RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS

13 November 2007

Samuel Beckett. Waiting for Godot, 1952 /1954/ 1956

"But that is not the question. Why are we here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come."

"Let's go. Yes, let's go. (They do not move)."




Samuel Beckett. EN ATTENDANT GODOT. Les Éditions de Minuit, [Paris], 1952.

Current Selling Prices
$1500-$4000 /£750-£2000


Samuel Beckett. WAITING FOR GODOT. Grove Press, NY, 1954.

Current Selling Prices
$1500-$2500 /£750-£1500


Samuel Beckett. WAITING FOR GODOT. Faber and Faber Limited,, London:, 1956.

Current Selling Prices
$400 - $800 /£200-£400


PLAY / MODERN FIRST EDITION
'Waiting for Godot' is a play by Samuel Beckett in which the characters wait for a man (Godot) who never arrives. This may be giving away too much, but it is not 'The Mousetrap.' The two main characters Estragon and Pozzo are often portayed as tramps, although it is nowhere stated that they are; they are almost always played wearing bowler hats - now a rare form of headgear. Godot's absence, as well as many other aspects of the play, have led to myriad interpretations ever since the play's premiere. It has been voted “the most significant English language play of the 20th century." Certainly it is the great triumph of the 'Theatre of the Absurd'. Beckett never regarded it as his greatest work but it brought him a very good living and huge admiration and probably the Nobel Prize. He said of it:
'I don’t know who Godot is. I don’t even know (above all don’t know) if he exists. And I don’t know if they believe in him or not – those two who are waiting for him. The other two who pass by towards the end of each of the two acts, that must be to break up the monotony. All I knew I showed. It’s not much, but it’s enough for me, by a wide margin. I’ll even say that I would have been satisfied with less. As for wanting to find in all that a broader, loftier meaning to carry away from the performance, along with the program and the Eskimo pie, I cannot see the point of it. But it must be possible … Estragon, Vladimir, Pozzo, Lucky, their time and their space, I was able to know them a little, but far from the need to understand. Maybe they owe you explanations. Let them supply it. Without me. They and I are through with each other...'
Sam had a Johhny Cash moment when the play was performed at San Quentin California State Prison with the former prisoner Rick Cluchey as Vladimir. Beckett, ever generous with money, is said to have helped Cluchey over a number of years. SB also supported several of his own impecunious friends and his Irish relations. As well as being financially generous he was also endlessly obliging when it came to autographs and letters and there are plenty around. The better ones are warm inscriptions or letters -- not notes such as 'Dear Sir. I am unable to help with your request...' which are often touted about for unrealistic sums. Martin Stone, who knew the great man, said that when he worked at Shakespeare and Co in Paris literary tourists would show up demanding his address and expecting a good long chinwag with Sam the Man. Rather like a hippy coming to San Francisco who thinks that he will be hanging out with the Grateful Dead.



VALUE? The 'Godot' you really want is the one of 35 of the 1952 French edition on velin superieur. At the hyped Drapkin sale at Christie's NY in June 2005 a copy in folding case by the Dragonfly Bindery inscribed to William Targ made $45K. In 1990 an amazing Godot showed up - Beckett's working rehearsal copy used for the original production of the play, annotated, marked by him "prompt copy 1953" & later inscribed to John & Bettina Calder. It made £30K without commissions, the equivalent now to say £75,000. The ordinary paper French first seldom shows at less than a grand sterling but there are alot about and the US first from Grove is probably easier for a dealer to offload at these prices. The British Faber first is an attractive book and although of lower value seldom shows up in limpid condition.

TRIVIA. It is hard to find anyone anywhere saying a bad word about Beckett. John Osborne had a bit of a knock but this is usually put down to professional jealousy--they were both putting plays on at the Royal Court in the 1950s. In his autobiography Osborne records the "apostolic awe" Beckett inspired in the Royal Court's founding director, George Devine. "Uncle Sam had the monstrous good fortune of actually looking like one of his own plays, a graven icon of his own texts. The bristled cadaver and mountain-peak stare were the ultimate purifier that deified all endeavour, pity or hope." Beckett is greatly admired by actors - to appreciate Beckett, always seen as a 'difficult' writer, is to confer a kind of status on oneself - possibly the reason why he is so loved by 'loveys'.

Deep drilling on the net via Dogpile reveals the following subversive group - THE ANTI BECKETT LEAGUE. A little known and shadowy organisation, occasionally committing outrages like muttering mild criticism of Beckett, falling asleep at a Beckett play or leaving before the interval. They are shunned by decent people and meet in great secrecy, usually in pairs.

6 comments:

andrew said...

I'm not sure if this counts as anti-Beckett propaganda, but it made me laugh out loud: http://tinyurl.com/2yafzg.

Bookride said...

Yus -- Beckett for Babies --great fun + the useful info that Sam sent a secretary to collect his Nobel--just another gong, nothing happens (in Stockholm anyway...) N

Anonymous said...

Your information is incorrect and insulting on Samuel Beckett and Rick Cluchey. Please, strike this nonsense as you're insane to slander both men at the same time. Who are you too pick apart a friendship or a relationship you can't even understand, wrong.

Dick Straightup said...

Dear Mr Anonymous, why haven't you got the balls to name yourself?

Bag o' Diamonds said...

Surely it was Valdimir that Rick Cluchey played? All else looks pretty much all quiet on the western front. To us Flann is the man and a pint of heavy.

Bookride said...

Corrected, capo!