Category Archives: Monrovia Mon Amour (Dalrymple)

Centennial Hall, Monrovia

What do we care about a fucking piano?

What do we care about a fucking piano?

In Monrovia Mon Amour (1992), in a passage about a visit to the Centennial Hall, Dalrymple writes:

Lying on the ground was a Steinway grand piano (the only one in the country), its legs sawn off. The body of the piano, still gleaming black and in perfect condition, was in direct contact with the floor, while the three sawn legs were strewn about. A long-contemplated but long-frustrated revenge upon a whole alien civilisation. Simmering rage and envy. The piano’s legs and pedals had been carefully sawn off and disposed around it, the body of the piano lying flat on the ground.

Around it in a ring, like a necklace or a bracelet, the people who had done this, or those of like mind, had disposed their fæces.

Michel took photos of the stricken instrument. How long before some post-modernist composer has a pianist not play the instrument but, in front of the audience, saw off its legs, to the craven applause of critics afraid to be thought stupid or reactionary? We felt we had secured something of a scoop.

We returned to the Olympic Hotel. There we found two British photographers. I described to them the destruction of the piano. ’What do we care about a fucking piano?’ one of them said. I despaired then of my own country.

Centennial Hall

Whether Michel’s photos of the stricken Monrovian piano survive is not known. This is a still from footage shot in Phnom Penh, April 1975

In the departure lounge

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An airline strike leaves Dalrymple stranded in Port-au-Prince, but it’s not all bad: he falls into conversation with a fellow passenger, Hans Christoph Buch, author of the trilogy of novels Die Hochzeit von Port-au-Prince (1984), Haïti Chérie (1990) and Rede des toten Kolumbus am Tag des Jüngsten Gerichts (1992).

Dalrymple and Buch have written books with the same title: Dalrymple’s Monrovia Mon Amour was published (under his real name Anthony Daniels) in 1992, Buch’s (with illustrations by Wolfgang Petrick) 10 years later.

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One of Dalrymple's photographs in his Monrovia Mon Amour (1992)

One of Dalrymple’s photographs in his Monrovia Mon Amour (1992)

One of Wolfgang Petrick's illustrations in Hans Christoph Buch's Hiroshima Mon Amour (2002)

One of Wolfgang Petrick’s illustrations in Hans Christoph Buch’s Monrovia Mon Amour (2002)