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Endgame, Samuel Beckett

Fin de partie, Les Éditions de Minuit, 1958 (France)
Grove Press, 1958, (US)

Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Shutdown. The day ends. Or is just beginning.

Hamm: What time is it?

Clov: The same as usual.

Ink from status reports bleeds through weeks. The regularly scheduled Monday morning meeting sheds no new light on one of the most important dilemmas of our time: non-billable hours. Staffing projections and SQL reports reveal the most troublesome offenders: salaried workers caught in the crosshairs of downtime, left to fend for themselves against bleeding ulcers and fresh bouts of IBS. Do probiotics work?

Clov: Why this farce, day after day?

Hamm: Routine. One never knows.

Reports of an earthquake in Haiti put self-absorption in the states on hold (temporarily) although donations or even remote controls grant quick reprieve. Next up are dreadful images showing the early results of an environmental catastrophe: innocent wildlife doused in poisonous sludge and heartbreaking confusion as oil leaks on and on without end. Each new day brings the same outcome: slippery waves stretch and slither on with a contaminating urgency, and although the outlook is sufficiently grim, anchors remind with an odd twinkle that the approaching hurricane season is sure to bring grave new complications.

Hamm: Nature has forgotten us.

Clov: There’s no more nature.

Bleak is the name of a city where inspiration lives. It is the perfect setting for a play: a post-apocalyptic wasteland that can perfectly mirror the sum of the most grand existence.

Scene. An SUV—or, if you like, a three-miles-per-gallon-more-efficient Motor Trend Crossover of the Year. Whatever the case, the gas-sucking vehicle rolls along a desolate road—where is everybody?—and the two people within remain perfectly quiet. They are on their way to a production of Beckett’s Waiting for… no, too cliché. Let’s make it Endgame. They are on their way to a Steppenwolf production of Endgame when, suddenly, an epic Richard Yates-worthy argument shreds the silence. The disagreement, as best as we can tell, is about everything and nothing.

Scene. Same two blokes, again sitting together in silence, as if nothing at all has happened. They are alone in a theater box looking down at a strikingly empty stage. The ensuring push and pull below of Hamm and Clov (caught in their own test of wills) is often scary per its ability to mirror the lives of the two spectators in the aforementioned box above the stage, and consequently, it is a little bit embarrassing too. But it is somehow funny. Not hysterically so but something more along the lines of painfully humorous, like an awkward fart.

They watched their lives unfold down below and then they clapped and then went home. They may or may not have reflected on how readily available laughter is, even within the void of such emptiness and despair.

Nell: Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.