Beckett at the end of the world. Or: waiting for Laethanta Sona
I have a long relationship and beautiful memories of the Arans. Mainly with and of Inis Mór, but nonetheless.
Laethanta Sona: (Happy Days) on Inis Oírr – Discover more here.
My Laethanta Sona diary
This post is going to be a diary of my experience with Laethanta Sona. An experience that will have something of another Beckett’s work: Waiting for Godot.
Because it will happen twice.
It’s now eight days after my second take of Laethanta Sona, last Saturday 4th.
Nothing is ever the same. We know that from Beckett: maybe it’s just a single leaf, but it’s never the same thing twice.
The same applies to my second time seeing and enjoying Laethanta Sona again.
While the small aeroplane was leaving the Aerfort, you could realise it would have been a beautiful day.
We had sun: kind of not suitable for Irish skin one.
As Fergal said (ciao, Fergal!), as an audience, we had a chance to share the discomfort of Winnie and Willie.
It was lovely, actually.
But you know what I mean.
As it was my second time, as I had already experienced Laethanta Sona, I decided to focus more on other people’s experience.
Many of them had the language advantage. They could giggle at what Winnie was saying.
They reminded me of an old friend of mine.
He disguises himself as a publican. Yes: he is Irish.
And, while he disguises himself as a publican, I think he could have been one of the most important postmodern philosophers. He was just too lazy for that (it’s not me talking: it’s himself).
I remember once having a conversation with him about Beckett’s Molly.
The people attending Laethanta Sona were confirming some thoughts I have been mulling over for the past two decades.
Irish humour is an animal of its own kind.
And it has a social fluidity I do love.
Even if, maybe, things are changing (I found very interesting something Roddy recently said: when he was young, it was perfectly normal to love soccer and Flann O Brien at the same time. Now, that is different), seeing families – or at least, chunks of families – enjoying together Beckett is a beautiful sight to me.
It took two flights to bring back the Beckettian bunch to the mainland. At the airport, I started joking about an Aer Beckett flight for us.
And all the Godotian consequences of that.
I can remember two “families” who were just going back to the mainland, to their homes not far, as the crow flies, from Creig an Staic.
I saw the beauty of it. The beauty of families going to the regional airport, then walking, then Becketting, then walking again, then flying again, then back home.
It’s a beauty that tastes of Ireland to me.
A place that I call home even if I can’t understand its language.
I often mention that “home is where they understand you” thing.
Well: home sometimes can be even where you don’t understand what the people of Connemara are saying.
But, wait: that lady just said An Cheathrú Rua!
I know what it means!
I know where she is from!
And I even have a story about Carraroe, and its GAA jersey.
It has been Another heavenly day indeed.
Coming next, Laethanta Sona at the Samuel Beckett theatre in Dublin.
Stay tuned, folks.
I leave the B&B for getting the bus to Inverin. I am the only passenger. It is the start of a short, surreal trip.
We had a lovely few days cycling in that area back in 2007. Something bad happened immediately after our going back to Italy. In my memory (the past, the past, again…) just hours after being back.
The bitter taste of guilt – why is it even bitter when it’s not your fault, but nonetheless? – immediately came back.
The first leg of my trip, the beginning of what developed into – pun intended – a happy day, has been a surreal one. That bitter taste, not mitigated at all by being surrounded by a lot of liath.
I learnt that Gaeilge word – for grey: grigio – reading Anne Enright’s The Gathering. I don’t reckon the exact quote, but I remember adding a comment to what Enright was saying there.
On the west coast of Ireland, you can have even more liath: the sky, the sea and the stones.
Yes: it can be the perfect set for Beckett’s stuff, that way.
At the aerfort, my personal memories blend with some chunks of The Guard. Not a brownie, there. A Dillinger.
I am going to attending Laethanta Sona, I tell the clerk. Why the need to explain my presence there?
Lovely, she replies.
I think you can’t apply the label “lovely” to anything Beckett’s, if you know what I mean.
Oh, yes: I do know what I mean.
The halla aerfort (right?) is much nicer than the last time I was there. It’s time to go.
A short stop on Inis Meáin before hitting Inis Oírr. It’s interesting how these short trips give you (give me, at least) the sense of remoteness of West Ireland.
This place has its own rules. The time flows differently (an intriguing nod, here, to the concept of Gaeilge-ish eternal present and how it becomes – for me, at least – the foundation of the extraterrestrial language in Arrival) and you are not number four on the plane. You are cair, now.
A couple of kilometres later, I reach Aras Eanna.
I have never seen Raymond Keane in the real world before. This guy here has a moustache.
Hence he is Willie indeed. Be Willie without a moustache, and Sammy’s ghost will leave Cooldrinagh and come to you with terrible nightmares.
Nightmares in which you can’t move, of course.
It’s a pleasure meeting a bit later Sarah Jane Scaife, the director. I am definitely starting to get in the mood for Laethanta Sona and, after all (sorry, Caitlín!) I have my own luggage full of badly packed Irish stories (the one about the wrong island too).
What comes after that is the play.
It is Beckett.
No, wait, not exactly: you have to walk through a narrow boithrín, then you are, finally, inside Beckett’s head.
