April 19, 2006

 Not waiting for Godot

Samuel Beckett was born a century ago: supposedly on April 13 1906, but typically, there's some doubt about the actual date. It's not as well known as it should be that he joined the French Resistance very early - formally in September 1941 but de facto sooner. He aided Jewish friends, translated messages, acted as a courier, and stored weapons. A citizen of neutral Ireland, he could easily have stayed clear, or written long-windedly about the moral dilemmas involved without doing anything much, like Jean-Paul Sartre.
It take a particular kind of moral courage to do the right thing at great personal risk in the total absence of hope.

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One critic claims that the situation in Godot derives from Beckett's Resistance experience: meetings were hard to arrange; there was no way of communicating that one had been delayed; to leave promptly after the arranged meeting time if the other party didn't show risked not being able to connect at all, perhaps with disastrous consequences for the other party; but waiting, in addition to its tedium, risked being found by the SS.

Posted by: Mark Kleiman at April 19, 2006 12:48 PM
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