a cannon.) Boom! Zoom! Boom! (He roars with laughter.)

THE MOTHER (echoing him, while dancing): And boom! . . . And bang! . . . Whang! Zoom! Boom! . . . boom! . . . On the king’s highway. (To SAÏD): Go on, imitate lightning!

SAÏD (still laughing): And boom! And whang! Whee! . . . Whaaw! . . . Zeee! (He imitates lightning with his voice and gestures.)

THE MOTHER (still dancing): Whang! . . . Boom! . . . Whaaw . . . Zeee! (She imitates lightning.)

SAÏD: Boom! . . . Boom! My dancing mother, my prancing mother is streaming with sweat. (He looks at her from a distance.) Streams of it rolling down from your temples to your cheeks, from your cheeks to your tits, from your tits to your belly. . . . And you, dust, take a look at my mother, see how beautiful and proud she is beneath the sweat and on her high heels! (THE MOTHER keeps smiling and dancing.) You’re beautiful. I’ll carry the valise. Whee! . . .

He imitates lightning. He reaches for the valise, but THE MOTHER grabs it first. A brief struggle. They burst out laughing, imitate thunder and lightning. The valise falls to the ground and opens, and everything falls out: it was empty, SAÏD and THE MOTHER fall to the ground and sit there roaring with laughter.

THE MOTHER (laughing and holding out her hands to catch invisible drops): It’s a storm. The whole wedding’ll be drenched.

They leave, shivering, that is, they go behind the screen.

Scene Two

The brothel. Two screens. Seated at a table covered with a multicolored cloth, right, are three clients. The two whores are standing motionless, left.

Costumes of the two whores:

MALIKA: Gold lamé dress, high-heeled black shoes, a kind of gilt, oriental tiara. Her hair falls on her shoulders. She is twenty years old.

WARDA: Dress of very heavy gold lamé, high-heeled red shoes, her hair coiled up in a huge blood-red chignon. Her face is very pale. She is about forty.

The men sitting in the brothel are wearing shabby, Italian-style suits (short jacket, narrow trousers) of different shades of gray. Each is wearing a skirt of violent color: red, green, yellow, blue.

WARDA has a very long and very thin false nose.

A MAID is kneeling at WARDA’s feet and applying grease paint to them.

WARDA is wearing a pink petticoat as full as a crinoline. Nearby, on a wicker dummy, a gold petticoat and cloak.

MUSTAPHA (making an observation): You’re the more beautiful.

WARDA (to THE MAID, in a drawling voice): Thick . . . thicker, the white on my ankles . . . (She is picking her teeth with a kind of long gilt-headed hatpin.) It’s the white that keeps the skin taut. . . . (She spits out, far off, what she had between her teeth.) Completely decayed . . . The whole back of my mouth is in ruins.

MUSTAPHA (to BRAHIM, in a very sharp tone): A whore’s job is harder than ours.

The three men keep watching the preparations, open-mouthed.

WARDA (counting her bracelets): There’s one missing. You’ll bring it in. I have to be heavy. (A pause, and then, as if to herself.) A bracelet missing! As if I were a coffin and a hammerstroke were missing. (To MUSTAPHA): The night begins with dressing up, with painting. When the sun’s gone down, I can’t do a thing without my finery . . . not even spread my legs to piss, but rigged up in gold I’m the Queen of Showers.

THE MAID stands up and hands her the gold petticoat. Then, the ringing of a bell, indicating that a door is closing. From behind the screen, left, emerges a soldier of the Foreign Legion. He finishes buckling his belt and leaves, that is, he goes behind the second screen. Then MALIKA appears. A little less hieratic than WARDA, but nevertheless haughty and sulky. Pale face, with green make-up. She stops when she reaches WARDA, but without looking at anyone.

WARDA (to THE MAID): Now the hands. First the grease paint. And on the white you draw the veins. Blue. (THE MAID, who has a number of little paint pots, starts painting WARDA’s hands. To MALIKA): He wanted you to . . .?

MALIKA (motionless): Dane or no Dane. I’m not a waitress.

WARDA: . . . to get undressed? (MALIKA does not reply, but BRAHIM and MUSTAPHA burst out laughing.) You were right to refuse. Fix your belt.

MALIKA winds herself in a very long, gold muslin belt which was coming undone.

BRAHIM (standing up; in a very clear, very precise voice): In France, when you go to a whorehouse, the whore undresses. I’m talking about smart joints, those with chandeliers on the ceiling and an assistant madame in a hat with feathers. In a hat with flowers and feathers. (A pause.) And a chin strap under her chin.

WARDA (severely and wearily): Do you know what there is in the hem of my skirt? (To THE MAID): You’ll pick a rose.

THE MAID: A celluloid one?

BRAHIM (laughing, to WARDA): It’s heavy, in any case.

