THE LAST DAYS OF MANKIND ACT I SCENE 14
The apartment of Elfriede Ritter, an actress who has recently returned from Russia. Half-unpacked cases. Two journalists press her with questions. They hold her arms and press her with questions.
JOURNALISTS (simultaneously): Are there scars from the Cossack whips? Show us! We need all the particulars, every detail! What about Moscow?
JOURNALIST 1: We want the minutiae in the evening edition!
JOURNALIST 2: We need the real feel for the morning edition!
ELFRIEDE RITTER (the accent of North Germany, smiling): Gentlemen, it is so sweet that my darling Vienna has retained its affection for me. But with the best will in the world I can really say no more than nothing happened, what else, the journey home was arduous, but not in the least stressful and (mischievous) I am delighted to be in my beloved Vienna.
JOURNALIST 2: An arduous journey, she admits -
JOURNALIST 1: Stressful – hang on, I wrote the first part of this in the office – (writing) Rescued from the torments of Russian bondage, after the completion of an arduous and stressful journey, actress Elfriede Ritter wept tears of joy at the thought of being, once again, in her beloved Vienna.
ELFRIEDE RITTER (wagging a scolding finger): My dear Herr Füchsl, you write for a newspaper of record, that’s not what I said, at all –
JOURNALIST 1: (Writing) She looks back on her ordeal with stoicism.
ELFRIEDE RITTER: What – this is outrageous –
JOURNALIST 1 (writing): However, when the visitor jogs her memory, she is once again in the grip of outrage. In affecting words Fräulein Ritter –
ELFRIEDE RITTER: What are you trying to do – I cannot say -
JOURNALIST 1: She hardly dares say it –
ELFRIEDE RITTER: No, the truth is – I simply can’t say –
JOURNALIST 2: My dear Fräulein, the public wants to read this, you can speak out. Perhaps not in Russia, but here thank God freedom of speech prevails, here you can say anything at all about conditions in Russia! Did any Russian newspaper pay you the kind of attention we are? Exactly!
ELFRIEDE RITTER: This is ridiculous – if I had grounds for the slightest complaint, harassment and so on, do you really think I’d keep it a secret?
JOURNALIST 1 (writing): Still shaking with anger, the actress describes how she was ridiculed by a mob, harassed by government officials, over the slightest complaint, and then forced to keep all these incidents a secret.
ELFRIEDE RITTER: But it’s not true!
JOURNALIST 1 (looking up): Not – true? I’m taking down your every word! Do you suggest our papers would carry something that isn’t true?
JOURNALIST 2: The casting committee will be meeting at the Burgtheater on Saturday, for Faust, and if I say anything about this to the director it will be Fräulein Berger who ends up playing Gretchen, I promise you!
JOURNALIST 1: This is the thanks Herr Fuchs gets for lauding you in his reviews? If he gets wind of this, just watch out on your next first night!
JOURNALIST 2: You’re a sore point with Herr Wolf as it is, since his play. He is very anti-Russian, if you haven’t got any grievances against Russia –
ELFRIEDE RITTER (imploringly): I only – wanted to tell the truth –
JOURNALIST 1 (angry): So we’re lying, are we?
ELFRIEDE RITTER: As a woman I don’t have the correct perspective sometimes - I’m just glad to have escaped from enemy soil - in one piece -
JOURNALIST 2: You see, now you’re remembering, bit by bit –
ELFRIEDE RITTER: Yes, gentlemen. Joy is welling up in me, just being back in Vienna again – made everything I’d survived seem rosier, for a moment – now, yes - rage and resentment are taking hold of me again –
JOURNALIST 1 (writing): Rage and resentment still grip the artist as she recalls the torments she endured; her outpourings of joy at her return to the metropolis give way to dark memories – (turning to her) Isn’t that the truth?
 Seems to be a fictitious character; Ritter means ‘knight’; so Knight for her valiant attempt at honesty.
 Here the two journalists we met on the Ringstrasse, who will represent Vienna’s press throughout now; in the original there are three: Füchsl, Feigl and Halberstam (Foxspawn, Craven, Blockhead).
 In Vienna at this time the words ‘journalist’, ‘newspaper’, ‘press’ assume qualities of honesty, probity, intelligence and assiduousness in the pursuit of the truth that were shared by almost everyone except Karl Kraus; since Kraus’s cynical view of the press is now almost universal it has been necessary, in translating these words, to expand on such ideas in places, hence ‘newspaper of record’, itself a very dog-eared term.
 Goethe ‘Faust, Pt I’; Gretchen becomes Faust’s lover, tragically ensnared in his pact with the Devil.
 The journalists throw up three people who can threaten Elfriede Ritter’s career, a critic, a playwright and, perhaps, a producer; they are named for carnivorous hunters and scavengers: Fox, Wolf and Lion.