Aaron Kunin, p.1


"The Sore Throat" is a translation of Maurice Maeterlinck's play Pelléas et Mélisande into a severely limited vocabulary of about 200 words. I don't know whether it could actually be staged; it might make more sense to say that the poems narrate a performance of Pelléas that takes place in a community that only has about 200 words at its disposal.

The Maeterlinck play is full of extravagant gestures: perhaps the most famous scene is one in which Pelléas ties strands of Mélisande's hair to a tree and then climbs into the tree, thus creating, out of a projection from his lover's head, an environment that he can inhabit. What I respond to in the play, and in the musical adaptations by Debussy and Schoenberg, is the obsessive sensitivity to nuances of feeling. Pelléas and Mélisande are so timid, and their expressive range is so precise, that they barely register on a human scale; whereas Golaud is a sort of raw emotion seeking to articulate itself. For me, Golaud is the crucial figure, because his problem—subjection to sensations for which he has no language—is also the problem of this translation.