“The Literature of the Absurd” is a mirrored image on outstanding authors within the Absurdist custom — Beckett, Camus and past — and the methods during which their writings can intertwine with life in generally stunning methods.
The primary time I heard of Samuel Beckett’s “Ready for Godot,” I didn’t suppose a lot of it. I bear in mind being in my mom’s automotive, driving up Freeway 101 from my elementary college in Mountain View to our Redwood Metropolis dwelling. Someway our dialog had shifted from the customary subject — my day in school — to experimental, “trendy” artwork. She didn’t begin with the instance of Beckett. As an alternative, my reminiscence of the automotive experience begins with my mom telling me of a musical work titled “19 Seconds of Silence,” which sounded unbelievably unusual. The piece was precisely what the title prompt, she mentioned, and I used to be dumbfounded. Who may have considered such a weird thought? And why was it so well-known if it was actually so simple as it sounded? It appeared boring, pointless. Anybody who preferred this was most likely a chump.
No shock, then, that my preliminary ideas on Beckett have been comparable. “Ready for Godot,” the subsequent piece of experimental artwork my mom described, struck me as one other unusual perversion of the norm. A two-hour play during which two outdated dudes sat round by a leafless tree and did completely nothing from begin to end? How may anybody presumably get pleasure from this? I had acted in just a few performs earlier than, however none of them had even come near this degree of avant-garde. Possibly “Ready for Godot” was merely an anomaly. In any case, neither of us had rather more to say about it. My incredulity quickly light, however this automotive experience had planted the seed of curiosity. I remembered the title Samuel Beckett, and I remembered the play “Ready for Godot.”
That seed took a very long time to sprout. Years handed and life went on with none want to consider some boring outdated play about nothing. Within the meantime, I grew. My character modified, and so did my tastes. I went by center college quiet and introverted. Round 8th grade, I began changing into extra sarcastic and contrarian, usually pretending to get pleasure from issues solely as a result of others disliked them.
The subsequent time I thought of “Godot” was the autumn of my junior 12 months of highschool. As a first-day icebreaker for an performing class I used to be taking, our trainer requested us our favourite play. Aha! Right here was an opportunity to be controversial. My fellow classmates and I answered in flip, most of them citing works from Shakespeare or extra trendy, 21st century playwrights. I knew loads of these performs. I had been in a number of of them — together with a number of with our trainer, who was additionally the highschool theater director — and preferred a lot of them. However when it got here my flip to talk, I answered: “Ready for Godot.” I assumed anybody who knew the play would acknowledge I used to be being facetious. Possibly they’d get a kick out of it. However our trainer merely raised an eyebrow. “Fascinating! Not many individuals select that one.”
Later that day, I assumed extra about that second. Our trainer had appeared impressed, however I felt unexpectedly ashamed. I knew it didn’t matter, however I felt like I had deceived him. In spite of everything, I hadn’t truly learn ”Ready for Godot.” It hadn’t even occurred to me that individuals would possibly truly like it, least of all our trainer, whom I enormously revered. I made a decision then to search out out what this play was actually about, so I may see for myself whether or not it was a pretentious mockery of actual theater or a refined work of genius.
It took me over a month to really get began. Lastly, one night in October, I discovered a recording of your entire play on Youtube. It was from 2015, and I discovered a PDF script to pair with it. I clicked play with some trepidation.
It turned out my mom hadn’t been exaggerating — it actually was two hours lengthy. I had no less than appeared up a plot abstract, so I wasn’t completely blind moving into. I knew the identities of the 2 foremost characters: Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo); I knew that they waited for 2 days (no less than) for a person named Godot who by no means arrived; I knew that two different characters, Pozzo and Fortunate, performed some form of important position, and that Fortunate’s solely line in your entire play was a page-long monologue of full nonsense; I knew that the one different character was a boy who entered on the finish of every day to tell Didi and Gogo that Godot “received’t come this night however certainly tomorrow.”
And I had discovered that, regardless of my long-held assumption that this play can be a vapid, pseudo-intellectual waste of my time if I ever even bothered to observe it, “Ready for Godot” was truly thought-about some of the, if not essentially the most, influential performs of the 20th century. The whole lot about it nonetheless sounded slightly pointless to me, and I had little opinion on how the play was to be interpreted. However I used to be keen to strive my luck.
My strongest reminiscence from that night is just how shocked I used to be at the truth that the play wasn’t boring. I discovered myself riveted by the energetic banter between the 2 foremost characters, the philosophical ramblings of Didi and the bitter grumblings of Gogo. I laughed on the jokes and the black humor Beckett was in a position to evoke by the awful and vague setting. Whereas I nonetheless had little thought what the purpose of any of it was, and I did surprise about midway in whether or not the second act would even be price watching after the primary, I caught with it, and by the tip I felt an unbelievable sense of non-public accomplishment. I had watched “Ready for Godot” to the tip. I had made up for deceptive my performing trainer and within the course of joined the ranks of the classy elite: those that truly watched erudite, avant-garde theater, and generally possibly even loved it. The subsequent step was to grasp.
