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The Ransomes had been burgled. "Robbed," Mrs. Ransome said. "Burgled,"Mr. Ransome corrected. Premises were burgled; persons were robbed. Mr. Ransome was a solicitor by profession and thought words mattered. Though "burgled" was the wrong word too. Burglars select; they pick; they remove one item and ignore others. There is a limit to what burglars can take: they seldom take easy chairs, for example, and even more seldom settees. These burglars did. They took everything.

The Ransomes had been to the opera, to Così fan tutte (or Così as Mrs. Ransome had learned to call it). Mozart played an important part in their marriage. They had no children and but for Mozart would probably have split up years ago. Mr. Ransome always took a bath when he came home from
work and then he had his supper. After supper he took another bath, this time in Mozart. He wallowed in Mozart; he luxuriated in him; he let the little Viennese soak away all the dirt and disgustingness he had had to sit through in his office all day. On this particular evening he had been to the public baths, Covent Garden, where their seats were immediately behind the Home Secretary. He too was taking a bath and washing away the cares of his day, cares, if only in the form of a statistic, that were about to include the Ransomes.

On a normal evening, though, Mr. Ransome shared his bath with no one, Mozart coming personalized via his headphones and a stack of complex and finely balanced stereo equipment that Mrs. Ransome was never allowed to touch. She blamed the stereo for the burglary as that was what the robbers were probably after in the first place. The theft of stereos is common; the theft of fitted carpets is not.

"Perhaps they wrapped the stereo in the carpet,"said Mrs. Ransome.

Mr. Ransome shuddered and said her fur coat was more likely, whereupon Mrs. Ransome started crying again.

It had not been much of a Così. Mrs. Ransome could not follow the plot and Mr. Ransome, who never tried, found the performance did not compare with the four recordings he possessed of
the work. The acting he invariably found distracting. "None of them knows
what to do with their arms," he said to his wife in the interval. Mrs. Ransome thought it probably went further than their arms but did not say so. She was wondering if the casserole she had left in the oven
would get too dry at Gas Mark 4. Perhaps 3 would have been better. Dry it may well have been but there was no need to have worried. The thieves took the oven and the casserole with it.

The Ransomes lived in an Edwardian block of flats the color of ox blood not far from Regent's Park. It was handy for the City, though Mrs. Ransome would have preferred something farther out, seeing herself with a trug in a garden, vaguely. But she was not gifted in that direction. An African violet that her cleaning lady had given her at Christmas had finally given up the ghost that very morning and she had been forced to hide it in the wardrobe out of Mrs. Clegg's way. More wasted effort. The wardrobe had
gone too.

They had no neighbors to speak of, or seldom to. Occasionally they ran into people in the lift and both parties would smile cautiously. Once they had asked some newcomers on their floor around to sherry, but he had turned out to be what he called "a big band freak" and she had been a dental receptionist with a time-share in Portugal, so one way and another it had been an awkward evening and they had never repeated the experience. These days the turnover of tenants seemed increasingly rapid and the lift more and more wayward. People were always moving in and out again, some of them Arabs. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .

Revue de presse

"Few write sharper dialogue or probe more tellingly into the frailties and occasional strengths of the human psyche than Alan Bennett. None knows more about getting each scene just right or is as consistently witty."
—William Trevor

"Full of jolly, broad, and very English humour...a charm-filled holiday read."
—Alain de Botton, author of On Love and How Proust Can Change Your Life --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .

