Volume 12
An Online Literary Magazine
January 31, 2018

 

A Lost Interview with Samuel Beckett

Interview

David James

 


Samuel Beckett

 

T
his interview with Samuel Beckett took place at an Irish pub in Ann Arbor, Michigan on a rainy night at midnight. No one is sure of the year. Yet, as people think back on it, it was not midnight and it was not raining. It was, however, in Michigan.

 

INTERVIEWER: Itís good to finally meet you. Iíve been a huge fan for years.

 

BECKETT: Perhaps my best years are gone.

 

INTERVIEWER: How can you say that? Your work revolutionized the drama world. Broke it in half. You invented anti-theatre, or at least took it to levels not reached before. How did you come up with the concept for Waiting for Godot, your seminal work?

 

BECKETT: That was nearly sixty years ago. Yes, nearly sixty.

 

INTERVIEWER: I know, but try to remember. Why did you write that play?

 

BECKETT: We are all born mad. Some remain so. Thereís no good harking back on that. Come on.

 

INTERVIEWER: If you say so. Who were your heroes? Who did you try to imitate? For example, what do you think of Shakespeare?

 

BECKETT: All my life Iíve compared myself to him.

 

INTERVIEWER: In what ways?

 

BECKETT: Thatís the idea. Letís ask each other questions. Would you like a radish?

 

INTERVIEWER: No, thank you. Iíd like to stay on track with this interview.

 

BECKETT: I lost my head. Forgive me. It wonít happen again. Tell me what to do.

 

INTERVIEWER: Just be honest with me. When you were sitting there writing these playsóKrappís Last Tape, Endgame, Happy Days, Waiting for Godotówho was the audience you had in mind?

 

BECKETT: To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!

 

INTERVIEWER: I love that sentiment.

 

BECKETT: The essential doesnít change.

 

INTERVIEWER: Why is it that no one ever dies in your plays? Is this a symbolic message of hope? A confirmation of life?

 

BECKETT: I donít know what came over me. Forgive me. Forget all I said. I donít remember exactly what it was, but you may be sure there wasnít a word of truth.

 

INTERVIEWER: Are you saying that your entire body of work was a farce?

 

BECKETT: Iím beginning to come íround to that opinion. All my life Iíve tried to put it from me, saying, ďBe reasonable. You havenít yet tried everything.Ē And I resumed the struggle.

 

INTERVIEWER: You continue to write even though you donít believe in your own vision?

 

BECKETT: That depends what time of year it is.

 

INTERVIEWER: What do you mean?

 

BECKETT: I have lost count of time.

 

INTERVIEWER: I know the feeling. Each year comes and goes faster than the last.

 

BECKETT: Nothing you can do about it. No use struggling.

 

INTERVIEWER: In your mind, what qualities are necessary in order to be a successful playwright?

 

BECKETT: Of course we do not know, any more than you, what exactly it is we are after, what sign or set of words. But since you have failed so far to let it escape you, it is not by harking on the same old themes that you are likely to succeed. That would astonish me.

 

 

INTERVIEWER: So, what advice do you have for new, upcoming playwrights?

 

BECKETT: Itís indescribable. Itís like nothing. Thereís nothing. Thereís a tree.

 

INTERVIEWER: I see. What do you think of your personal status as a pioneer in the theatre of the absurd movement?

 

BECKETT: Old dogs have more dignity.

 

INTERVIEWER: What do you think of David Mamet? Heís considered an innovator like you.

 

BECKETT: I too would be happy to meet him. The more people I meet, the happier I become. From the meanest creature one departs wiser, richer, more conscious of oneís blessings. Even you, even you, who knows, will have added to my store.

 

INTERVIEWER: Iím honored, Mr. Beckett.

 

BECKETT: I may be mistaken. Letís stop talking for a minute, do you mind?

 

INTERVIEWER: Sure, we can do that. (About 1.3 minutes of silence passes.)

 

BECKETT: Who farted?

 

INTERVIEWER: Excuse me, but I just have two more questions, if possible. What can you say to us about your position in the world right now?

 

BECKETT: Suppose we repented.

 

INTERVIEWER: I mean, how does it feel to be dead?

 

BECKETT: Sometimes I feel it coming all the same. Then I go queer. How shall I say? Relieved and at the same timeÖappalled! Thatís all dead and buried. Itís not worthwhile now.

 

INTERVIEWER: Mr. Beckett, how did you find the strength to keep writing?

 

BECKETT: I have such need for encouragement. I weakened a little toward the end. You didnít notice?

 

INTERVIEWER: Yes, I noticed, but only just a bit.

 

BECKETT: Well, shall we go?

 

INTERVIEWER: Can I go with you?

 

BECKETT: Youíd be nothing more than a little heap of bones at the present minute, no doubt about it. Ah, finish your booze now and get to your bed.

 

INTERVIEWER: I want to thank you for taking the time to come back and answer a few questions.

 

BECKETT: Now that it doesnít matter. The place is deserted.

 

INTERVIEWER: I hope you keep writing, regardless of where you find yourself.

 

BECKETT: Tomorrow, who knows, we may be free.

 

Note: All of Samuel Beckettís responses were taken from his plays.

 

 

David Jamesí third book, My Torn Dance Card, was a finalist in the 2016 Next Generation Indie book award. In addition to publishing six chapbooks, more than thirty of his one-act plays have been produced. He teaches at Oakland Community College.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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