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On location in Melun, France at Maison Central Melun prison ; part 2

BROADCAST: 1962 | DURATION: 00:55:01


Madame B. translates for Studs as he speaks with two inmates. Both inmates work in the prison one as a cook and the other as a librarian. Studs talks to each of the inmates about their early life, their work in the prison and their rehabilitation. Madame B is interviewed after the visit to the prison, and she speaks about her volunteer work at the prison. Following the interview, there is a postscript in which Madame B. records "notes" for Nelson Algren and Herman and Mrs. Kogan. Once he is on his own, Studs explains that Madame B. is Marcel Marceau's manager and she also volunteers at the prison.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel Seated beside me is the first of two inmates of MCM. MCM: Maison Centrale de Melun. Do I have it right?

Madame B Yes.

Studs Terkel MCM. And he is the man who cooked that marvelous meal that we ate a little while ago and I'm just asking now about you my friend, cook, and and where you're from, and certain memory of childhood where you're from. Is it from a big city, small town kind of family you came from as a boy?

Madame B [French] No, don't touch.

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B He's from west-south of France, and his parents were butchers and also delicatessens. You know it was mixed because it was a small town - just a second - and it was he was educated til fifteen years old.

Studs Terkel So up to fifteen [education?] in a small town. Your parents, people are merchants. Did you come to the big city, later?

Madame B [French]

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B [French]

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B Yeah, no. It was a very small town. Ten thousand inhabitants.

Studs Terkel The nature of your life of your young manhood. What did you want to be? You were, you were educated going up to fifteen. What is it you wanted to be? What ambition?

Madame B [French]

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B After, when he arrived at twelve years old, he had the first degree that we have in France, that means a certificate certificate of studies. You know that is literally translated. And he thought that this time he wanted to be also butcher. The same job of father and mother because they had a shop.

Studs Terkel Own a shop. Isn't a butcher's work, I'm just asking, rough hard work? The butcher's work.

Madame B [French]

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B He's saying that it is not hard to have this job. But he thinks that the difficulty is in money because you must have money enough to invest in this--

Studs Terkel Shop.

Madame B Shop.

Studs Terkel In other words the dream was of being a merchant, a merchant, having a butcher shop.

Madame B [French]

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B [French]

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B [French] [other voices cut in]

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B In small towns and in country you know, you are butcher and in the same time you are merchant.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Madame B You do everything.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Madame B You buy the beast, you know, you kill the beast. And after that you sell it in your shop. So he would, if he has to run so you you know very precisely, he prefer to be a merchant, he prefer to be a merchant.

Studs Terkel Buy, kill, and sell the beast, all at one [unintelligible].

Madame B Yeah, yeah.

Studs Terkel Then where did the dream, this is the [unintelligible] where did the dream you still dream when liberation comes. I believe you are now in the third phase. You are the third phase?

Madame B Third phase?

Cook Inmate [French]

Studs Terkel You are in the third phase--

Madame B He's in third phase.

Studs Terkel Because you have cooked this meal you were in society with us. Now I'm about to ask this question, let me finish the question. Is the dream of still being a butcher with you? Merchant?

Madame B [French]

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B So he thinks that it is very difficult to get a shop again because he needs so much money and he has no money. So as he was learned to be cook and he worked very much and now he thinks that he's really a cook, when he will be free he will work as cook. And if he can gather money enough to have a shop of butcher and delicatessen, he will be again butcher and he will have a shop of butchery and delicatessen.

Studs Terkel In the meantime beginning as cook did you learn the art of cooking here, at MCM?

Madame B [French]

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B Yeah. He was learned as cook here.

Studs Terkel Perhaps--

Madame B He learned [unintelligible].

Studs Terkel So what else, these are questions to ask. You learned the skill, the art of cooking here. What is something else you felt learned about yourself, you my friend, while here?

Madame B [French]

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B He's saying that since he's here, he's another man and [these hours brought?] him very much. He's saying that he's changed regarding mind and behavior too. [pause in recording] And so this the first, the second, and the third phase because he's now in third phase. He learned very much, you know, as a human being.

