Monday, September 12, 2011

The memorandum: Language Troubles.

There are many instances in history where a work of art- a novel, a poem or a play, was made for the purpose of criticizing certain corrupt elements of the society, and even after decades, after the society in question is long dead, these works still stand relevant. Like Joseph Heller's Catch 22, written as an antiwar novel, can be an allegory of corruption in any organisation existing today. Or parallels of George Orwell's novels, that were anti communist propaganda, can be spotted in any capitalist or semi capitalist societies in modern times.

The Memorandum is a political satire written by Czech playwright and first President of Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel , to showcase the inefficient and absurd operation of the Communist regime that ruled Czechoslovakia then. Now when the same play is re-watched much of the happenings seems absolutely plausible in any multinational corporate giants' offices. 

The Managing Director of a company Josef Gross, is struggling to make out the meaning of a memo that he received that morning which is written in an absurd language. His secretary informs him that it is a new language, Ptydepe, that is introduced in the firm to make the work place communication efficient and error free. The move is made by his deputy Ballas. Gross wants Ballas to cancel this absurd introduction, but Ballas refuses and gets ready to fight his boss. Some dirty office politics follows. Gross cuts a sorry figure when he goes from department to department to get the memo in Ptydepe translated. The segments were the teaching of the new language is shown is hilarious. Gross steps down as Managing Director when the office watcher, a worker whose job is to spy on others, finds that he broke the rules in getting the memo translated. The new boss Ballas finds it equally difficult to manage things as it goes out of his hands too. Finally Gross is reinstated as MD and ultimate causality is a typist, who helps Gross in translating the text out of pity. She is fired. Ptydepe is abandoned and a new language is introduced to better it. 


  1. Where did you watch this play? And thanks for the mention in your blog list.

  2. This play was shown at Rangashankara, Bangalore.

  3. Absurd is a literary genre, i think..

  4. This is an new concept - the issue about the play I mean. It would have been nice to see it I am sure

  5. @tomz: hm.. And a very interesting genre... :)

    @meera: yes. It was an interesting play.