Thursday, September 17, 2009


Terrific article by Jo Glanville in the Guardian today about Samuel Beckett and Vaclav Havel trading plays during Havel's incarceration in the early 1980s. Beckett's play, Catastrophe, was answered by Havel's Mistake.

The article is short enough that it needs no summary here. This bit, however, I found hilarious and grim -- as any playwright would:

Catastrophe is a short work consisting of one scene, in which a director and his assistant discuss a mute figure they are preparing for a performance: he is a dehumanised character, like a tailor's dummy, at the mercy of their direction; his only gesture of independence is to raise his head at the end of the play – an act of resistance in the face of oppression.

Knowlson recalls Beckett's furious response when a critic described the ending as ambiguous. "I can still remember sitting with him outside a cafe in Paris," he says. The playwright pounded the table and told him: "It's not ambiguous – he's saying, 'You bastards, you haven't finished me yet!'"

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