Studs Terkel In this matter, I know this is difficult to ask, how, what it was specifically you learned about yourself? Each man in the world is so different. Is it maybe hard for you to explain, answer. What is it you felt you've learned about yourself as a man?

Madame B [French]

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B [French]

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B He thinks that he improved very much in jail and when he will be out he will not behave as he behaved before, you know, to be sentenced. And he thinks that it was confused you know and too much you know in mind and it will not be so after that.

Studs Terkel Is there one last question to ask of a friend?

Madame B [Unintelligible]

Studs Terkel Family family. Has there been a, do you have your own family? A wife, child, or single? Or--

Madame B Yeah, just a second Stud. You would like-- [French] [background voices]

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B There were five children. They had to work very hard. And even they suffered of lack of [affectivity?]. And also not to be able to be educated as they wished. And they suffered very much about that.

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B You know if he has to get money together money enough to have a shop, again a shop butcher, he would settle it in a big town because he thinks, you know he would have more money, he would earn more money than his small town or in a village.

Studs Terkel Perhaps then we hope some day soon that your dream the one you dreamt of as a small boy will come true [in this vein?]

Madame B [French]

Cook Inmate [French]

Madame B He makes a big [fault?] till now, till now, and he hopes to improve again after being liberated.

Studs Terkel Good luck to you my friend. Merci beaucoup.

Cook Inmate Merci beaucoup, merci monsieur.

Madame B [French] [pause in

Studs Terkel recording] We are seated across from the librarian of the institution. Before we ask about himself personally, childhood background, his dreams, his experiences here, the reading habits of the people, the inmates. I understand nine thousand books are read per year by the men of this of this institution.

Madame B [French]

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B Yeah that's true. Sixty-one they had ten thousand books. And sixty-two, no [background voices], ah yeah, I apologize you will have to cut that. In sixty, they had ten thousand books you know among the prisoners distributed and in sixty-one they add nine thousand and something. So it's about the same number.

Studs Terkel I wonder, I wonder if you will tell us the kind of books the variety. What kind do the man read? Was it wide in range?

Madame B [French]

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B Yeah, I know why. You know that's chiefly novels. Also many many foreign novels translated, and chiefly American novels.

Studs Terkel Well some American novels, whose for example? Do you have an idea

Madame B [French]

Studs Terkel Any particular authors come to mind?

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B Irwin Shaw.

Studs Terkel Irwin Shaw.

Madame B Frank [Loters?]

Studs Terkel Frank who?

Madame B [Loters?].

Librarian Inmate Frank [Loters?].

Studs Terkel Read Hemingway?

Madame B James Jones.

Studs Terkel James Jones. Read Hemingway, Faulkner?

Madame B Hemingway.

Librarian Inmate Faulkner. Graham Greene.

Studs Terkel Graham Greene?

Librarian Inmate Yes.

Studs Terkel Oh that's interesting.

Madame B Who?

Madame B No, Graham Greene, the British--

Madame B Oh Grahame Greene. He's well known here, Graham Greene.

Librarian Inmate [French?]

Madame B [Unintelligible]

Studs Terkel [Unintelligible] It's interesting to me about you, you are the librarian here and I notice the newspapers. It seems to be very elegant newspaper that the men put out too. Are you connected with the newspaper that the men of the place [put out?]

Madame B [French]

Librarian Inmate [French]

Studs Terkel About yourself when you were a small boy. What was your-- Where were you from? What part of France? Big city? Small town?

Madame B [French] Would do anything on the low income

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B Yeah, he is come, he's, he was born in Paris 15th district and he's 28 years old.

Studs Terkel What is it you wanted to be? Did you want to study for something, some kind of work, profession? What was your ambition?

Madame B [French]

Librarian Inmate [French, with Madame B interrupting and conversing]

Madame B Before he came here he was working in cars industry. But now he seduced and he has ambition to become clerk, organizer, in travel agency, to work in travel agency. He is very much seduced.

Studs Terkel Seduced, taken. By seduced you mean taken with the idea of--

Madame B Yeah, he is taken by this idea.

Studs Terkel You like to travel? Was the was the idea the dream of traveling? You like to travel, when you are liberated finally, when you go for the fourth phase?

Madame B [French]

Librarian Inmate [French, with Madame B interrupting]

Madame B Yeah, after when he will be completely free he hopes to have many travels.

