21.4.10

Samuel Beckett rejected 'Absurdist' label

Irish writer did not associate himself with the literary and philosophical movement
Samuel Beckett

Stephen Mitchelmore of This Space has posted a short statement on the problem of applying an absurdist label to the work of Samuel Beckett. It's perhaps worth noting that Martin Esslin was among the first to critically identify Beckett within such a movement in his work, Theatre of the Absurd, and aligned plays such as Endgame and Waiting for Godot with the ethical and philosophical concerns of the existentialist movement prevalent in post-war Europe. To this day, Beckett continues to be identified by many as an icon, or mascot, of the absurdist movement; but, as Mitchelmore points out, the label is a problematic and reductive one. He elaborates with words from Beckett himself, quoted from a collection of interviews:
[...] moral values are inaccessible. And they cannot be defined. In order to define them, you would have to pass judgement, which is impossible. That's why I could never agree with the notion of the theatre of the absurd. It involves a value judgment. You cannot even speak about truth. That's what's so distressful. Paradoxically, it is through form that the artist may find some kind of a way out. By giving form to formlesssness. It is only in that way, perhaps, that some underlying affirmation may be found.

You can read the full text of Mitchelmore's 'Beckett and "the absurd"' at This Space.

Also at A Piece of Monologue: