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Book: Samuel Beckett - Waiting for Godot

PostPosted: January 26th, 2018, 10:18 am
by Lomax
VLADIMIR: That passed the time.
ESTRAGON: It would have passed in any case.


This whole book strikes me as a practical joke. The drama is obsessed with death, transience, helplessness and futility; the protagonists are not searching but waiting for something (or rather, someone) to give their lives purpose, and to rescue them from their wretched material conditions. In their insistence on waiting they miss the chance to take these matters in to their own hands. In all these respects their inactivity and demise seems like the perfect metaphor for waiting for God. Messengers come and prophesy the imminent arrival of Godot; the protagonists cannot tell whether the messengers are reliable, nor even whether the second messenger is the first messenger returning. The first messenger is a shepherd; he minds the flock. Elsewhere dialogue gives us references to Cain and Abel, to the crucifiction, to a discrepancy in the gospels. The text screams Christian connotation at the reader.

And yet, on the back cover Beckett is quoted as saying:

"I told him [Sir Ralph Richardson] that if by Godot I had meant God I would have said God, and not Godot. This seemed to disappoint him greatly."


Waiting for Godot is generally touted as one of the earliest examples, if not the earliest example, of postmodern literature, a movement ostentatiously devoid of "meaning" and morality. Could it not be that Beckett wanted us to read religion into this tale, in order that he could tell us we're wrong? Could it be that he wanted to make a point about our tendency to see patterns where none exist, our tendency to wish-think, our tendency to project? I think he knew exactly what he was doing.

VLADIMIR: Poor Pozzo!
ESTRAGON: I knew it was him!
VLADIMIR: Who?
ESTRAGON: Godot.
VLADIMIR: But it's not Godot.
ESTRAGON: It's not Godot?
VLADIMIR: It's not Godot.
ESTRAGON: Then who is it?
VLADIMIR: It's Pozzo.

Re: Book: Samuel Beckett - Waiting for Godot

PostPosted: January 26th, 2018, 10:52 am
by Asparagus
Works of art that have explicit meanings never rise too far above the level of decoration or propaganda. As you say, if it goes too far in the other direction, it becomes a pretentious game.

There's a TV show called Mr Robot, in which the main character says that consumerism is one way a person might create a "matrix" to divert attention from helplessness or pointlessness. In Waiting for Godot, the perennial wait for the Second Coming could be like a matrix that people use to help them ignore the content of the book of Ecclesiastes: 'I realized that everything is in vain, and I hated life. This too was in vain.' That's where my mind goes anyway.

Re: Book: Samuel Beckett - Waiting for Godot

PostPosted: January 26th, 2018, 11:04 am
by BadgerJelly
I cannot remember where I heard them say it, but Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson's view of this play was nice. Obvious to see where Bottom came from.

Re: Book: Samuel Beckett - Waiting for Godot

PostPosted: January 26th, 2018, 12:14 pm
by Lomax
Asparagus ยป January 26th, 2018, 3:52 pm wrote:Works of art that have explicit meanings never rise too far above the level of decoration or propaganda. As you say, if it goes too far in the other direction, it becomes a pretentious game.

I didn't mean for my review to appear damning - I rather like the pretense, playfulness and deliberate vacuity of postmodern literature - Lolita, Gravity's Rainbow and Borges's Labyrinths count among my favourite books - particularly when the vacuity is employed to make a point after all, as I suspect in this case. I think that stuff really forces you to think in a way that more straightforwardly "meaningful" literature doesn't. Debussy said that music is the space between the notes; maybe we can say literature lies between the lines.

Re: Book: Samuel Beckett - Waiting for Godot

PostPosted: January 26th, 2018, 1:14 pm
by TheVat
Agree that making a message explicit tends to make a work less one of art and more a polemic or a lecture. Godot seemed to represent every sort of breathlessly awaited meaning, not just the religious sort, but he certainly gives the God concept a leg pull with that choice of name. As a former fan of Nabakov's "Pale Fire," I love a good leg pulling. I couldn't get into Pynchon, for some reason, except for The Crying of Lot 49, which I recall making some sense of in college and then mostly forgetting. I couldn't get into Gravity's Rainbow then, but maybe will have another look. Love Borges. I went through a minimalist phase where I gave away or sold about 1200 books, setting the goal of keeping only about 25 I felt truly represented my interests and/or had deep sentimental value as gifts - "Ficciones" was one of the 25.

As a music person, I would have to disagree with Debussy. Especially when a passage is quite legato - where are the spaces, then, eh, Claude? Seriously, I think I get what he means, but it comes out sounding a bit wrong at first. Notes do matter. As long as there aren't too many.

Re: Book: Samuel Beckett - Waiting for Godot

PostPosted: January 26th, 2018, 3:03 pm
by Lomax
I might have been baffled by Debussy's aphorism, but I can listen to Clair De Lune and understand what he means.

Re: Book: Samuel Beckett - Waiting for Godot

PostPosted: January 27th, 2018, 9:15 am
by Asparagus
Is it even possible to witness something that us completely devoid of meaning?

Or are we talking about meaningless in the form of nihilism? An expression of nihilism?

Re: Book: Samuel Beckett - Waiting for Godot

PostPosted: January 27th, 2018, 10:57 am
by Lomax
I mean lacking any underpinning moral or message, at least in the deliberate sense. My contention is that Beckett wants us to think that his play is about our waiting for God - so that he can tell us it isn't. So I think he is teasing us.