Studs Terkel I should like to ask if you don't mind the questions since you're from Paris as a small boy raised here. The nature of the family middle class? Lower? Working class? What was the family?

Madame B [French]

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B [French]

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B Workers' class.

Studs Terkel A large number of children? Curious. Were you an only [Madame B in background] child or--?

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B Yeah, the only one.

Studs Terkel You were the only child?

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel And one last question. You now, we know what your idea is, your dream is after you leave the place. Did this come about while you were here? This dream of traveling, of being a travel agent. Was it while you were here in this institution that this idea came into being?

Madame B [French]

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B No, he had not this dream before, but only since he was here. And chiefly since he's in the library.

Studs Terkel Was it the reading, the reading he himself-- I suppose you've done a great deal of reading yourself since you're librarian. Is that it?

Madame B [French]

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B [French]

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B Yeah you know he was simple worker before and after that he was brought to this job that he's doing now. He was very afraid. At first he was no-- He had no confidence in himself and he was afraid to fail. But he did not. And suddenly you know, he recognized that he was able to organize and to do a job that was not the work that he was doing before. A work of organization to supervise and so and so. So it brought him in this idea to be in travel agency.

Studs Terkel So then this is something you learned here?

Madame B No, but he was not influence by reading.

Studs Terkel No.

Madame B Not at all.

Studs Terkel No but the nature of what he did here taught him that a certain kind--

Madame B Yeah, the nature.

Studs Terkel One last question to ask of him. Is is there something you learn here? This is again as more, as more of an abstract question than the other. Is something you learned here about yourself that you did not know before?

Madame B [French]

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B No, he, he did not learn that here, but when he was in the first jail in Santé before the trial and before to be sentenced because he was in cell completely isolated during four years.

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B These four years were terrible and very hard and not exactly the two first years, we could say, but the last years, and it wasn't the point to become a catastrophe.

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B It, it means that he thought deeply about what he did and at first it was very confused in his mind.

Librarian Inmate [French]

Thinking deeply he was suddenly discover you know that it was a weakness in his character who brought him to-- [pause in recording]

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B The first time, once the mother came to the parlor and she told him, My child, I wonder how you could hold on the situation.

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B Yeah. He thinks that all is the same, these very hard years brought to him the victory and he thinks that he's through now with all that.

Librarian Inmate [Librarian]

Madame B In [terms?] of course, now to be reintegrated in society, and he thinks that he's-- He's thinks that this crucible period, you know was very profitable for him for the rest of the detention and for the future too. And he will have you know his place in society again as if nothing happened.

Studs Terkel I hope some day. Anything, last, anything else you'd care to say? Anything else you'd care to say?

Madame B Yeah. [French] [What do you?]

Studs Terkel Anything else he cares to say?

Madame B Yeah, oui. Anything else?

Studs Terkel He cares to say?

Madame B To say?

Studs Terkel Is there anything else he wants to say?

Madame B Ah yeah, yeah but you know it's very [unintelligible].

Studs Terkel Alright.

Madame B [French]

Librarian Inmate [French]

Madame B Yeah. He want to say to to end this interview that his stay in this house was also very profitable to him and he's ready to be again in society as everybody.

Studs Terkel The best of luck to you friend, merci beaucoup.

Madame B [French]. [pause in recording]

Studs Terkel Speaking now to--

Inmate I am from [Paris?].

Studs Terkel Someone living here at the moment, staying here at MCM. You are from Paris, yourself? As a boy? Childhood?

Madame B [mixed voices, then Madame B. in French]

Inmate Born in Paris from medium bourgeoisie.

Madame B Oh I don't think so.

Studs Terkel My father was an officer.

Madame B He's too [modest?]

Inmate Was an officer, my father.

Madame B Officer, he was commandant.

Studs Terkel Officer in the army? Military officer?

Madame B Yeah, yeah. Military officer.

Inmate Infantry?

Madame B Infantry.

Studs Terkel So your father. Large family? Many children? Many children in your family? [voices in background]

Madame B [French]

Inmate I have two brothers and I, a sister. [Dead?] in the beginning of this century.

