The Great War is over. It is the summer of 1920, in rural France. By a dusty road, a girl is sitting under the shade of an apple tree. She sees someone walking towards her. He is a young man, just back from fighting in Syria. He joins her under the tree, and a tragic love story begins.
Often compared to Chekhov, and much admired by Harold Pinter, Jean-Jacques Bernard creates a unique emotional landscape of beauty and longing, desire and disappointment.
Martine was written in 1922 and John Fowles wrote this translation for a revival at the National Theatre in 1985.
Jean-Jacques Bernard was born in 1888, the son of leading French dramatist Tristan Bernard. Martine, his story of youth and romance in post-War France remains the best-known of all his plays. Bernard belonged to a group of artists called La Chimère, who attacked the prevailing melodramatic theatre (which they described as ‘an armchair between dinner and bedtime’) and pioneered drama that was domestic in action and naturalistic in style. His other plays include L’Invitation au Voyage, Nationale 6 and The Gardener of Ispahan. As a Jew living in occupied France, he was imprisoned during the Second World War in the notorious Compiègne camp and narrowly escaped deportation. He died in 1972.
John Fowles (1926-2005) was an English novelist. After reading French at Oxford University, he became a teacher before starting to write. His best-known works include The Collector (1963), The Magus (1966) and The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) which was later made into an Oscar-nominated film with a screenplay by Harold Pinter. He also completed two other translations for the National Theatre—Don Juan (1981) and Lorenzaccio (1983). He was named by The Times in 2008 as one of the 50 greatest post-War writers.