02 March 2009

Waiting for Godot

To my statement that "What this blog wants to investigate, among numerous other things, is whether a writer, learning another language at a later stage of her/his life, can actually produce literature in that language" (12 December 2008), Play Wright said, "Didn't Beckett originally write 'Waiting for Godot' in French? Did he also write the English version, or is it a translation? If he did, it might be interesting to compare the two versions." (14 December 2008)

Samuel Beckett, whose first language was English, wrote En attendant Godot (1949) in French, then translated it himself into English as Waiting for Godot (1955). The English text is not an exact translation but more of a revision, with Beckett getting better at his craft. In connection with yesterday's post about Shakespeare "plagiarizing," all playwrights get their ideas from earlier playwrights. Several sources have been identified by critics for Waiting for Godot: Jean Racine’s French Bérénice (1670), Honoré de Balzac's French Mercadet ou le faiseur (1851), Clifford Odets' English Waiting for Lefty (1935), as well as Beckett's own English novel Murphy (1938) (plagiarizing oneself, as authors sometimes do).

My own play The Lovely Bienvenido N. Santos (2004) clearly owes much to Waiting for Godot, though I got over my obsession with Beckett when I discovered Eugène Ionesco.

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