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Amazon.com: 53 commentaires
73 internautes sur 73 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Who would You Be? 14 février 2001
Par Mary G. Longorio - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Poor Maurice and Rosemary Ransome return home from the opera and discover their flat has been burglarized and everything has been taken. The dinner that was left warming in the oven, the furniture, the telephones even the toilet paper has been taken. After trying to convey the thouroughness of the robbery to the police (in an uncomfortable public phone booth , no less) Mr. Ransome returns to his empty house to wait with his wife...while waiting he notices not only the drapes but the curtain rings are gone! This slender British novel wittily and adeptly poses the question " What would you do, Who would you be, if everything was taken?". The Ransomes deal with the police (who proffer no hope of recovering their gear), the insurance company (however, EVERYTHING is gone, including the copy of their insurance policy) and wait for some semblance of normal to be restored in their lives. A few creature comforts are obtained to replace the many and then the tale takes a remarkable turn. This is a delightful tale, full of humor and with remarkable insight on people and their possessions. I have given my first copy away and have already reread the replacement book! A must have.
34 internautes sur 34 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The Meaning of Material Things 2 avril 2006
Par Amanda Richards - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
There are two stories in this slim package, both dealing with people’s relationships with their possessions.

In the first, Mr. and Mrs. Ransome return from the opera to find their flat totally empty. The casserole has disappeared along with the oven, and even the toilet paper’s gone. Mr. Ransome mostly misses his stereo equipment (and of course the toilet paper) but cheers up when he remembers that he can upgrade his technology with the insurance refund.

Mrs. Ransome quickly gets over her shock, and begins shopping for the bare essentials to tide them over until the insurance cheque arrives. During this exercise, she rediscovers the simple things and learns that life without all her accumulated baggage isn’t that bad after all.

When the mystery is revealed, Mrs. Ransome has a whole new outlook on life, and although her husband has also changed, he hasn’t evolved as much as she has. This is a story with some very funny bits, but also with some important messages for all of us.

The other (shorter) story is about an eccentric woman who makes her home in a van, surrounded by everything she owns. Also very funny, it is so rich in description that your nose turns up whenever the author takes you inside the van.

If you’re looking for an entertaining read, and don’t feel like tackling a whole book, this one is highly recommended.