WARDA (to THE MAID): Red velvet. (To BRAHIM): Lead. Lead in the hems of my three petticoats. (The two men burst out laughing. MALIKA, still solemn, takes two or three steps.) It takes a man’s hand to turn them up, a man’s hand or mine.

The men laugh, MALIKA takes a hatpin from her hair and picks her teeth.

MALIKA: Not just anyone can approach our thighs. One must knock before entering.

WARDA (haughtily, same drawling, disillusioned voice): Twenty-four years! A whore’s not something you can improvise. She has to ripen. It took me twenty-four years. And I’m gifted! A man, what’s that? A man remains a man. In our presence, it’s he who strips like a whore from Cherbourg or Le Havre. (To THE MAID): The red velvet rose. But dust it.

THE MAID leaves.

MUSTAPHA (standing up): The French were pretty annoyed about our fucking their whores.

WARDA (with exaggerated contempt): Did they let you do anything else? They didn’t. So? Here what do you fuck? Us. The beauties weighted with leaded petticoats, when you’ve scraped together enough money in the sun, in the vineyards, or at night, in the mines, to pay us. It’s because we carry the treasures of the vines and mines under our skirts.

MUSTAPHA (to BRAHIM): She doesn’t think we’d have the courage . . .

MALIKA (interrupting him): Courage on a bicycle. When you pedal fast so as to make smutty remarks to the postmistress as you go by. Si Slimane . . .

BRAHIM (interrupting MALIKA): Him again!

WARDA: Because there’s no one like him. (A pause.) Unfortunately for us.

MALIKA: On his horse, in sixteen villages at the same time. A Kabyl from Saada told me that he had appeared on his horse in sixteen villages at the same time, but that in actual fact he was resting in the shade, at the side of a road. . . .

BRAHIM (laughing): At the side of a road, of a pink lip or of two brown lips? And standing on sixteen horses?

MALIKA: TO our misfortune. I was told so by a miner from Taroudent who was on his way home from work at two in the afternoon, because he’d injured himself. . . .

WARDA (irritated, and in a sharper tone): What she says about it is for the joy of the words, the delight of conversation, because if we had the misfortune to take the country’s misfortunes seriously, then farewell our misfortune and farewell our pleasures.

BRAHIM (to MALIKA): What was he injured with, the miner?

MALIKA: . . . his injury. Told me so. A butcher from the medina told me so. The Sidi Hamed postman told me so. A midwife her man told me so, my belt’s unbuckling.

WARDA (very annoyed, yet admiringly): Again! Let me have it. (She takes the red velvet rose which THE MAID, who has just entered, hands her. She shakes it and blows on it.)

MUSTAPHA (to MALIKA): They tell you everything.

MALIKA: A man comes for me, my belt unbuckles. This is the brothel, the men empty themselves, they tell me everything.

BRAHIM (with a burst of laughter): When your belt flies open . . .

>MALIKA (gravely): . . . it’s spreading its sails, a man’s on the way, bringing me cash. My dresses, my pins, my laces, my snap-buttons know it before I do. They sniff the hot meat. If a man, or a mail clerk, a kid, a policeman or an old geezer merely thinks of me, approaches or only looks in the direction of the neighborhood, my belt and dress scoot off. If I didn’t hold them back with both hands . . .

They all burst out laughing, except WARDA.

WARDA (to THE MAID, drawling, as before): Remember to empty the basin. (To MALIKA): And when a man’s meat calls me to the rescue, dresses, petticoats, jackets pile up on my shoulders and buttocks. They come out of the trunks, standing up, to array me. You knock yourself out, Malika. A real whore should be able to attract by what she’s reduced herself to being. I worked for years at my tooth cleaning with a hatpin. My style! (The two men, who are standing, approach her with very tiny steps and stare at her.) Not too close. (She makes a gesture at them with her hatpin to make them keep their distance. The men stop short and stare at her. A silence.)

WARDA (to THE MAID, after picking her teeth): Put some more grease on my hair. (A pause, then, to MUSTAPHA): You’re right not to believe in the hope that gallops on sixteen horses at the same time, but . . .

MUSTAPHA (gravely): In order to see you I come from the phosphate mines. I see you, it’s you I believe in, the more you clothe, the more you plaster yourself. . .

WARDA: My outfits! Underneath, there’s not much left . . .

MUSTAPHA (coming a step closer): What if death were there . . .

WARDA (stopping him with a gesture): It’s there. Quietly at work. You were talking about horses. . . .

AHMED (springing to his feet): Is hatred of the foreigners there?

MALIKA (surprised, but staring at AHMED): Under my belt? The fire that burns you there when you enter comes from that.

AHMED: IS it there?

BRAHIM (placing his hand on his heart, but still staring at WARDA): A hundred years after my death it will still be there.

