Two men waiting, for another whom they know only by an implausible name which may not be his real name. A ravaged and blasted landscape. A world that was ampler and more open once, but is permeated with pointlessness now. Mysterious dispensers of beatings. A man of property and his servant, in flight. And the anxiety of the two who wait, their anxiety to be as inconspicuous as possible in a strange environment (“We’re not from these parts, Sir.”) where their mere presence is likely to cause remark.
It is curious how readers and audiences do not think to observe the most obvious thing about the world of the play, that it resembles France occupied by the Germans, in which its author spent the war years. How much waiting must have gone on in that bleak world; how many times must Resistance operatives—displaced persons when everyone was displaced, anonymous ordinary people for whom every day renewed the dispersal of meaning—have kept appointments not knowing whom they were to meet, with men who did not show up and may have had good reasons for not showing up, or bad, or may even have been taken; how often must life itself not have turned on the skill with which overconspicuous strangers did nothing as inconspicuously as possible, awaiting a rendezvous, put off by perhaps unreliable messengers, and making do with quotidian ignorance in the principal working convention of the Resistance, which was to let no one know any more than he had to.
We can easily see why a Pozzo would be unnerving. His every gesture is Prussian. He may be a Gestapo official clumsily disguised.
Here is perhaps the playwright’s most remarkable feat. There existed, throughout a whole country for five years, a literal situation that corresponded point by point with the situation in this play, so far from special that millions of lives were saturated in its desperate reagents, and yet no spectator ever thinks of it. Instead the play is ascribed to one man’s gloomy view of life, which is like crediting him with having invented a good deal of modern history.
Hugh Kenner, A Reader’s Guide to Samuel Beckett (via naranzarian)
I don’t think you need to go looking for gestapo officers in Pozzo or anything like that, but a lot of the relationship between vladimir and estragon is based on Beckett and his wife out in the countryside during the war, especially the stuff with living on gross-ass root vegetables. Agreed on the “gloomy view of life” thing, that’s just lazy, and I’ve never found that with Beckett.
Interestingly, “Godot” apparently means “forever” in Irish (I heard that in some documentary, I don’t speak Irish), so the title is a joke. I mean, “un gode” also means a dildo in French but I don’t wanna be encouraging any spurious readings. Although, as for improbable names, what really comes across with Beckett is that he seems to dislike having to give names. Like in Molloy, there are legit two towns called “shit” and “hole”.
well, Beckett was a courier for the French Resistance, which would certainly have affected him. his writing deals a lot with the will to survive and resist, and while it’s usually not explicitly political or allegorical (the chief exception being Catastrophe), it’s not totally apolitical either. but yeah, Beckett is so far from unidimensionally gloomy or fatalist. all his protagonists are getting by through sheer bloody-mindedness, finding a way to survive that does not require you to be worthy or dignified or smart or have any hope for the future or know what the hell you are doing. also he is funny. I don’t want to be hyperbolic and say Beckett saved my life or anything, but if I was going to say that about any artist it would be Beckett.