BOOK REVIEW / Waiting for doodle: 'The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett, Volume I: Waiting for Godot' - Ed Donald McMillan & James Knowlson: Faber, 75 pounds
Saturday 18 June 1994
Four decades of general writing on Beckett have only shown that his work is strangely impervious to criticism. The way towards a deeper understanding of his work has to be through minute analysis of his self-translations, both literal and, in this case, metaphorical. For every new production of a play is a translation or interpretation, and finding out how Beckett interpreted himself helps us see what he thought he was about and how he changed over the years. Of course, as with Stravinsky's recordings of himself conducting his own works, it is always possible to feel that he was not the best interpreter of what he had done. And it is possible that the editors of this volume are right and that, especially with Godot, Beckett's first play to be performed professionally, his later experience could only lead to improvements in what he described, with characteristic deprecation, as 'a mess'.
Even if they are not, to ask why Beckett should have substituted a stone for 'a mound' in the opening tableau, and why he should have had the boy exiting at the end of the first act 'running' instead of 'backwards slowly', is a far better way to enter his universe than to ask what Godot stands for. These working notebooks and the editors' notes to their composite 'revised' text make the reader work too, but the rewards are great. Everyone concerned with this major project should be congratulated.
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