Albert Camus
The Just (Act 1)
The Just
Act I

(The terrorists' apartment. Morning. The curtain goes up in silence. Dora and Annenkov are onstage without moving. There is a single knock at the door. Anenkov gestures to silence Dora, who seems to want to speak. Two more knocks.)
Annenkov: It's him. (He leaves the stage. Dora waits, still without moving. Annenkov returns with Stepan, who he takes by the shoulders.) It's him! Stepan's back.

Dora (going to Stepan and taking his hand) It's great to see you again, Stepan!

Stepan: Hello, Dora.

Dora (looking at him): It's been three years already.

Stepan: Yep, three years. The day they arrested me, I was coming back to join you.

Dora: We were waiting for you then. It got later and later, and my heart beat faster and faster. We were so scared we couldn't look each other in the face.

Annenkov: We had to change apartments again.

Stepan: I know.

Dora: And there, Stepan?

Stepan: Where?

Dora: In prison?
Stepan: You can escape from prison.

Annenkov: Yes. We were very happy when we learned that you had gotten to Switzerland.

Stepan: Switzerland was just another prison, Boria.

Annenkov: What do you mean? At least they're free there.

Stepan: Freedom is still a prison long as there is still anyone in chains on earth. When I was free, I could not stop thinking of Russia and all its slaves. (Silence.)

Annenkov: I'm glad the party sent you here.

Stepan: It was necessary. I'm finally ready to act. (Looking at Annenkov) We're going to kill him, right?

Annenkov: I'm sure of it.

Stepan: We will kill that murderer. You're the leader, Boria, and I will obey you.

Annenkov: I don't need any promises, Stepan. We're all brothers here.

Stepan: We need discipline. I started to understand that in prison. The revolutionary socialist party needs discipline. With that discipline, we will kill the Grand Duke and we will destroy this tyranny.

Dora (going towards him): Sit down, Stepan. You must be tired after that long trip.

Stepan: I'm never tired. (Silence. Dora goes to sit down.) Is everything ready, Boria?
Annenkov, changing his tone: For a month, two of our people have been watching the Grand Duke's movements. And Dora's gathered together everything we'll need.

Stepan: Is the proclamation ready?

Annenkov: Yes. All of Russia will know that the Grand Duke was executed by a bomb from the combat division of the revolutionary socialist party, to hurry the liberation of the Russian people. The imperial palace will know that we've decided to keep up the terror until the land is given back to the people. Yes, Stepan, yes, everything is ready. The moment is coming.

Stepan: What must I do?

Annenkov: For now, you can help Dora. Schweitzer, who you're replacing, worked with her.

Stepan: He died?

Annenkov: Yeah.

Stepan: How?

Dora: An accident. (Stepan looks at Dora, who looks away.)

Stepan: And afterwards?

Annenkov: After that we'll see. You must be ready to replace us, in case of an emergency, and maintain the liaison with the Central Committee.

Stepan: Who else is here?

Annenkov: You met Voinov in Switzerland. I have a lot of confidence in him, even though he's young. You don't know Yanek.
Stepan: Yanek?

Annenkov: Kaliayev. We also call him the Poet.

Stepan: That's a dumb name for a terrorist.

Annenkov (laughing): Yanek wouldn't say so. He says that poetry is revolutionary.

Stepan: Only bombs are revolutionary. (Silence.) Dora, do you think I can help you?

Dora: Yes, you just have to be careful not to break the tubes.

Stepan: And if they break?

Dora: That's how Schweitzer died. (A short time.) Why are you smiling, Stepan?

Stepan: Am I smiling?

Dora: Yes.

Stepan: That happens to me sometimes. (A short time. Stepan seems to be thinking.) Dora, would one bomb blow up this whole building?

Dora: Just one, no. But it would be in bad shape inside.

Stepan: How many to blow up Moscow?

Annenkov: You're crazy! What do you mean?

Stepan: Oh, nothing. (A knock. Everyone waits. Two more knocks. Annenkov goes into the antechamber and comes back with Voinov.)

Voinov: Stepan!

Stepan: Hello. (They shake hands. Voinov goes to Dora and hugs her.)

Annenkov: Everything went well, Alexis?

Voinov: Yes.

Annenkov: You studied the route to the theater?

Voinov: I can draw it. Look. (He draws.) Turns, retraced roads, obstacles...the carriage will go under our window.