Amanda Richards, April 1, 2006
16 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Poignant, Amusing and Insightful 3 mai 2001
Par Lee LS Rice - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Ever since his days as part of 'Beyond The Fringe' in 1960, Alan Bennett has continued to hold a valued position in the affections of the British public. His 1987 collection of monologues, 'Talking Heads' are classics of the genre and in 1995 he was even nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay, 'The Madness Of King George'. 'The Clothes They Stood Up In' is a further testament to his popularity. Appearing first in 'The London Review Of Books', Bennett later read the story on Radio 4, a performance later released on cassette. Now it has been published in a volume of its own. Like much of his other work, it is a comic story with elements of tragedy. The title refers to all Mr. and Mrs. Ransome have left after they return home from a night at the opera. To the horror of this middle class couple, everything in their flat has gone missing including the telephone, the toilet paper (Mr. Ransome has to use his program from the opera), the light bulbs, and Mr. Ransome's prized Mozart collection. The comic situations developing from this crisis are improbable yet curiously still believable. Communication problems and individual idiosyncrasies propel the humour along in these hilarious sequences, with Bennett's observation making the farce seem all the more real. Social workers, the police and daytime television shows all find themselves on the receiving end of Bennett's gentle (albeit razor sharp) wit. The cold Mr. Ransome, painfully aware of his impression on others, begins to crack now his respectability is threatened. His wife on the other hand discovers her independence. Bennett has admitted he finds it easier to write through female personas, and he succeeds in showing Mrs. Ransome's gradual growth as a human being and disenchantment with her cosy, starched, pre-theft lifestyle. Bennett's irony gets many opportunities to manifest itself in this story, as does his ability to juxtapose incongruent ideas. His elegant writing style is littered with lavatories and dog excrament. When the Ransomes find an audio tape with two people having sex on it, Mrs. Ransome says "It sounds like custard boiling". The story's message seems to be a warning against suppressing the true self and not living life to the full. The latter part of the book is particularly scathing towards Mr. Ransome's stiff and awkward outlook. One suspects that Bennett is intervening, using the opportunity to attack pompous middle class behaviour. The climax is a poignant but positive ending to what is an amusing, moving and insightful story.
28 internautes sur 32 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A perfect miniature 17 septembre 2002
Par James D. Watts Jr. - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
"The Clothes They Stood Up In" are all Mr. and Mrs. Ransome have left when they return to their London apartment after spending the evening at the opera. That's because they've been robbed -- well, burgled, as Mr. Ransome points out. People are robbed, premises are burgled.
And the Ransomes have been burgled down to the floorboards. Everything is gone. Not just the minor valuables like the jewelry Mrs. Ransome had, and the almost-but-not-quite state-of-the-art stereo system Mr. Ransome used to listen to his beloved Mozart, are missing. The rugs are gone, and the furniture that sat on top of them. The kitchen appliances are gone, as is the casserole Mrs. Ransome had in the oven to be ready for them when they returned from "Cosi fan tutti." The burglars even made off with the toilet paper roll that was on the spindle in the loo.
This slim, compact tale is the first work of fiction Bennett has published, although he's been writing for some 40 years. He's close to being a national literary treasure in his native England, for his plays like "A Question of Attribution" and "An Englishman Abroad," television programs like the series of monologues titled "Talking Heads" (some of which were broadcast as a part of "Masterpiece Theater" in the U.S.), films like "A Private Function" and "The Madness of King George."
"The Clothes They Stood Up In" has all the hallmarks of Bennett's work. It's concise and understated the story takes less time to read than you need to listen to, well, to "Cosi fan tutti." It's suffused with a gentle wit that occasionally rises to passages of laugh-out-loud hilarity. It also reveals the strengths and weaknesses of the characters with a mix of compassion and unflinching honesty.
Those weaknesses quickly become apparent. Mr. Ransome tries to ignore the situation, determined to go about his work as if nothing has happened. He does plan, once the police arrive and ask for an inventory of stolen objects, to inflate the quality of his stolen stereo system, so he can use the insurance money to purchase an even better set- up, the better to pursue he quest for the perfect Mozart performance.
Mrs. Ransome, on the other hand, has been completely knocked out of her orbit. The little routines around the apartment that made up her life are gone; she has to venture out to new stores, buy items she's never had to think about buying before.
The Ransome's slowly start building back their lives, when they receive a bill from a storage facility for an extraordinary sum. The couple investigate, and find that one of the storage units contains their old furnishings -- all kept meticulously in place and in working order, as if the interior of their apartment had suddenly materialized whole.
All except for the casserole, of course.
But then, "The Clothes They Stood Up In" is not a whodunit -- you learn in time who did the stealing and why, and it's about as absurd a resolution as the initial theft was a preposterous crime. The questions this story asks go a lot deeper: Who are you, really, if all you have is the clothes you're wearing? How much is your life defined by the things you gather around yourself? What sort of connections have you made to the people with whom you share your life, much less with world around you? What does it take to be happy?
These are questions Mr. and Mrs. Ransome never ask themselves; they simply act out their answers, as their story gently, carefully, gracefully works its way to a conclusion that is at once profoundly sad and genuinely hopeful.
In that way, "The Clothes They Stood Up In" is a lot like the music of Mozart -- a bright, cheery surface that accentuates rather than hides the profound, sobering depths of emotion. It's a story you will return to again and again.
10 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
We Live in a Material World 5 juin 2003
Par crazyforgems - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
What a delightful find--these two short stories challenge the reader to think about the meaning of material possessions and what constitutes a home.
The first short story, "The Clothes They Stood Up In," tells of a well-heeled London couple who return to their flat to find everything gone. Everything, even the toilet paper roll--The story chronicles their journey through their stages of grief over the loss of their assets and in many ways, their mutual life.
The second short story is actually true. Bennett, the author, tells the unusual story of a homeless London woman whose van was parked in his driveway for more than fifteen years. At times, it is poignant, humorous, and profound.
The two pieces together make a significant statement on materialism in today's world.
I would recommend this book to individuals who cherish the subtleties of British humor and to those who like short pieces with provocative ideas.
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