Studs Terkel Oh. The nature of your education--

Madame B [French]

Studs Terkel How much education did you have, how much schooling?

Inmate It is difficult to say.

Madame B No, not at all.

Inmate In French?

Studs Terkel Yeah, sure.

Madame B Oui, yeah in France.

Inmate [French]

Madame B Yeah. He had the two first degrees that we have here, you know, in lyceum. After that?

Inmate And, [voices in background]

Madame B Ah, no, we [can? can't?] say that.

Inmate And [French]

Madame B No no no no no no no. What do you want to say?

Inmate The exam, like Westpoint--

Studs Terkel Oh really?

Madame B Yeah.

Inmate In French.

Studs Terkel [Unintelligible]

Madame B Yeah. Military academy.

Inmate Like, [sincere?] like Westpoint.

Studs Terkel What, is this what you wanted to be? An officer in the French army? Was this your ambition, to be an officer like your father?

Madame B [French]

Inmate [Not?] exact. But not in the infantry, but in, the artillery.

Studs Terkel Well do you still now after your experience, and after liberation from this institution? What would you want to be now after you are liberated from here?

Inmate [Oui?] No, I can't return in the army. It is impossible, prohibited.

Studs Terkel What, what was your--

Madame B Forbidden.

Inmate Forbidden?

Madame B Forbidden. He cannot get a, he cannot come back you know to the [unintelligible].

Studs Terkel Would you still, let's assume let us assume let us assume that you have not been here and it were not prohibited, would you still at the stage of your life want to be an officer in the army?

Inmate [French]

Madame B No no no.

Inmate [French]

Madame B [French]

Inmate If I was not sentenced--

Studs Terkel Yes.

Inmate I should have continued.

Studs Terkel To be an officer in the army? This is what you--

Inmate Yes.

Studs Terkel Your dream. What in lieu of that in lieu of that what is it you seek to be? Instead of that? Under these circumstances what is it you hope to be when you're liberated?

Madame B [French]

Inmate It is very difficult to say, no? It is after circumstance I--

Madame B [French]

Inmate [French]

Madame B No no [French]

Inmate The military career--

Madame B [French? unintelligible?]

Inmate I understand no, no work [French]

Madame B [French]

Inmate [French]

Madame B [French]

Inmate [French]

Madame B So, okay. That's, he's saying that--

Inmate [French]


Madame B So he cannot precise what he intends to do when he will be liberated. It's very difficult. It will be up the possibilities anyhow. as he's an intellectual he will stay you know in this sphere.

Studs Terkel In this field. One last question. Do you feel, what is it you felt you have learned thus far? About yourself? It's an abstract question. What do you feel you have learned about yourself while here? Or do you feel you've learned anything about yourself?

Inmate [French]

Madame B [French]

Inmate [French] nothing.

Madame B Nothing.

Studs Terkel Nothing. Okay, you're frank. You're frank, and for your frankness, merci beaucoup.

Inmate [French]. [pause in recording]

Studs Terkel Now on our way back on the road back from Melun to Paris it is now about 6:30 Paris evening, it's raining. And perhaps the rain seems to fit the particular mood too. We have met three men among 300 or so men who've been in this particular institution. We've met too the director, M. Blayrat. M. Blayrat, Jean Blayrat, who I think is particularly in view of a military background an unusual man and here we are with Madame B once again our guide and you know what impresses me particularly since M. Blayrat took us for the tour around before, after our interview with him and before we talked with three of the men, he took us to the tour noticed phase one where larger cells where the men are by themselves in the garden walk; phase two and three smaller cells but he said, No man is ever called by number but by name and the name of every man is on that door. In addition each cell seemed to have a different color pattern. The man gave it-- So it seems to me there is more individuality there than I find in many housing projects outside.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel Madame B.

Madame B Yeah, that is so. Everybody is painting and decorating his own cell following his taste and his talent.

Studs Terkel There's something I want to ask you. You're involved in many activities. Theatrical, this. How? What has led you? Now you were there for a couple of hours talking to some of the men while I was talking to the director. What was the nature of your conversation?

Madame B You know I help these people to think of the future, to open some windows that were always, maybe since they at birth completely closed. I try to do it. And to open them to a new life when they will be out of this house.

