Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Waiting for Godot: A Bilingual Edition

by Samuel Beckett

“[Godot is] among the most studied, monographed, celebrated and sent-up works of modern art, and perhaps as influential as any from the last century. The non-story of two tramps at loose ends in a landscape barren of all but a single tree, amusing or distracting themselves from oppressive boredom while they wait for a mysterious figure who never arrives, the play became the ur-text for theatrical innovation and existential thought in the latter half of 20th century.” —Christopher Isherwood, The New York Times

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 368
  • Publication Date August 24, 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4463-8
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 368
  • Publication Date April 13, 2006
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-1821-9
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $24.00

About The Book

From an inauspicious beginning at the tiny Left Bank Theatre de Babylone in 1953, followed by bewilderment among American and British audiences, Waiting for Godot has become one of the most important and enigmatic plays of the past fifty years and a cornerstone of twentieth-century drama. As Clive Barnes wrote, “Time catches up with genius. . . . Waiting for Godot is one of the masterpieces of the century.”

Now in honor of the centenary of Samuel Beckett’s birth, Grove Press is publishing a bilingual edition of the play. Beckett wrote the play in French and then translated it himself into English. In doing so he chose to revise and eliminate various passages. With side-by-side text, the reader can experience the mastery of Beckett’s language and explore its nuances. Upon being asked who Godot is, Samuel Beckett told director Alan Schneider, “If I knew, I would have said so in the play.” Although we may never know who we are waiting for, in this special edition we can rediscover one of the most poignant and humorous allegories of our time.

Praise

“One of the most noble and moving plays of our generation, a threnody of hope deceived and deferred but never extinguished; a play suffused with tenderness for the whole human perplexity; with phrases that come like a sharp stab of beauty and pain.” —The Times (London)

Excerpt

POZZO:
Stand back!

(Vladimir and Estragon move away from Lucky. Pozzo jerks the rope. Lucky looks at Pozzo.)

Think, pig!

(Pause. Lucky begins to dance.)

Stop!

(Lucky stops.)

Forward!

(Lucky advances.)

Stop!

(Lucky stops.)

Think!

Silence.

LUCKY:
On the other hand with regard to—

POZZO:
Stop!

(Lucky stops.)

Back!

(Lucky moves back.)

Stop!

(Lucky stops.)

Turn!

(Lucky turns towards auditorium.)

Think!

During Lucky’s tirade the others react as follows.

1.) Vladimir and Estragon all attention, Pozzo dejected and disgusted.

2.) Vladimir and Estragon begin to protest, Pozzo’s sufferings increase.

3.) Vladimir and Estragon attentive again, Pozzo more and more agitated and groaning.

4.) Vladimir and Estragon protest violently. Pozzo jumps up, pulls on the rope. General outcry. Lucky pulls on the rope, staggers, shouts his text. All three throw themselves on Lucky who struggles and shouts his text.

LUCKY:
Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattman of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua outside time without extension who from the heights of divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown but time will tell and suffers like the divine Miranda with those who for reasons unknown but time will tell are plunged in torment plunged in fire whose fire flames if that continues and who can doubt it will fire the firmament that is to say blast hell to heaven so blue still and calm so calm with a calm which even though intermittent is better than nothing but not so fast and considering what is more that as a result of the labors left unfinished crowned by the Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry of Essy-in-Possy of Testew and Cunard it is established beyond all doubt all other doubt than that which clings to the labors of men that as a result of the labors unfinished of Testew and Cunard it is established as hereinafter but not so fast for reasons unknown that as a result of the public works of Puncher and Wattman it is established beyond all doubt that in view of the labors of Fartov and Belcher left unfinished for reasons unknown of Testew and Cunard left unfinished it is established what many deny that man in Possy of Testew and Cunard that man in Essy that man in short that man in brief in spite of the strides of alimentation and defecation wastes and pines wastes and pines and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the strides of physical culture the practice of sports such as tennis football running cycling swimming flying floating riding gliding conating camogie skating tennis of all kinds dying flying sports of all sorts autumn summer winter winter tennis of all kinds hockey of all sorts penicilline and succedanea in a word I resume flying gliding golf over nine and eighteen holes tennis of all sorts in a word for reasons unknown in Feckham Peckham Fulham Clapham namely concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown but time will tell fades away I resume Fullham Clapham in a word the dead loss per head since the death of Bishop Berkeley being to the tune of one inch four ounce per head approximately by and large more or less to the nearest decimal good measure round figures stark naked in the stockinged feet in Connemara in a word for reasons unknown no matter what matter the facts are there and considering what is more much more grave that in the light of the labors lost of Steinweg and Peterman it appears what is more much more grave that in the light the light the light of the labors lost of Steinweg and Peterman that in the plains in the mountains by the seas by the rivers running water running fire the air is the same and then the earth namely the air and then the earth in the great cold the great dark the air and the earth abode of stones in the great cold alas alas in the year of their Lord six hundred and something the air the earth the sea the earth abode of stones in the great deeps the great cold on sea on land and in the air I resume for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis the facts are there but time will tell I resume alas alas on on in short in fine on on abode of stones who can doubt it I resume but not so fast I resume the skull fading fading fading and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis on on the beard the flames the tears the stones so blue so calm alas alas on on the skull the skull the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the labors abandoned left unfinished graver still abode of stones in a word I resume alas alas abandoned unfinished the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the skull alas the stones Cunard (mêlée, final vociferations) tennis . . . the stones . . . so calm . . . Cunard . . . unfinished . . .

