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5.0 out of 5 stars Standing on a corner, along N100, hoping to catch a ride..., 25 July 2011
This review is from: Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts (Paperback)
Fortunately, once again based on the 1-star reviews, reading this play was not a school assignment. In fact the decision was made in a rather circuitous fashion. I was inspired by Harvard sociologist, Laurence Wylie, who wrote an account of his two-year stay in the Provencal village of Roussillon. He moved there, with his wife, and two young children, in 1950. In Wylie's account, entitled Village in the Vaucluse: Account of Life in a French Village, he called the town "Peyrane." It was an account far removed from the chichi, upscale "destination" village of today; in 1950 it was still marked by the poverty of the post-World War II period, when farmers would shot sparrows for food. But the most astonishing part of the book is revealed in the preface to the second edition, when he is back in Boston, and was reading Beckett's play (obviously in French, in which it was originally written). He came across a passage that read, as translated: "But we were in the Vaucluse together, I'd swear it. We worked in the harvest together on Bonnelly's farm, in Roussillon..." Wylie had lived in this small village for over two years, only six years after one of the most famous playwrights of the 20th century had lived there, during WW II. He was later able to confirm, on subsequent visits, with individuals whom he had had numerous conversations that yes, of course, Beckett had lived there. Didn't everyone know that? Supposedly Beckett was inspired to write the play, after waiting for a long time, trying to hitch-hike a ride up to the village, off the N 100, which cuts through the valley just north of the Luberon Mountains.

The play was first produced in a Left Bank (naturally) theatre in Paris. Beckett himself translated the work into English, and in doing so omitted references to Bonnelly's farm and Roussillon. Instead, when the two principal characters, Vladimir and Estragon are reminiscing about picking grapes, the countryside is transformed into "Macon country," which is actually 300 km to the north. Beckett left one sentence that still points to the ochre cliffs for which Roussillon is famous: Vladimir: "But down there everything is red!" (p. 40)

The play itself is in the Theatre of the Absurd tradition. In parts, the dialogue between the two characters may seem pointless and meaningless. There are far more questions than answers. It is a play, like fine wine, that seems to improve with age (one's own.) The play has achieved "iconic status," has entered the English language as a metaphor, and has even entered my backyard. I have a thin, spindly tree, almost dead, that I refuse to cut down: in honor of the only "prop" in the play, it has become my "Waiting for Godot" tree, and the subject of an inspirational glance or two during the day. There are so many possible "takeaways" from the play. For those who are "waiting" for some external event to happen, like a court decision for instance, perhaps the "answer" is not to, after bearing witness to the absurd actions of Vladimir and Estragon, who are constantly waiting, hoping... The change is within. I've seen the play produced at least twice, most recently here in Albuquerque. 5-stars.
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Location: Albuquerque, NM, USA

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