Annenkov: What are these x's?

Voinov: A little place where the horses go around, and the theater where they stop. In my opinion, those are the best places.

Stepan: The informers?

Voinov, hesitantly: We've got a bunch.

Stepan: Do they worry you?

Voinov: I'm not that comfortable.

Annenkov: No one's comfortable around them. Don't worry.

Voinov: I'm not afraid of anything. I'm not used to lying, that's all.

Stepan: Everybody lies. All you need is to lie well.

Voinov: That's not easy. When I was a college student, my friends made fun of me because I couldn't. I said what I thought. Finally, they threw me out of the university.

Stepan: Why?

Voinov: In history class, the professor asked me how Peter the Great had built St. Petersburg.

Stepan: Good question.

Voinov: With blood and whips, I said. I was kicked out of the place.

Stepan: And then?

Voinov: I understood that it wasn't enough to speak against injustice. You have to give your life to fight it. Now, I'm happy.

Stepan: And now, you lie?

Voinov: I lie. But I won't be lying anymore the day I throw the bomb. (Two knocks, then one more. Dora hurries to the door.)

Annenkov: It's Yanek.

Stepan: That wasn't the same signal.

Annenkov: Yanek likes to mess with it. He has his own personal signal. (Stepan shrugs. Dora's voice is heard in the antechamber. Enter Dora and Kaliayev, holding hands, Kaliayev laughing.)

Dora: Yanek, this is Stepan, the one who's replacing Schweitzer.

Kaliayev: Welcome, brother.

Stepan: Thank you. (Dora and Kaliayev go sit down, facing the others.)

Annenkov: Yanek, are you sure you'll recognize the carriage?

Kaliayev: Yes, I went over it twice. I could pick it out of a thousand. I noted all the details. For instance, one pane of glass on the left lantern is broken.

Voinov: And the informers?

Kaliayev: Plenty of 'em. But we're old friends. They buy me cigarettes. (He laughs.)

Annenkov: Did Pavel confirm what we've got?

Kaliayev: The Grand Duke will go to the theater this week. Soon, Pavel will know the exact day and will leave a message with the doorman. (He turns toward Dora and laughs.) We're lucky, Dora.

Dora, looking at him: You aren't a vendor anymore? Now you're a great lord. You look so good. Don't you regret giving up your disguise?

Kaliayev (laughing): It's true I was very proud of it. (To Stepan and Annenkov.) I spent two months observing the vendors, and more than a month practicing in my room. The rest of them never had a clue. "A great salesman," they said. "He could sell horses to the tsar." And they all tried to copy me.

Dora: Of course you laugh.

Kaliayev: You know I can't help it. This disguise, this new life, everything amuses me.

Dora: I don't like disguises. (She shows off her dress.) This fancy outfit! Boria could have gotten me something else. My heart is simple.

Kaliayev, laughing: You look beautiful in that dress.

Dora: Beautiful! I am happy to be. But we don't need to think about it.

Kaliayev: Why not? Your eyes are always sad, Dora. You need to be happy, you need to be proud. Beauty exists, joy exists! "In the tranquil places where my heart wishes you..."

Dora (smiling): "...I breathe in an eternal summer..."

Kaliayev: Oh! Dora, you remember that verse. And you smile? I am so happy.

Stepan, cutting them off: We're losing time. Boria, I suppose we'll need to warn the doorman? (Kaliayev looks at him, astonished.)

Annenkov: Yes. Dora, would you go do it? Don't forget the tip. Then Voinov will help you get everything together in the bedroom. (They leave. Stepan walks toward Annenkov with a determined step.)

Stepan: I want to throw the bomb.

Annenkov: No, Stepan. I've already decided who'll do it.

Stepan: I'm begging you. You know what this means to me.

Annenkov: No. Rules are rules. (A silence.) I won't be throwing it either; I have to wait here. The rules are hard on everyone.

Stepan: Who is throwing the first bomb?

Kaliayev: Me. Voinov is throwing the second.

Stepan: You?

Kaliayev: That surprises you? Don't you have confidence in me?

Stepan: You need experience.

Kaliayev: Experience? You know very well that you only throw it once and then...No one has ever thrown two bombs.

Stepan: You must have a firm hand.

