jeudi, août 25, 2005

Samuel Beckett's Endgame

I've a tradition that when I travel I take a noted work of good performance literature and (perhaps unfortunately for my fellow travelers) I and my fellow travelers read the work aloud in voices --for a dramatic reading. This past trip was no exception and the work in question was Samuel Beckett's _Endgame_. Beckett won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1969. His plays deal with harsh topics in a manner that makes one reflect deeply and think about the purpose of life and the human condition.

I think that reading _Endgame_ so soon after I finished reading _A Grief Observed_ by CS Lewis (I'm on a CSLewis kick now having read Narnia, Problem with Pain, Screwtape Letters, A Grief Observed, Miracles, and am in the middle of the collected letters of CS Lewis vol. 2) that I'm acutely aware of how much writers try to convey the human condition with its irony, its compassion, its suffering, its futility, its tremendous network of connnections between parents and children, etc. and we read those themes again and again touched in such a great and marvelous way to our core by the beauty of a wordcraftsman's skill. I highly recommend _Endgame_ and _A Grief Observed_ to people who are interested in a quick read with a lot of food for thought. I can hardly do the thoughts justice here. In some ways Beckett presents a bleak bleak worldview, but really there's an underlying lesson of love and compassion taught in a subtle and matter-of-fact way which is really powerful, if you've the imagination to fill out the performance in your mind. Seriously, I found both of these books to be truly interesting. Htose of you who read literature are encouraged to read these two works.

I read the _Act Without Words_ by S. Beckett tonight. It, too, is powerful and majestic in a very poignant way, though not as good as _Endgame_ which has a subtlety and power rooted in its complexity and the simplicity of the words and set. Act WIthout Words (AWW) is too obvious and too crude. It makes one feel more dirty and depressed, but Endgame on the other hand is conveyed with the artistry of a Vermeer (most notably that cleverness and aura of "the Love Letter" or that artistry necessary to capture the soft and gentle "Henrikje Bathing" of Rembrandt van Rijn --Beckett's words are crafted in such a combination of that kind of artistry mixed with the brusque chunkiness of a Picasso and the flair of a Warhol print. It's really amazing. With _Endgame_, though not necessarily with AWW, Beckett scores way above S.Y. Agnon in my book.

I'm off now to read _The Storyteller_ by Mario Vargas Llosa. that, too, should be fabulous. Llosa won the 1995 Cervantes Prize and also the Jerusalem Prize. We'll see how well it flows shortly.

In closing, here are a few notable quotes from the text of _Endgame_:

(Grove Press edition pages noted.)
pp22-23 - " G-d damn you to hell, Sir, no, it's indecent, there are limits! In six days, do you hear me, six days, G-d made the world. Yes Sir, no less Sir, the WORLD! And you are not bloody well capable of makinng me a pair of trousers in three months!"
(tailor's voice scandalized.) "But my dear Sir, my dear Sir, look -- (disdainful gesture, disgustedly) at the world-- (pause) and look (loving gesture, proudly) --at my TROUSERS!"

p 56 Nagg to Hamm: " I hope the day will come when you'll really need to have me listen to you, and need to hear my voice, any voice,"

p.57 Clov "I love order. It's my dream. A world where all would be silent and still and each thing in its last place, under the last dust."
Hamm "What in G-d's name do you think you are doing?
Clov "I'm doing my best to b=create a little order."

p.68 (stage directions omitted) Hamm " You weep, and weep, for nothing, so as not to laugh, and little by begin to grieve.
All those I might have helped.
The place was crawling with them!
Use your head, can't you, use your head, you're onn earth, there's no cure for that!
Get out of here and love one another!..."

pp75-76 Clov to Hamm "There's one thing I'll never understand.
Why I always obey you. Can you explain that to me?"
Hamm in response " No.... Perhaps it's compassion. (Pause.) A great kind of compassion. (Pause.) Oh you won't find it easy, you won't find it easy."

pp80-81 Clov "I say to myself --sometimes, Clov, you must learn to suffer better than that if you want them to weary of punishing you --one day. I say to myself --sometimesm Clov, you must be there better than that if yuou want them to let you go --one day. but I feel too old, and too far, to form new habits. Good, it'll never end, I'll never go.(Pause) Then one day, suddenly, it changes, I don't understand, that either. I ask the words that remain -- sleeping, waking, morning, evening. They have nothing to say. (pause.) I open the door of the cell and go. I am so bowed I only see my feet, if I open my eyes, and between my legs a little trail of black dust. I say to myself that the earth is extinguished, though I never saw it lit. (pause.) It's easy going. (pause.) When I fall I'll weep for happiness."

p 82 Hamm "Old endgame lost of old, play and lose and have done with losing."

Ciao, Bellissima.