Discussion Questions

In what is certainly a prodigious feat of memory for any actor brave enough to take on the role of Lucky, this “tirade,” as Beckett puts it, constitutes by far the longest reading line of Waiting for Godot. Lucky, who has stood mute, pathetic, and subservient to Pozzo’s abusive demands, unleashes this torrent of words when Pozzo commands him to “think!” The lines above are his only lines in the play, but as a whole they constitute one of the most memorable scenes in Waiting for Godot.

It doesn’t take long to see that Lucky’s words are utter nonsense, a grotesque distortion of academic speech or writing, yet they often seem to suggest larger themes, probably most explicitly when he talks of a God who “loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown” near the beginning of the tirade. This line is poignant because Lucky appears to be one of these unfortunates who perhaps escapes God’s love, bound to an unreasoning master as he is and afflicted with the inability to “think” and speak in any manner that means something.

He starts the speech with language that sounds academic, citing a study of “a personal God” by “Puncher and Wattmann,” the second name perhaps being Beckett’s allusion to his earlier novel. What starts out sounding like inflated speech quickly degenerates into stuttering and rambling. The Latin preposition “qua,” frequently used in philosophy in place of the English “as,” turns into “quaquaquaqua” twice, giving the tirade a sort of rhythm, but little discernible sense. He speaks of a God with “divine apathia divine aphasia,” making God something like Lucky, who also appears to suffer from “apathia” (apathy) and “aphasia” (the complete or partial loss of the ability to speak effectively).

Vladimir and Estragon empathize with Lucky’s “divine aphasia,” whereas hearing Lucky “think,” only deepens Pozzo’s disgust for his slave. The entire interaction between Pozzo and Lucky brings up the issue of the master-slave relationship and all of the ugly points that go with it. Some critics might give their relationship what they would call a “postcolonial” reading, casting Pozzo as the colonizer and Lucky as the colonized. By living in abject and unquestioning bondage to Pozzo’s every whim, Lucky seems to have lost the ability to speak for himself in any manner that could affect positive change for him or anyone else. Beckett may be suggesting that this sort of tragic result can occur when any human lives in a state permanently beneath another human.

Questions

1.) Beckett satirizes academic discourse throughout a great number of his works. The satire here takes on scatological overtones, or ones that have a concern with human waste and body noises, with invented authors like “Fartov and Belcher” who may presumably have something to do with the “strides of alimentation and defecation.” Beckett is a highly educated man himself. Why do you think he chooses to satirize academic discourse? What opportunities does this satire offer for performance? You can use the tone of voice of a stuffy professor when reading Lucky’s lines, for example. Can you think of any other ways to highlight the twisted academic nature of this speech?

2.) The director Charlie Kaufman is often compared to Samuel Beckett in his use of absurdity to create humorous and uncanny passages in his works. The scene in Being John Malkovich where the viewer gets to be inside John Malkovich’s brain and all the characters look like John Malkovich and can only speak the word “Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich” over and over, is one that seems to be on a similar level of absurdity to Lucky’s speech. While these two passages do not have a lot in common besides repetition and zaniness, Kaufman certainly seems to be working in a similar vein as Beckett. Watch Being John Malkovich or another Kaufman movie and see what other comparisons you can make to Beckett. Can you take any hints from the Kaufman movie in helping your performance and understanding of Beckett?

3.) As in most all Beckett works, repetition figures heavily in this passage. Clichés like “time will tell” and “for reasons unknown” are uttered over and over to no effect. Can you find other repetitions here? Why do you think Beckett features these repetitions so prominently in Lucky’s speech? What might Beckett be suggesting about aphasia? About academic discourse? About the importance of repetition in literature and in drama?