Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Endgame/Act Without Words

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Where to, after Godot? Onward and upward, comme sur des roulettes, one might have thought. Not so. The new play, Fin de partie—“more inhuman,” Beckett called it—brought a long series of problems of all kinds. First, he was “very dissatisfied with it,” as he wrote to Susan Manning on 15 March 1956. Then in November, George Devine, director of the Royal Court Theatre in London, enlisted the help of Eugene Ionesco in an attempt to secure the English rights to Fin de partie and also to arrange a performance of Beckett’s mime, Acte sans paroles, in tandem with Ionesco’s Les Chaises. Beckett told Devine there was “little possibility of my undertaking the translation for some considerable time. I am not even sure that an English version is possible.”

One reason for this might have been that the plot of Fin de partie, though “extremely simple” (as characterized by Harold Hobson in his 7 April 1957 Sunday Times review of it), is also “extremely odd.” Hamm, blind, paralyzed, and dressed in a red robe, sits at center stage. Clov is Hamm’s anguished and misshapen attendant. But whatever Hamm wants Clov denies him by saying “there is no more of it left, anywhere, or ever will be again.” Hamm wants Clov to stay. Clov is always wanting to leave.

Periodically, Clov peers through a telescope out the window of their room. Outside, at the side of the stage, Hamm’s ancient parents, Nagg and Nell, live in two garbage cans.