Studs Terkel Why? I mean what has led you into this activity?

Madame B You know, humanism basis.

Studs Terkel Yeah, but where does your humanism come from? I think we should know more about you, Madame B. You seem to be, you have the vitality it seems to me in so many ways that may be symbolic of Paris itself. You yourself.

Madame B I think that I have a very energetic life. That is my nature. And also, I wish to live in this way.

Studs Terkel You wish to live in this way. My question is how did you get this way. Let me get back to you because I was, you know,

Madame B Eh,--

Studs Terkel For a week now I've been looking for the little gamin, ever since leading ray-- you know "Les Miserables"--

Madame B [unintelligible]

Studs Terkel And [seeing?] this is the hundredth anniversary, wait a minute, of of date of the Hugo book. I thought if I could find the Gavroche, and suddenly I find you have the spirit of a Gavroche, in a different way, a spirit of Paris. I wonder how you came to be the kind of spirit you are.

Madame B I think that time must help everybody with in weakness position for such or such reason.

Studs Terkel I'm trying to come, you. How you, where are you from? Where are you from?

Madame B From west-south of France.

Studs Terkel Where where would that be specifically, west-south of France?

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel You came from somewhere in the southwest of France--

Madame B South, yes, southwest of France.

Studs Terkel And about--

Madame B [Very?] young I was in Paris.

Studs Terkel And you came here very young?

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel What is your feeling, you're a Parisian now, very much so. What's your, what is it about the city that you think is different from other cities? Or is it?

Madame B Oh it is.

Studs Terkel I got you on.

Madame B I think that Paris is a only capital on the world that we can consider as a huge [vat?]--

Studs Terkel [Vat?]

Madame B A huge [vat?] where all arts are mixed from every country on the world.

Studs Terkel We have heard you know through the years is it legend or is true about the freedom that is Paris, the creative freedom. Is this so or is it just-- I'm asking you, a Parisian [in this case?].

Madame B In fact I think that France is a most liberal country.

Studs Terkel Is a what kind of country?

Madame B Is a most liberal country.

Studs Terkel Most liberal country.

Madame B In the world. I think that every foreigner is at home. Chiefly in Paris.

Studs Terkel Why do you think this is? Why?

Madame B Because I think it is. [Terkel laughs] It is so. It is so and many foreigners told me that already. But I must add that New Yorkers might relate [laughter].

Studs Terkel New York is your [unintelligible].

Madame B And I am also at home in New York.

Studs Terkel I must say the other day you took us to Les Halles, you know.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel And there Les Halles seemed to have the feeling of the Hogarth painting. You know a Hogarth?

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel And there were the butchers with the blood on the smocks, and the fruits de mer clipper and cutter and picker, and the girl with her friend. And it seemed to have that overall-- And they all seem to know you. A great deal of people there seem to know you.

Madame B It is unique in the world, Les Halles. No capital has that in the center--

Studs Terkel Yes.

Madame B Of the town you know.

Studs Terkel What are your-- In the various countries to which you've been, the various cities, is that one that comes close to Paris or is this, is each one does each one have its own kind of uniqueness? The cities, the capitals. Paris is the unique.

Madame B Yeah. Only one.

Studs Terkel I'm trying to find out what it was-- What brought you? I suppose this would be a good question, Madame B, what it was that brought you to Paris. What it was.

Madame B Oh, you know because you had to study. And after that I had to work. And also because I like Paris very much.

Studs Terkel Yes

Madame B So I should I should refuse you know to work in another town. And I think that I shall stay in Paris 'til end of my life.

Studs Terkel Yes. Is there, how long ago [unintelligible] back to the subject at hand. The trip we took, the place we were. Melun, Maison. I k- I have difficulty, I know it's the house, the building, the central, Maison Centrale de Melun.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel What-- You say [unintelligible] humanism, of feeling, was it-- how long ago was this? Was there an event in your life let us say--

Madame B It was--

Studs Terkel Drew you to this?

Madame B It was about 15 years ago.

Studs Terkel Mmmhmm.

Madame B It began with the German occupation.

Studs Terkel Began? Aaah, with German occupation.

