jazz, free-jazz and improvised music

norbert blei | making the invisible visible


Marcel Marceau: March 22, 1923 / Sept. 22, 2007


Just see…I want to make this short…and simple…Marceau has disappeared into his silent self forever. Writing has a way of going on and on: The leaves outside my window are changing color, trembling in the wind, saying goodbye… Picture a mime disappearing into nothingness. But ‘nothingness’ is too much…Marceau would not approve…Which is probably why he did not become a writer…“Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us without words?” What must be understood, be it music, religion, art: It’s all about silence…

Quiet, please…

It took half a lifetime to get that… The nature of nothing… Listen…Telling stories without words: a mime’s way…“In silence and movement you can show the reflection of people.” It’s been said about Marceau that “…he accomplishes more in two minutes what most novelists cannot do in volumes.” He admired Chaplin’s everyman, the Little Tramp and created for himself the alter ego, Bip, a sad little white-faced clown in a striped jersey with a silk, beaten down opera hat and red flower…Sad is the operative expression…(everyman)…“I have designed my style pantomimes as white ink drawings on black backgrounds, so that man’s destiny appears as a thread lost in an endless labyrinth. I have tried to shed some gleam of light on the shadow of man startled by his anguish.”

His performances indeed spoke volumes: “The Trial,” “The Painter,” “The Hands,” “The Mask Maker,” “Walking Against the Wind”…“To communicate through silence is a link between the thoughts of man.” I saw Marceau perform in a plush, old Chicago theater some thirty years ago. I sat high in the balcony in absolute silence, reading every movement in the man’s body and face. What I carried into the dark Chicago streets and home with me that night…and still carry with me to this day…was a piece of art called “The Cage,” carved in thin air on an empty stage by a man trapped in every way imaginable. Only there was no cage. But yes there was.

was born in Strasbourg, France. His last name was actually Mangel. He was a Jew, seldom spoke of it, yet worked tirelessly, quietly for the freedom of man all his life. His father was a Kosher butcher and died in Auschwitz when the boy was 16. Marceau studied, practiced, learned to walk against the wind invisibly, and perfected through time, “L’art du silence”

He never forgot the cage.
Norbert Blei


  1. Todd Moore

    Norbert Blei’s brief remembrance of Marcel Marceau is worthy of the man. Marceau is one of the great mimes and geniuses of the 20th century. I can’t think of Marceau without being reminded of Samuel Beckett and I can’t think of Beckett without the memory of Marceau. And, Norbert Blei is a writer whose work cries out for serious attention.

  2. Norbert Blei

    What kind words from one of the icons of America’s literary underground. I recall we shared the same Chicago turf at one time. Please give him my regards, my thanks, my encouragement to go on and keep doing what he’s doing…and tell him I still have a first edition of rat-a-tat-tat DILLINGER (with a bullet hole in it) on my shelf, which I plan to reread again tonight and enjoy like an old friend.

    All the best,


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