Why Godot would never come
Turkish novelist and retired bank executive Selcuk Altun deciphers Samuel Beckett's play 'Waiting for Godot'.
He says the character Godot, for whom the two main protagonists in the play wait for endlessly, is no more than the symbiosis of the two men. Beckett experts find his interpretation highly plausible.
By Metin Demirsar
Istanbul (Dunya) – Ever since Samuel Beckett's play 'Waiting for Godot' premiered at the Theatre de Babylone in Paris on January 5, 1953, audiences, readers and drama scholars worldwide have concocted all kinds of theories about who the mysterious Godot could be.
The play helped propel Beckett (1906-1989), an Irish playwright who lived in France and wrote in French and English, to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969.
The success of the absurdist play, one of the great dramas of the 20th century, stems from the numerous interpretations that have emerged about Godot and about the meaninglessness of life itself as symbolized by the two main characters in the play, Vladimir and Estragon.
Godot has been described as a symbol for hope for the down trodden in a rough and tumble world, and as an invisible, omnipresent God figure.
The strength of 'Waiting for Godot' is that can be played either as a tragedy or as a comedy.
But now, Selcuk Altun, 61, an ex-bank executive and a Turkish novelist whose works have been translated into English, says he has deciphered Beckett's play and solved the puzzle of Godot.
Mr. Altun, former managing director of Yapi ve Kredi Bankasi, a large private commercial bank, asserts that Godot is no more than the symbiosis of the two main characters of the play.
Beckett scholars have found his theory intriguing.
In the tragicomedy, the two homeless vagabonds, Estragon and Vladimir, stand on a barren farm road next to a tree, stripped of its leaves, and wait in vain for days, perhaps months or even years, for someone named Godot to appear. But Godot never comes.
They claim Godot is an acquaintance, but hardly know him. In fact, they admit they would not be able to recognize him even if they saw him. When the character Pozo, a wealthy landowner, and Lucky, his servant, appear on stage, they mistake Pozo for Godot. But Pozo quickly denies that he is Godot.
Estragon and Vladimir in some ways resemble Laurel and Hardy, the slapstick comedians of early American cinema.
Vladimir is the smarter of the two men, and one who can spin out his views and ideas into words. Estragon, on the other hand, is a man of low intelligence who at times has deficiencies speaking and remembering. He has difficulties even removing one of his boots (the opening scene). During nights, he sleeps in ditches with other tramps who often beat him.
The two men distract themselves while waiting for Godot, sleeping, drinking, eating, singing, playing games, discussing religion and hoping their lives will one day improve.
Although Vladimir scolds Estragon for his limited conversational skills and his narrowness of mind, he can't separate from his imbecile companion.
He affectionately calls Estragon 'Didi' throughout the play, and Estragon calls him 'Gogo', which led to Mr. Altun to make his discovery that the two represent Godot.
God and the idiot
"I automatically visualized the main and zigzagging characters of the play… And I thought, I found who Godot was (or) were. It was the symbiosis of God and (Idi) ot," Mr. Altun wrote in June in the Beckett Circle, the newsletter of the Samuel Beckett Society. "Godot would never come because he (or they) was (were) already on stage. Estragon and Vladimir were Godot. They weren't waiting for anyone. While they were joking "absurdity" between each other, they were also setting a trap to the audience."
In an interview in Istanbul, Mr. Altun said "Beckett had last laugh from behind scenes because the audience could not see the obvious."
Beckett scholars have found Mr. Altun's theory as brilliant insight.
"You have a point and I like your interpretation, "Jean-Michel Roche, president of the Samuel Beckett Society, wrote in a letter to Mr. Altun "I believe Beckett wanted to leave the meaning rather open, but no one can discard the fact that God is in the name."
Added David Lloyd, a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Southern California: "Your theory is very plausible, though as we know it Beckett did tend to set all kinds of traps and lures for the reader. His works often seem to me like extensive labyrinths where all kinds of promising pathways seem to open up to the scent, only to lead to dead ends…The nearest I know to your proposal is the supposition that Godot is a bilingual compound word, combining the English God and French suffix –ot, usually associated with 'pierrot' or clown. That would suggest, in approximation to your own theory, 'God as clown."