AHMED: IS it there?

MUSTAPHA (still staring at WARDA): . . . in my underpants? It strikes harder there than in Brahim’s heart. It burns hotter there than under Malika’s belt.

AHMED: Is it . . .

WARDA (curtly, her voice suddenly very firm): Crap. The earth—though the darkness surrounding the whorehouse is thick—the earth of the walls is porous. And your wives listen in, the way one listens to the radio. (She spits out what she has just extracted from a tooth.)

AHMED: If it’s under your belts and behind our flies, why shouldn’t hope come running by there?

MALIKA: Because it wouldn’t gallop on sixteen horses, amidst sixteen paths, to rest there in the shade . . . (To AHMED, provocatively): If you come up with me, if you feel like it, I’ll let you have it at cost.

WARDA (curtly): Crap. (She bursts into very strident, very long laughter. A silence. A kind of anger suddenly comes over her.) Odd words now, plucked from the pages of newspapers and booklets. That’s what comes from being in a whorehouse and not wanting to be a total whore, down to the skeleton. (To THE MAID): My cloak.

THE MAID goes to get the cloak, which is on the wicker dummy, and returns with it while WARDA breaks out again into the same laughter.

AHMED (still in a state of excitement): What if . . .

Ringing of the bell of an entrance door which is opened and then closed. They all stop talking and look. WARDA turns around and makes a gesture. Then they all—except the two women—restrain a desire to laugh.

WARDA (speaking into the wing, and pushing back MUSTAPHA who was approaching): Unbutton yourself, SAÏD, I’m coming up. (To THE MAID): The basin?

THE MAID: Rinsed.

WARDA goes behind a screen, very solemnly. A rather long silence.

MALIKA: He has to go first, he’s had her booked since the eve of his wedding.

THE MAID, who has knelt at her feet, starts polishing her nails. The men and then THE MAID step back into the right wing, while MALIKA goes straight ahead into the same wing.

Scene Three

A four-paneled screen, which cuts the right corner of the stage, represents the interior of SAÏD’s house. A very poor interior. On the screen are drawn an oven, four pots, a frying pan, and a table. Near the screen are a bucket and a very low stool.

LEILA’s face will always be covered with a kind of black hood in which three holes have been pierced, two for the. eyes and one for the mouth.

THE MOTHER is wearing her violet satin dress. She will wear it eternally.

When the light goes on, LEILA is alone. She is running and skipping around a pair of worn, patched trousers (with multicolored patches) which is standing upright toward the left side of the stage.

LEILA beckons to the trousers to approach. They do not move. Bending forward, she therefore goes to them with tiny steps. She plants herself in front of them. She speaks to them:

LEILA: Well, won’t you move? You go strolling about at night in my dreams, you let the wind blow up your legs, but in my presence you play dead. And yet you’re alive, warm, ready for anything, for walking, pissing, spitting, coughing, smoking, farting like a man, and mounting a horse, and being mounted by me. . . .

We hear, off-stage, the cooing of pigeons, the clucking of hens, the crowing of a cock, the bark of a dog. All this is very sonorous and as if slightly parodic.

. . . no doubt about it, you’re better built than SAÏD. Even though your thighs are shaped like his, yours are more shapely. (She walks about the trousers and looks at them very attentively.) Your behind is rounder than his. (A pause.) But you don’t piss as far. Come, jump on me. If only you could manage to walk three yards—from here to the door—after that, it would be easy, we’d disappear, you and I, in the bushes . . . under the plum tree . . . behind the wall . . . behind another wall . . . the mountain, the sea . . . and me on your rump, on the rounded saddle of your two buttocks, I’d give you a run for your money. . . . (In front of the trousers, she imitates a horsewoman.) Giddy-ap! Come on! Giddy-ap! Giddy-ap! I’m whipping you, driving you, wearing you out, and when we get to the foot of the wall, I’ll unbutton you, rebutton you, and with my hands in the pockets . . .

THE MOTHER (behind the screen): Don’t come in. You’ve had your grain for the day.

We hear the same barnyard cries: chickens, cocks, dog, pig. LEILA takes the trousers, sits on the floor and starts to sew.

THE MOTHER (enters; it is she who has been imitating the animals. She continues for a moment, then): To a pair of pants! Declarations of love to a pair of patched pants. And thinking it would give you a ride! (She shrugs.) It’s better I tell you once and for all, and in plain language, because he won’t dare. And he’s not good-natured, like me: you’re hideous.

LEILA (continuing to sew): When I was beautiful . . .

THE MOTHER: Hideous. Don’t slobber on your hood.

LEILA: . . . beautiful . . . at night . . .

THE MOTHER: You’re kept under glass, like Roquefort cheese, because of the flies.

