Prix Laurence - Bettembourg Prix Laurence 2020 - Luxembourg

Prix Laurence 2020

Thiel Jelena - The Gravediggers, or: A bit about a plague.

London, (presumably) 1665. Two Gravediggers with shovels, we’ll call them Cuthbert and Humphrey. A bell.



H [Ringing Bell]: Bring out yer dead! [More Ringing] Bring out yer dead! Oh, there’s a young little thing.


C: Here’s a bloke from town council.


H: You know ’im?


C: Made little Fear-God get lashes for stealin’ a cheese.


H: The rascal.


C: The official? Or my hellspawn?—He comes after his mother.


H: [shrugs] Eh.


[More Ringing of Bells, shouting ‘Bring out yer dead’]


C: You know, I think he may be ripe for comin’ to work with me soon. I’ll show him the way around a shovel so he can follow in his father’s footsteps one day.


H: ‘Ow old is he again?


C: Seven.


H: Oh yeah, about time if ye ask me. Shan’t be truant.


[They begin to dig, Humphrey is whistling a seventeenth-century tune that may have more than a passing similarity to John Lennon’s Imagine ]


C: Stop that.


H: Huh?


C: The singin’. Gives me a headache.


H: It helps me work. And not think about the smell.


C: Then sing something else.


H: Don’t you like that one? Everyone likes that one!


C: I’m sick of it. I keep losin’ sleep over them singing it at their little balls in their great big houses. No one cares. People are perishin’ in the streets. It’s the End Times, I tell you. The Cavaliers were the Antichrist and this here is Pestilence on ‘is white horse.


H: I- I’ll sing something else then.


[They keep shoveling. Humphrey whistles We are the world (We are the children….) A first corpse is dragged into the pit.]


C [stopping suddenly]: You know, just lately I’ve talked to a man moanin’ about how the playhouses wouldn’t open. Said he missed the chap from Stratford, and the newer ones too. Very upset about the coffeehouses closin’, and the mollyhouses.


H: What ‘appened with him?


C [Looking into the pit.]  You just dropped him in there.


H: Ah.

[They get back to their work.]


H: I heard tobacco helps ‘gainst the sickness. People swear by it now to escape the bad air.


C: Well I do s’pose there’s not much to do these days beside smoke.


H: Any way you take it—I’m jolly busy.


C: Oh yeah—for them I mean. They want their Nell Gwynn and their cockfights and dishwater ale ‘til the wee morning hours. They wanna painted French Jezebel and a dignified bar brawl to make ‘em feel alive. And who’s kept occupied by that?


H: Well—


C: Us. We have to shovel all the pits.


H: The rats aren’t lazin’ about either.


C: — and the doctors too. They’re like crows without wings, always runnin’ somewhere to go poke a boil or two. I heard some of ‘em aren’t even qualified.




H: I would this plague had never come to London Town.


C: Alas. Even the King chickened out by now. He’s out of town.


H: You know, some say it was those ghastly Huns who first brought it to us, way back. Or the Genovans. Or the Jews…[he thinks about that, just a micrometre away from self-awareness about the general prejudices of the time]

 …when something bad happens people always say it’s the Jews.


C: I don’t know, Humphrey…

[finger raised in accusation]

 My money’s on them witches.


H: Witches?


C: Witches, I tell you. Large gatherings in the woods at night. No distance. No decency. Consortin’ with the Devil. Always takin’ baths with weird herbs in ‘em. And they don’t seem to be dyin’ of the plague as much…


H: That seems—


C: Suspicious is what it seems.


H: Fair enough, fair enough…So we’re not the only ones who’ve been busy, then.


C: Busy dying.


H: Busy digging.


C: All day everyday except on Sundays.


H: Half a day off has to suffice. Diggin’s what we’re paid for after all.


C: We get paid?


H: I think.


C: S’ in their best interest. Just think what would happen if we stopped.


H: Oh…


C: Bodies pilin’ up in the streets, the horrible stench spreadin’ the pestilence with even more haste. People would watch their loved ones decay in front of their windows for weeks…You know, the fingers and eyes get nicked by stray animals sometimes.


H: Zounds!


C: It’s a good thing we keep digging, innit?


H: It’s a good thing indeed. Now help me shovel some earth on toppa these blokes, may God rest their souls.


[They pile dirt into the pit. Humphrey is whistling Heal the world]


ageschéckt den: 15:59 Sun, 14 June 2020 vum: Thiel Jelena



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Kleng Lecture, déi Iech vläicht weiderbréngt:


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Roman, Luchterhand, 2019


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Roman, KiWi, 2020


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Roman, Hanser, 2019

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Gedichte, engl./dtsch., Hanser, 2020

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Matthes & Seitz Berlin, 2018

mat 15 Joer
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Roman, éditions guy binsfeld, 2019


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Lyrik, éditions guy binsfeld, 2019


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Eine politische Biografie (1912 - 1919)
éditions guy binsfeld, 2019

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Stories, essays, poetry

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017

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Der Briefwechsel, Suhrkamp, 2019


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Die Gedichte, Schöffling, 2018


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éditions Bruno Doucey, 2018


-  An den Ufern der Dunkelheit
Gedichte aus Palästina
Fischer Taschenbuch, 2013


-  Warum ich nicht im Netz bin
Gedichte und Prosa aus dem Krieg
Suhrkamp, 2016


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Hrsgb. Jan Ulenbrook
Reclam, 2018


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