Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Rockaby & Other Short Pieces

Rockaby; Ohio Impromptu; All Strange Away; A Piece of Monologue

by Samuel Beckett

“In love with the aside, the tangential comment, the footnote and the mathematical calculation . . . Beckett has fashioned a vehicle for himself in drama and prose that allows him to be romantic and irreverent at one and the same instant.” —The New Republic

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 80
  • Publication Date April 01, 1981
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5138-4
  • Dimensions 5.38" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $10.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date December 01, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9833-4
  • US List Price $10.00

About The Book

Rockaby and Other Short Pieces brings together four recent works by the Nobel Prize-winning author of Waiting for Godot. We find in Beckett’s masterful, exquisite prose, the familiar themes from his earlier works here expressed in the anguished murmurings of the solitary human consciousness. Published for the first time, Rockaby is a dramatic monologue of a woman sitting in a rocking chair. Directed by Alan Schneider, Rockaby was performed at the State University of New York at Buffalo’s Beckett Festival in 1981. Also published for the first time, Ohio Impromptu explores the poignant inter-dependency of its two characters, Reader and Listener, who, in reading and listening to the story of their relationship, buoy each other up, temporarily, against “terror of the night.”

Ohio Impromptu premiered at the Ohio State University at Columbus’s 1981 Beckett Festival. All Strange Away is a haunting prose work centering around a figure confined in a small rotunda, buried in his/her “profounds of mind.” Written especially for the actor David Warrilow, A Piece of Monologue features a white-haired man in a nightgown who, in the terrible solitude of the night, agonizes over remembrances of loved ones.

Excerpt

Ohio Impromptu

Ohio Impromptu was first performed in the Drake Union, Stadium 2 Theater, in association with Ohio State University, on May 9, 1981. It was directed by Alan Schneider.

L = Listener.
R = Reader.

As alike in appearance as possible.

Light on table midstage. Rest of stage in darkness.

Plain white deal table, say 8″ x 4″.

Two plain armless white deal chairs.

L seated at table facing front towards end of long side audience right. Bowed head propped on right hand. Face hidden. Left hand on table. Long black coat. Long white hair.

R seated at table in profile centre of short side audience right. Bowed head propped on right hand. Left hand on table. Book on table before him open at last pages. Long black coat. Long white hair.

Black wide-brimmed hat at centre of table.

Fade up.

Ten seconds.

R turns page.

Pause.

R (reading): Little is left to tell. In a last—

L knocks with left hand on table.

Little is left to tell.

Pause. Knock.

In a last attempt to obtain relief he moved from where they had been so long together to a single room on the far bank. From its single window he could see the downstream extremity of the Isle of Swans.

Pause.

Relief he had hoped would flow from unfamiliarity. Unfamiliar room. Unfamiliar scene. Out to where nothing ever shared. Back to where nothing ever shared. From this he had once half hoped some measure of relief might flow.

Pause.

Day after day he could be seen slowly pacing the islet. Hour after hour. In his long black coat no matter what the weather and old world Latin Quarter hat. At the tip he would always pause to dwell on the receding stream. How in joyous eddies its two arms conflowed and flowed united on. Then turn and his slow steps retrace.

Pause.

In his dreams—

Knock.

Then turn and his slow steps retrace.

Pause. Knock.

In his dreams he had been warned against this change. Seen the dear face and heard the unspoken words, Stay where we were so long alone together, my shade will comfort you.

Pause.

Could he not—

Knock.

Seen the dear face and heard the unspoken words, Stay where we were so long alone together, my shade will comfort you.

Pause. Knock.

Could he not now turn back? Acknowledge his error and return to where they were once so long alone together. Alone together so much shared. No. What he had done alone could not be undone. Nothing he had ever done alone could ever be undone. By him alone.

Pause.

In this extremity his old terror of night laid hold on him again. After so long a lapse that as if never been. (Pause. Looks closer.) Yes, after so long a lapse that as if never been. Now with redoubled force the fearful symptoms described at length page forty paragraph four. (Starts to turn back the pages. Checked by L’s left hand. Resumes relinquished page.) White nights now again his portion. As when his heart was young. No sleep no braving sleep till—(turns page)—dawn of day.

Pause.

Little is left to tell. One night—

Knock.

Little is left to tell.

Pause. Knock.

One night as he sat trembling head in hands from head to foot a man appeared to him and said, I have been sent by—and here he named the dear name—to comfort you. Then drawing a worn volume from the pocket of his long black coat he sat and read till dawn. Then disappeared without a word.

Pause.

Some time later he appeared again at the same hour with the same volume and this time without preamble sat and read it through again the long night through. Then disappeared without a word.

Pause.

So from time to time unheralded he would appear to read the sad tale through again and the long night away. Then disappear without a word.

Pause.

With never a word exchanged they grew to be as one.

Pause.

Till the night came at last when having closed the book and dawn at hand he did not disappear but sat on without a word.

Pause.

Finally he said, I have had word from—and here he named the dear name—that I shall not come again. I saw the dear face and heard the unspoken words, No need to go to him again, even were it in your power.

Pause.

So the sad—

Knock.

Saw the dear face and heard the unspoken words, No need to go to him again, even were it in your power.

Pause. Knock.

So the sad tale a last time told they sat on as though turned to stone. Through the single window dawn shed no light. From the street no sound of reawakening. Or was it that buried in who knows what thoughts they paid no heed? To light of day. To sound of reawakening. What thoughts who knows. Thoughts, no, not thoughts. Profounds of mind. Buried in who knows what profounds of mind. Of mindlessness. Whither no light can reach. No sound. So sat on as though turned to stone. The sad tale a last time told.

Pause.

Nothing is left to tell.

Pause. R makes to close book.

Knock. Book half-closed.

Nothing is left to tell.

Pause. R closes book.

Knock.

Silence. Five seconds.

Simultaneously they lower their right hands to table, raise their heads and look at each other. Unblinking. Expressionless.

Ten seconds.

Fade out.