LEILA: At night, you think I marry Saïd who hasn’t a penny? And who’s not good-looking? And whom no woman ever looks at? What woman has ever turned around to look at Saïd?

THE MOTHER (points to a spot on the trousers): And your patch that’s inside out, it turned around to look at what?

LEILA (looking at the trousers): So it is. Why, so it is! It put itself on inside out. Saïd’ll be heartbroken.

THE MOTHER: He couldn’t care less. He knows what pants are. He puts his big legs into them, his ass and all the rest. His rank and titles. If he lays out his pants for the night, it’s; they who keep watch on a chair, it’s they who guard you and frighten you. They keep watch, they keep their eye on you. Saïd can doze away. He knows that pants have to live, and it’s the patches that keep them on their toes, and the liveliest are those that are inside out. Don’t worry. Saïd’s like me, he doesn’t mind things being loused up and tearing off in all directions till they reach some star or other, till the moment when trouble—are you listening to me?—grows so great that your husband’ll burst. With laughter. Will burst. With laughter. Since you’re ugly, be idiotic. And don’t slobber.

LEILA: If I slobber more, that’s proof I’m becoming more idiotic.

A gigantic shadow—that of SAÏD—appears on the white wall which forms the background of the stage. It remains motionless. The two women do not see it.

THE MOTHER: When night comes, you’ll go to the wash house. You’ll do the washing by moonlight. That’ll chap the skin of your fingers a little.

LEILA: And the clucking of the chickens, you think . . .

THE MOTHER: The farm’s useful. I want a barnyard around us. And I want it to come out of our bellies. Can you do the rooster?

LEILA (intently): Cock . . . cock . . . cock-a-doodle-doo!

THE MOTHER (angrily): That’s a damaged rooster. I won’t have it! Do it again.

LEILA (in a vibrant voice): Cock-a-doodle-dooo!

We hear a clearing of the throat, as if someone were going to spit. SAÏD has drawn closer. He is now visible. He is carrying a knapsack on his shoulder. Without looking at anyone, he stops and throws it down. Then he spits.

SAÏD: The cheese was mixed with the jam. I ate my bread dry. (To LEILA, who was about to get up): Remain squatting. Keep sewing.

THE MOTHER: I’m going to draw a bucket of water. (She picks up the bucket and leaves, that is, goes behind the screen.)

SAÏD (grimly, with his head down): I almost got into a fight.

LEILA: The soup’ll be ready in half an hour. (A pause.) It’ll be too salty.

SAÏD (harshly): You don’t ask me why I almost got into a fight because you know why. (A pause.) One day I scraped together all my savings, I added them up, I added all the odds and ends I’d picked up. . . .

LEILA (with sudden gravity): Saïd, be quiet.

SAÏD (continuing, more and more spitefully): . . . and I put in hours and days of overtime, and I added up again: it didn’t come to much, (LEILA is seized with a violent fit of trembling.) . . . Then I looked around me, I went over in my mind all the fathers who had daughters. There were loads of them, loads, loads! Dozens, hundreds, thousands . . .

LEILA (trembling more and more violently, and falling to her knees): Please, Saïd, be quiet! Please, Lord, please, stop up your ears, don’t listen to him!

SAÏD (with a fresh burst): . . . hundreds of thousands, but they all, every one of them, asked a few pennies more for the ugliest one they had left. So I got desperate. I still didn’t dare think of your father . . .

LEILA (weeping at SAÏD’s feet): Saïd, my handsome Said, be quiet! Lord, Lord God, don’t listen to him, it would pain you!< SAÏD: . . . finally, I dared think of him and I was flooded with kindness. I had to receive the ugliest one, and that would be nothing compared to my misfortune, but the cheapest one, and now I have to get into a fight every afternoon with the other farm hands who kid the shirt off me. And when I get home after a day's work, instead of comforting me, you purposely make yourself uglier by crying, (LEILA, in a squatting, almost crawling position, starts leaving, left.) Where are you going? LEILA (without getting up, without turning around): To wipe my nose in the garden, to wash away my snot and tears, and to comfort myself in the nettles. Exit LEILA. SAÏD (alone. He undoes one of his puttees and scratches his leg): And besides, the dough, all that dough I've got to shell out for the whorehouse! Enter THE MOTHER, very slowly, leaning to the right, for she is carrying a bucket full of water. She draws herself up when SAÏD makes a move to help her. THE MOTHER: We'll stint. Drive yourself to the limit of your strength. She, to the limit of hers. We'll see. (She puts down the bucket.) SAÏD: What's she doing in the nettles? THE MOTHER: Attending to the farm. We hear the imaginary barnyard sounds which LEILA is imitating off-stage. THE MOTHER doubles up with laughter that mingles with the crowing of cocks and cooing of pigeons.