Madame B To help, [well?], my friends.

Studs Terkel Well was there a--

Madame B Who were in jail.

Studs Terkel Aaah.

Madame B Arrested and in jail. And after that I continued.

Studs Terkel So the beginning then came out of the war which again was that big crucible that has changed so many people's lives.

Madame B Yeah, yeah, because it was quite natural that I help them and also because is weakness in which there were put because they were in jail.

Studs Terkel And so you find the bars today. The man behind the bars today presents a similar subject.

Madame B Yeah. Exactly.

Studs Terkel And I must say this experience to me is a, been an emotionally charged one even though I don't like it at the moment. The, particularly sitting with the three mild-- you smiled when I said three mild, gentle-looking men you know. And yet there is a freedom allowed to them and the area I know this is the problem with the process of rehabilitation that each is a unique individual and each case to be handled differently. As was clear each one who spoke even though briefly was wholly different in outlook and feeling.

Madame B Exactly.

Studs Terkel And perhaps the key to this whole approach of rehabilitation might be in the words of M. Jean Blayrat, the director. He says, "We do not call men ever by numbers but by name."

Madame B Yeah, of course.

Studs Terkel "They know who they are."

Madame B Yeah we have to consider them as free men. We have to make [exception? objection?] may I say that?

Studs Terkel Course.

Madame B Of what happened. And to consider the future, and not the past. They were, they are trialed, they were sentenced, I consider that we are not tribunal or judge. And we have only to do our work of rehabilitation and redemption.

Studs Terkel Madame B., thank you for a day that's been a different one for me in many ways which I've seen a certain aspect of life that I've heard about and read about and now I've seen in action. It's directly connected I imagine with the jail the prison in my city and the efforts of certain people there. And I hope this a universal one the efforts to, more than rehabilitation the word is redemption, that a man no matter what he did is the point, can still be a member of society. The element of redemption there, that we believe in this, and the affirmation of the human spirit or else it must be a negative. [pause in recording] And to Madame B., merci beacoup. The following tape is rather private in nature, must be restricted to our hearing and the persons involved. [pause in recording] Brother Algren, Madame B. has a few words for you sir. Madame?

Madame B Nelson? [Voulette?] speaking. How are you Nelson? I hope we shall be in New York. And Marcel Marceau will perform, at the city center from January first 'til January 27. I hope you will fly to New York with Studs, Ida.

Studs Terkel Say more, go ahead.

Madame B No.

Studs Terkel OK

Madame B Herman Kogan, Mrs. Kogan, to see Marcel Marceau new recital. He has terrific, tremendous sketches that you must see.

Studs Terkel Well tell me something Madame B., why is not-- this isn't your-- why is not Marcel Marceau coming to Chicago? You could tell it [unintelligible].

Madame B No he was not decided so. And also I'm very happy not to come to Chicago because I don't want to meet suddenly at the corner of [State?] with Nelson Algren [laughter], this rascal. Fortunately that I have Studs with me.

Studs Terkel Ah, yes. Well what do you feel about Nelson? Tell me. What do you think of Nelson Algren?

Madame B About Nelson?

Studs Terkel What do you really think?

Madame B Oh, I don't think you know I am very much interested in him.

Studs Terkel You are?

Madame B He's a great writer--

Studs Terkel Ah hah.

Madame B And I told him already what I think about the books that he wrote, but I'm sure that he's not at all interested in me so I don't want to miss him.

Studs Terkel You think Nelson Algren is a rascal?

Madame B Of course he's a rascal! [laughter]

Studs Terkel What's the word French for what you think of Nelson Algren?

Madame B In French?

Studs Terkel Yeah, a word in French. What kind of man is Nelson Algren in French?

Madame B A bad guy! [laughter] Nelson, my love, and a sweet kiss. [laughter] Ah, I have something else.

Studs Terkel Yes, tell.

Madame B And don't forget that the last shirt has no more pocket.

Studs Terkel This is a private joke?

Madame B No, that is philosophy.

Studs Terkel What's the what's the, oh the last sh--

Madame B The last shirt has no pocket, that means you will go to coffin--

Studs Terkel Yes.

Madame B Without pocket to put inside--

Studs Terkel Oh!

