Prologue Scene 2


Café Pucher.[1] The same evening, before midnight. The coffeehouse is almost empty; only two tables occupied. At one the General Manager of the Banking Association has just sat down. At the other sit two bald men, tipped cigarettes between lips, engrossed in humorous magazines. The cashier is asleep. A waiter amuses himself waving a napkin in front of her face. Another waiter is chased out of the kitchen by the coffee-chef with the help of a tea towel. The cook and the head waiter break into laughter.

HEAD WAITER, EDUARD:   Is this a shebeen now? Shame on you! There are government ministers reading, and Paula’s asleep! Shame!


HEAD WAITER, EDUARD:   Herr von Geiringer?[2]

BANKING ASSOCIATION MANAGER:   A cigar and the paper!

HEAD WAITER, EDUARD (Pulls a cigar box and a paper from his inner pocket and says):   A Havana trabuco[3] and something for the soul!

BANK ASSOCIATION MANGER:   There’s really no one in, is there? Why is it so empty today? And for once not even Professor Gomperz?[4]

HEAD WAITER, EDUARD:   Hardly anyone Herr von Geiringer.

BANK ASSOCIATION MANAGER:   Any telephone calls?

HEAD WAITER, EDUARD:   Not so far. Well, there’s the good weather of course – maybe the gentlemen have taken a break over the holiday –

BANK MANAGER:   So what’s the holiday today?

HEAD WAITER, EDUARD:   Saint Peter and Paul, Herr von Geiringer.

(While the two men continue their conversation a stranger enters. He sits at a table opposite the two elderly men. A waiter brings coffee.)

STRANGER:   Waiter, who are the two elderly men, they look familiar?

WAITER, FRANZ (leaning over the customer):   That’s the ministers’ table. The gentleman with the pince-nez, reading the Kleine Witzblatt[5], is His Excellency the Minister of the Interior, the one with pince-nez, studying Pschütt Cartoons[6], that’s His Excellency the Prime Minister.

STRANGER:  Oh, I see! So are they in here tonight, because of what’s happened today, or are they regulars?

WAITER, FRANZ:   Oh, they’re here every evening, yes, but then Their Excellencies are bachelors for the most part.

STRANGER:   What about the man who’s just joined them?

WAITER, FRANZ:   Yes – His Excellency the Cabinet Office Minister.


Franz rushes off and brings the Cabinet Office Minister a lemonade and a copy of Interessante Blatt.[7] After a moment)

PRIME MINISTER (puts aside the Pschütt Cartoons):  So then, nothing much to get very excited about today.

MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR (yawns):   All very tedious!

PRIME MINISTER:   Roll on the end of the evening.

CABINET OFFICE MINISTER:   You can already feel the dog days of summer coming on.

PRIME MINISTER (after a thoughtful pause):   A communiqué, I think, will be necessary, I imagine so anyway. ‘In connection with the measures the government has formulated, in response to the situation created by these events, as a result of a lengthy cabinet meeting, et cetera, et cetera.’

MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR:   It would be expedient, yes.


MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR:   But what sort of measures should we actually come up with?

PRIME MINISTER:  That depends on the sort of communiqué. Eduard!

HEAD WAITER, EDUARD:   Yes, Your Excellency?

PRIME MINISTER:   Aren’t there any new magazines today? Bring me the – the – what do you call it?

HEAD WAITER, EDUARD (searching among the satirical magazines on the table):   Are we missing something again, Your Excellency? Right!

(He goes to the newspaper rack. Meanwhile the Manager of the Bankers’ Association approaches the Ministers table and engages the Minister of the Interior, who has raised his hand in greeting, in conversation. Eduard calls Franz, who has just been chased from the kitchen with a tea towel and is about to wave a napkin in the face of the sleeping cashier again.)

HEAD WAITER, EDUARD:  Will you stop? Is this a shebeen now! (He looks through the journal rack.) So where have you hidden the funnies this time?  Ah here, now straight to the Ministers’ table with The Bomb![8]


[1] From the Southeast Missourian, 28 June 1935: ‘Austrians, and tourists, faithful to the memory of the former empire, have learned with regret that the Café Pucher is to close its doors. Pucher was not only a coffee-house, but was one of the most famous of Vienna’s institutions. The café for many years served the old nobility’; the demise of the coffee-house news even in Cape Giradeau. The café closed on the anniversary of Franz Ferdinand’s death.

[2] Anton Geiringer (1855-1942), financier, involved in the Volkstheater’s administration. He bore the honorary title conferred on businessman, Kommerzialrat, ‘Commercial Counsellor’.

[3] A thin, fairly short, high-quality Cuban cigar.

[4] Heinrich Gomperz (1873-1942), philosopher, academic. The German has Doktor Gomperz. Doktor was a term of respect for anyone with a degree, whether a doctorate or not, although in Vienna it was often said that ‘even the dogs in the streets’ had a doctorate in something. The title does not mean a doctor of medicine. The term is still widely used in Vienna as a term of respect, which implicitly congratulates people on their ‘obvious’ educational achievements.

[5] ‘Wiener kleines Witzblatt’ (1896-1914), humorous and satirical magazine;  maybe ‘Ha-Ha Vienna’. Where magazine titles, as newspapers, can be viably translated I have used English equivalents; not where translation takes us far from the original, or simply sounds wrong.

[6] ‘Pschütt-Karikaturen’ (1892-1915), Jakob Danneberg‘s satirical journal: ‘Elite Cartoons’.

[7] ‘Interessante Blatt’ (1896-1939), illustrated magazine; the name might translate: ‘Intrigue’.

[8] ‘Die Bombe’ (1871-1915), another illustrated, humorous magazine.