The following piece is based on a play of the above name by Wolfgang Borchert. In English the title is translated as ‘the man outside’ . It was first performed in 1947 on radio, a very dark play it concerns life and death in immediate post war Germany. Whilst it is natural to say ‘serves them right’ and have no sympathy for the bleak and dangerous land that was the defeated Germany, that same opinion ,which was voiced in severe punitive measures at the end of the 1st world war, in part contributed to the political and socio-economic turmoil which led to the second world war.
The play is about a displaced soldier trying to come to terms with defeat and the sudden realisation that he was part of something corrupt. He seeks solace somewhere, anywhere, walking the shattered streets amongst the death and destruction. But every door he knocks on is closed to him, he is always ‘outside the door’. At the end, he tries to commit suicide in the river, as countless others are doing. But even this door is closed to him, fate sentencing him to never have peace. The play and poem are full of allegory, for example, anyone whose interested the ‘man of black’ is of course Death.
Outside the door
The river’s good to me says the man of black,
examining tragedy washed up on the shore,
he’s bloated with glee, proud of the stack
of emptiness that grows ever more .
The air sings the constant wail of the old man,
bereft of hope, weeping for his children lost,
a lament for the ones who from him ran,
into the maelstrom at terrible cost.
A shuffling figure trapped in a broken street,
stopping every few yards to knock on a door
but none will open for him to rest his feet
and ease the burden of the horrors he saw.
He hears the bloated one whisper his name,
‘my river friend will let you in, knock no more’
but the dark icy waters know of his shame
and he finds himself again outside the door.