Madame B You know your gold?

Studs Terkel Oh yes.

Madame B Eh? Your money.

Studs Terkel In short you can't take it with you.

Madame B Your treasuries.

Madame B You can't take it with you--

Madame B Nothing!

Studs Terkel Is what you're saying?

Madame B You have to let everything behind you.

Studs Terkel Let me get, your last--

Madame B And Nelson you will have to let you know your gold also. To let your girl behind you. Your estates, your castles, your residential houses, [laughter throughout] and even your [unintelligible] [dresses?], clothes. Also your shoes. You will have to be in front of your judge, the last one you know quite nude.

Studs Terkel The last shirt has no pockets.

Madame B Yes.

Studs Terkel Oh, Madame B.

Madame B Remember that, Nelson. [pause in recording]

Well for obvious reasons this last kidding portion of the tape is private. I hope you'll save it. I like to play it for the for the people involved but that's about it, and the staff might get a bang out of it but no one else of course. There are several reasons. Aside from the private aspects of this tape it's not to be played because it would be definitely violating a confidence that I gave to her about not revealing who she is on the air. Obviously Madame B. is Madame [Boulistex?] the manager of Marcel Marceau who works on two levels. One as a manager of this artist and two volunteer work, great portion of her time, volunteer work with the roughest of men. Murderers. Again there's something that's pretty obvious to you, the cars you hear outside, I'm talking now from the London hotel again; this is a retrospective piece of conversation. Just been monitoring the tape hearing how, listening to how it came out. And she works with the, in the prisons, and is on intimate terms with these guys, they tell her practically everything, I mean, matters that they will not tell anyone else and she tries in some way to work with the with the psychologists, the psychiatrist and the authorities in this process of rehabilitation. She brings entertainment into the place. Again this is, I say, I repeat, not can't be [do it in?] private. She has brought in Marcel Marceau troupes there and Raymond Devos, a remarkable artist. We may or may not save the tape with him that she engineered. But more of him at some other time perhaps. And so the privacy of it. The, perhaps a word too to the staff. I know you'd like to be in on some of this stuff. This is not for a play on the air. The nature of these three men the three prisoners I interviewed, all three murders. The third one was the central figure of one of Paris's most celebrated cases of recent years. This is nine years ago was the case of this son of a high family, a military family who was going to the as he explained the Paris version French version of West Point. And it involved his his mistress killing her child to prove her love for him. He was convicted. On the basis of the jury finding, the court finding that he had persuaded her to do this to prove her love for him. He has steadfastly denied this through all the nine years of his imprisonment. And during the trial and thus his bitterness, thus his comment, 'What have you learned here?' 'Nothing.' The director told me later on that he feels not only bitter this particular subject but much superior to anyone there including the authorities, including the director. There's nothing they can tell him. The other two were more, less dramatic yet dramatic in their own right, cases. The first, the big good-looking guy who was our cook. I didn't realize since I wasn't told the nature of his crime when I was asking questions, remember I made reference to family and may have heard a click on the tape? Well he had killed his wife. And so there was the family, there was a moment of silence. But he kept on and [Boulistex?] shifted, Madame B. shifted the question so that seemed to be a reference to his family as a small boy. The second mild-sounding guy and mild-looking certainly, librarian of the prison was also convicted of murder. And my impression again this is a day that most unusual in my life, I suppose and anybody's to some extent. Is one of seeing the one man, two sides of a man. There is the, all three these mild figures very pleasant-looking. Gentle, soft-spoken. And yet there was that one moment when the soul of man was revealed, the one moment in his life. The inside, the outside. And now we're in a wholly different city, wholly different area. We 're in this London hotel on Saturday about 20 to four now. Came in last night, left Paris nine o'clock Paris time, arrived in London nine o'clock - seems kind of amusing - London time, they're an hour behind. The flight was slightly about a minute or so less than the hour. And well here it is the weekend in London then you know when you're in London for the weekend there's nothing much you can do and nothing-- When Ida asked for a couple of hangers the [girl down the hall?] was "Hangers? Why it's the weekend!" [in English accent]. And now it's tea time [laughter]. This is the sacred hour. And so we must stop. And so what can we say now but cheerio.