Kaliayev (showing his hands): Look. Do you think they'll shake? (Stepan turns away.) They never shake. What? I will have that tyrant in front of me, do you think I will hesitate? How can you believe that? And even if my hands did shake, I know another way to kill the Grand Duke.

Annenkov: How?

Kaliayev: Throw myself under the horses' feet. (Stepan hunches his shoulders and goes to sit down in the back.)

Annenkov: No, that's not necessary. You must try to survive. The Organization needs you, you must preserve yourself.

Kaliayev: I will obey, Boria! What an honor, what an honor for me! Oh, I will be worthy of it.

Annenkov: Stepan, you'll be in the street while Yanek and Alexis go for the carriage. You will pass beneath our windows and we'll have a signal. Dora and I will wait here until time to release the proclamation. With any luck, the Grand Duke will be destroyed.

Kaliayev (in exultation): Yes, I will destroy him! How great it will be if we succeed! The Grand Duke is nothing. We will strike higher.

Annenkov: First the Grand Duke.

Kaliayev: And if we fail, Boria? We will have to imitate the Japanese.

Annenkov: What do you mean?

Kaliayev: In war, the Japanese don't surrender. They kill themselves.

Annenkov: No. Don't think about suicide.

Kaliayev: Of what then?

Annenkov: Of the new terror we'll make.

Stepan (speaking from the back): To kill yourself, you must love yourself an awful lot. A real revolutionary cannot love himself.

Kaliayev (turning back to him quickly): A real revolutionary? Why are you treating me like this? What have I done to you?

Stepan: I don't like people who become revolutionaries because they're bored.

Annenkov: Stepan!

Stepan (getting up and coming over to them): Yes, I'm brutal. But for me, hate is not a game. We're not here to admire ourselves. We are here to succeed.

Kaliayev (softly): Why do I offend you? Who said I was bored?

Stepan: I don't know. You change the signals, you like playing a vendor, you recite poetry, you want to throw yourself under the horses' feet, and now, killing yourself. (Looking at him) I don't have confidence in you.

Kaliayev: You don't know me, brother. I love life. I am not bored. I entered the revolution because I love life.

Stepan: I don't love life; I love justice, and that's higher than life.

Kaliayev (with a visible effort): Each person serves justice however he can. We must accept that we are different. We must love each other, if we can.

Stepan: We can't.

Kaliayev: So what are you doing with us?

Stepan: I came here to kill a man, not to love one, or to salute our differences.

Kaliayev (violently): You aren't killing him in the name of nothing. You kill him with us and in the name of the Russian people. That's your justification.

Stepan (in the same manner): I don't need it. I was justified in one night, for always, three years ago, in prison. And I will not support...

Annenkov: Enough! Are you both crazy? Don't you realize who we are? We're brothers, some confused by others, but working toward the execution of tyrants, for the liberation of this country! We kill together, and nothing can separate us. (Silence. He looks at them.) Come on, Stepan, we need to figure out the signals. (Stepan leaves. To Kaliayev) It's nothing. Stepan's been through a lot. I'll talk to him.

Kaliayev (very pale): He insulted me, Boria. (Enter Dora.)

Dora (seeing Kaliayev): What's wrong?

Kaliayev: We're already fighting. He doesn't like me. (Dora sits down, in silence for a minute.)

Dora: I don't think he likes anybody. When everything is done, he'll be happier. Don't be sad.

Kaliayev: I am sad. I need to be liked by all of you. I gave up everything for this revolution. How can I face it if my brothers turn away from me? Sometimes I get the feeling that they don't understand me. Is it my fault? I'm clumsy, I know.

Dora: They like you and they understand you. Stepan is different.

Kaliayev: No. I know what they think. Schweitzer already said it. "Too weird to be a revolutionary." I would like to explain to them that I am not weird. They think I'm crazy, too spontaneous. However, like them, I believe in the idea. Like them, I want to sacrifice myself. Me too, I can be skilled, quiet, lying, hiding myself. But life still seems marvelous to me. I love beauty, happiness! That's why I hate tyranny. How can I explain it to them? The revolution, of course! But a revolution for life, to give people a chance at life, understand?

Dora: Yes. (More softly) However, we are going to give death.

Kaliayev: Who, us? Oh, you mean...It's not the same thing. Oh no! It's not the same thing. We kill just to build a world where no one will ever have to kill again! We accept our being criminals so that the earth can finally be covered with innocents.