This took me some time. Watching the play hadn’t triggered any main transformation in me. I spent a couple of minutes trying up opinions on-line, most of which praised the play and usefully identified some surface-level particulars I had missed, together with varied obscure references and jokes. Completely different interpretations of the play’s that means have been in every single place — it appeared like everyone had their very own perspective. One author believed that Didi’s erudite airs and references to outdated tales and recollections make him a manifestation of the thoughts whereas Gogo together with his pained complaints about boots and beatings represents the physique, an interpretation with which I nonetheless agree. One other argued for an interpretation of Godot as God, a standard argument.
On the time, none of this literary evaluation was terribly fascinating to me. I acquired bored, and moved onto different issues that night time. Nonetheless, “Ready for Godot” was now a good better a part of my unconscious — I observed extra when its title got here up in articles or movies, and each every now and then I might be struck by a sudden inspiration to lookup a line or an opinion on some a part of the play I remembered. However I by no means actually cared a lot about its that means.
My junior 12 months was a tumultuous one. That winter, I entered into my first relationship, which quickly turned a supply of extra stress and fear than consolation, and my psychological well being quickly deteriorated. I struggled to steadiness my time between an unstable and sometimes sad relationship; my family and friends who provided assist, however whom I failed to show to; and all the different work that was vital to me however quickly fell by the wayside.
By late spring, I felt crushed by the load of those pressures, and held little hope issues would ever get higher. It was round that point that I started to grow to be conversant in one other author who has had a robust affect on my life: Albert Camus. I learn each “The Stranger” and “The Delusion of Sisyphus” and located that I resonated strongly with Camus’ philosophy of discovering that means in an inherently meaningless existence: of recognizing and accepting the absurdity of our lives, of confronting and rebelling towards that absurdity by the act of dwelling, and thereby creating a private that means for oneself. The important thing, Camus argued, was to desert all hope that the universe would offer that means. To entertain hope for issues to get higher on their very own was to disregard the straightforward truth of the absurd. Paradoxically, one may by no means discover their very own that means to life whereas maintaining alive a hope for that means. This philosophy enormously appealed to me at a time once I was struggling to search out my very own that means to life and wasn’t positive how I may even start. Maybe as a substitute of sitting round ready for one thing about my life to vary, it was my perspective that wanted to vary. I may study to just accept my circumstances, and select to reside my life regardless of them.
I didn’t initially make the connection between Camus’ writings and “Ready for Godot.” It took my studying of one other ebook — Martin Esslin’s “The Theatre of the Absurd,” revealed in 1961 — to crystalize this connection in my thoughts. The theater of the absurd, Esslin’s titular time period, defines a theatrical custom linking playwrights like Beckett, Arthur Adamov and Eugène Ionesco. Whereas Esslin’s definition of absurdity was not the identical as Camus’ and he primarily acknowledged the extra surreal, pointless, and Kafkaesque parts of those playwrights’ works, listening to this semantic connection impressed me to suppose extra deeply about my very own interpretation of “Godot.” I began to view Godot not as God, however as hope. I thought of Didi’s and Gogo’s infinite watch for Godot, and the way they thought-about suicide — additionally mentioned by Camus — a number of occasions as a manner of escaping their destiny, though they’d clearly by no means commit the act.
And but, regardless of their everlasting purgatory, Didi and Gogo gave the impression to be pleased. That they had one another’s firm, and that of the occasional odd strangers who crossed paths with them at their tree. Their conversations have been clearly fascinating sufficient to maintain me attentive for 2 hours, two days of their time, and I’m positive had I been caught there with them for longer I might have remained entertained.
In “The Delusion of Sisyphus,” Camus describes Sisyphus’ legendary punishment: to roll a boulder up a hill, solely to have it fall again down on the prime, for all eternity. However in his philosophy, Camus believes Sisyphus must be pleased, deriving that means from the straightforward act of dwelling, in rebel of the absurdity of his process. I started to see Didi and Gogo as pleased too — dwelling of their absurd defiance, ready for Godot regardless of data that he would by no means come, and creating their very own happiness. That first seed of curiosity, planted so way back throughout an innocuous automotive experience, had lastly grown right into a mature tree of understanding, and it was a tree with out leaves.
It’s straightforward to search out comparable ideas to mine on-line. “Ready for Godot,” within the seventy plus years because it’s been written, has been analyzed and re-analyzed with out consensus so many occasions that it’s attainable to search out almost any interpretation of the textual content. It doesn’t assist that Beckett was famously recalcitrant about offering any perception as to his personal intentions and the that means of his writings, preferring to let his works communicate for themselves. To me, the number of scholarly articles and interpretations by writers rather more educated on the subject than me don’t actually matter. Whereas I’m all the time curious to study a brand new attainable interpretation of “Godot”, and I do usually, the one which sticks with me most is the one which I got here up with myself. This, I imagine, is the lesson of absurd artwork — Esslin’s that means of the absurd; the surreal, pointless and Kafkaesque avant-garde items that present no clear message to the viewers. Such artwork encourages you to suppose, mirror and are available to your individual conclusions impartial of anybody else’s ideas. Even when that reflection takes years, the that means you give it your self is all that issues.