Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 6 December 2015


The Gospel According to Estragon

Godot came today.
We weren't prepared.

If anything we were rather disturbed –
he wasn't supposed to come
(nor was he what I'd expected).

So we killed him
and buried him under the tree
and went back to waiting.

Nothing more to be done.

28 September 1986

GodotI wonder who’s best known, Godot, Yorick or Howard Wolowitz’s mother from The Big Bang Theory? Godot we never see—at least not in Beckett’s play (he finally turns up in Daniel Curzon’s Godot Arrives)—Yorick’s skull is the only part of him we ever see—except in Kenneth Brannagh’s adaptation where there’s a flashback and Ken Dodd plays the jester—and we only ever see the occasional bit of Mrs Wolowitz (never her face) after the finale to season 5. It’s a popular trope having a character who’s referred to constantly but who never appears like Captain Mainwaring’s wife in Dad’s Army (although she is in the upcoming film) and Arthur Daily’s wife (“’er indoors”) in Minder.

Waiting for Godot has always been a great source of inspiration for me. I eventually wrote my own sequel, Vladimir and Estragon are Dead, but made damn sure there was no Godot in it. There’s also a lot of Godot in my new book:

Maybe he had already found himself—the thought had crossed his mind—and not been all that impressed. That couldn’t be me! No way, Pedro! No doubt it happens more often than people care to admit. And the longer the unwashed masses are prepared to wait it out the greater the likelihood they will be disappointed. It happened to the Jews. A woodworker’s apprentice was not what the prophets promised so they renounced him and went right on waiting for their saviour, waiting for the sake of waiting, waiting as the basis of a whole religion. Christians, on the other hand, are expecting his Second Coming any day now. Muslims are waiting on the Mahdi, Buddhists on a bodhisattva named Maitreya, Hindus on Kalki astride his Schimmel with a blazing sword.

I’ve just finished my 13th draft of The More Things Change. Once I’ve uploaded this blog I’ll take out all the footnotes (of which there are now 1453), and send a copy of the book to my tablet to begin reading for the 14th—and hopefully—final time.


Kass said...

Oh, this theme of waiting. I'm surprised you haven't made it an actual character in one of your books.

Now that you've killed Godot, can't we all be done with waiting?

Jim Murdoch said...

Although not so named, Kass, Jim Valentine in the new book could really have been called ‘The Waiter’ because that’s what he does for the best part of the book, some thirty years doing nothing much bar sit on a park bench and not write. Waiting is a major theme in the book, waiting and writing and waiting to write. In fact I might’ve called the book The Waiter but the first thing people would think about would be a person whose job is to serve customers at their tables in a restaurant and that would be confusing. As Jim notes:

I swear the life I have lived, the half-life at least, has been spent waiting and I have been patient. I have done what we who wait do whilst trying not to indulge hope lest we fall ill; I have watched (it is what the origin of the word denotes, “to have in wait, to observe”) and that is why we have tarried awhile, to see what can be seen. We are not waiting for, in, to or with. We are simply waiting and I am up to high doh with it because there is only so much that can be seen. The eye wearies as does the ear or the pallet. It is a stage one has to reach naturally, to have become bored, if that is the right word, with externals. Not bored: done. Only afterward can we turn our attentions to bigger issues.

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