Dora: And if it's never like that?

Kaliayev: Be quiet -- you know that's impossible. Stepan would be right then. It would be slapping beauty in the face.

Dora: I've been in the Organization longer than you; I know that nothing is simple. But you have faith in it. We all need faith.

Kaliayev: Faith? No. Only one person has that.

Dora: You have a force from the soul. And you will leave everything behind to go to the end. Why did you ask to throw the first bomb?

Kaliayev: Can you talk about terrorist action without being part of it?

Dora: No.

Kaliayev: You have to be in the front row.

Dora, who seems to be thinking: Yes. There is the front row and there is that last moment. We must think of that. That's where the courage is, the exultation that we need ... that you need.

Kaliayev: For a year, I have thought of nothing else. That moment is why I've lived until now. And I know now that I want to die then, at the side of the Grand Duke. Lose my nerve until the last moment, or burn all at once, in the flame of the explosion, and leave nothing behind me. Do you understand why I asked to throw the bomb? To die for an idea that's the only way to be truly at the top of the idea. That's the justification.

Dora: I also want that kind of death.

Kaliayev: Yes, it's a goodness that one can envy. At night, I return sometimes to the pallet of a vendor. One thought torments me: they have made assassins out of us. But I think at the same time that I am going to die, and my heart lifts. I smile, you see, and I go back to sleep like a child.

Dora: It's good that way, Yanek. To kill and then to die. But in my opinion, there is an even greater goodness. (A silence. Kaliayev looks at her. She lowers her eyes.) The scaffold.

Kaliayev, with fever: I have thought of it. To die at the moment of the assassination leaves something undone. Between the assassination and the scaffold, on the other hand, there is an eternity, the only one, perhaps, for a man.

Dora, in an urgent voice, taking his hands: That's the thought that will help you. We pay more than we owe.

Kaliayev: What do you mean?

Dora: We are obliged to kill, right? We deliberately sacrifice one life and only one?

Kaliayev: Yes.

Dora: But first to go to the assassination and then to the gallows, is to give your life twice. We pay more than we owe.

Kaliayev: Yes, that's dying twice. Thank you, Dora. No one can criticize us. Now, I'm sure of myself. (Silence.) What, Dora? Nothing else to say?

Dora: I still want to help you. Only...

Kaliayev: Only what?

Dora: No, I'm crazy.

Kaliayev: You don't trust me?

Dora: No, dear, I don't trust myself. Since Schweitzer died I've had the strangest ideas. And it's not for me to tell you what will be difficult.

Kaliayev: I like difficult things. If you respect me, talk.

Dora, looking at him: I know. You're brave. That is what worries me. You laugh, you glory in this, you walk toward your sacrifice wholeheartedly. But in a few hours, you will have to leave this dream, and act. Maybe it would be better to talk about it in advance to avoid a surprise, a weakness.

Kaliayev: I won't have any weakness. Say what you think.

Dora: Well, the assassination, the gallows, to die twice, that's all easier. Your heart is enough for that. But at the front...(She is quiet, looking at him and seeming to hesitate.) At the front, you will see him.

Kaliayev: Who?

Dora: The Grand Duke.

Kaliayev: Just for a second.

Dora: One second for you to look at him! Oh! Yanek, you must know, you should be warned. A man is a man. The Grand Duke might have compassionate eyes. You might see him blink, or smile happily. Who knows, he might have a little razor cut. And if he looks at you right then...

Kaliayev: It's not him I'm killing. It's despotism.

Dora: Of course, of course. We have to kill despotism. I've made the bombs and while handling the tubes, you know, the hardest part, when your nerves are tense -- I was weirdly happy in my heart. But I don't know the Grand Duke, and it would have been a lot harder if, while I was doing that, he was sitting right in front of me. You will see him close up. Very close up.

Kaliayev (violently): I will not see him.

Dora: How? Will you close your eyes?

Kaliayev: No. But with God's help, hate will come to me at the right time and it will blind me. (A knock. They are still. Enter Stepan and Voinov. A voice in the antechamber. Enter Annenkov.)

Annenkov: That was the doorman. The Grand Duke is going to the theater tomorrow. (He looks at them.) Everything must be ready, Dora.

Dora (sourly): All right. (She leaves slowly)

Kaliayev (watching her leave and then turning toward Stepan): I will kill him. With joy!