The stage, that crag (it is not a crugán: not enough soil. I guess) could be exactly what Beckett meant, what Beckett means with his desolated landscapes.
Liath. A lot of liath, in that brain. Shiny, brilliant, wonderful, amazing. Still liath, yet.
I’ll tell nothing, here and now, about the play.
Better: I will say what I said to Sarah Jane immediately after it: it is moving and mesmerising. You guys have to share that with the old Sammy: but nonetheless, maithú: well done, bravi, indeed.
I felt moved at the end. Willie’s useless effort was moving for me. I was deeply hit by that actual impossibility.
I will say no more, not here. The review will come. And, possibly, hopefully, an Italian chance for enjoying the power of Beckett as Gaeilge will come in the future.
But now I go back to the beginning of the Second Act.
Mind that walking the boithrín to get to the “theatre”, you have already seen cows, horses, their shit, blackcurrants, blueberries, grass, flowers.
And stones. Lots of stones.
When the Second Act began, at my eleven o’clock, on the left of poor Winnie and Willie, on the border of stones limiting the existence of the “theatre”, a bird, probably a young seagull, captured my attention. It followed the play for a while.
I felt, watching that unaware, but not such that in the eye of the beholder, bird, the eyes of all the unaware stones around, of all the unaware butterflies around too.
I felt like, as there is no cure for being on Earth for them too – seagulls, butterflies, stones – the play and Winnie’s immobility, was an ode to empathy, no matter who or what you are.
The “before” Diary
-7 days and the beginning
I was fascinated by Tim Robinson‘s books and maps: enough to translate them into Italian.
I was fascinated by the very concept of islands² of them.
That meta-level thing I bring with me from my studies – a lifetime ago – of Bateson, a “thing” that seems to me so rich, so hyper-real for anything Ireland-related. And hyper-real² when it comes to those islands of an island the Arans are…
I was fascinated by the ontic density of their essence, so – to me, at least – evident from the rich semantic of their topography, investigated so thoroughly – and beautifully – by Robinson.
I ended up writing stories about the Arans, setting a couple of my books there.
I ended up having crucial personal moments on those islands.
And some funny ones too: ending up on the “wrong” island, for example; or travelling along with cows and beer kegs.
The Arans: it’s not hard at all to imagine Beckett watching that terrible, beautiful landscape and say:
Here all is strange. [Happy Days]
I haven’t been on the Islands for almost eleven years now, after visiting them quite regularly (not frequently, but regularly) since 2001.
I know I have unfinished business there. I know I have to go back to Crag na gCat. I couldn’t imagine, but, I would have had to go back to the Arans because of Beckett, and while the whole world is still dealing with a pandemic.
But I see Laethanta Sona – happy days, giorni felici – indeed ahead, for me.
-6 days and no shelter
The ground at the performance site is uneven and may be challenging for people with mobility issues or patrons with access requirements.
Appropriate footwear should be worn.
There is no shelter from the elements at the performance so come prepared for a variety of potential weather conditions (rain, sun, heat, cold).
And, well: fair play to whom wrote it, as it is a pretty Beckettian bit of information to my ears!
Appropriate footwear should be worn
But, wait. The very concept of “appropriate footwear” is an illusion. Because:
There’s man all over for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet. [Waiting for Godot]
Such an interesting, contemporary bit of Beckettian wisdom here.
Because we live in the age of too many, too big (Bezos’s dickish starship, anyone?) tools showing us that, yes: it’s a feet’s (or whatever…) problem.
But these are Giorni Felici, right?
So: let’s go back to Beckett.
There is no shelter from the elements
And yes, it’s impossible not to think about:
you’re on earth, there’s no cure for that! [Endgame]
You are on Earth. You have no shelter for that.
And, yes: if you are on that remote corner of Earth (remote from where, after all? Isn’t it – as Mr B. would remind us here – a matter of perspective?), that small island, just a tiny, last, ultimate, rock of that big chunk of Earth Eurasia is, rain is likely.
That terrible, solid (according to my beloved Böll) Irish rain.
Says someone who is, at the moment, literally sunbathing. But it’s Ireland, and rain is what you always expect.
And, if it takes too long to come back, you hope for.
I will bring my poncho, anyway. And my trekking shoes.
The left one’s sole is worn out. I can’t blame it. It’s my left foot, the one to blame.
-5 days: The Capital of The Ruins
I am not a Beckett’s scholar. And I am not Federico (I am not sure if I told him that already, but I really love what he says: I decided to finish Beckett. It sounds pretty cool). My interest in Beckett is a “by-product” of my interest in Irish culture.
It’s childish, I know. It’s like supporting a team.
But, after all, even Beckett played with the idea of the “Irish writers fantasy rugby team”; and, after all, as I am on earth and there’s no cure for that, how I cope with the incurable is up to me, right?
Yet, even if I am not a Beckett’s scholar and despite having just a “second class” interest in him, his voice has become more and more important to me in the last few years.
And more Irish, probably, too.
Not being a Beckett’s scholar, I ended up looking at Katherine Weiss‘s pages about Happy Days (in her The Plays of Samuel Beckett, Methuen Drama, Critical Companions) only earlier today.
Why an uneven and challenging stage?
Because in Samuel Beckett’s brain, the click that later became Happy Days was the aftermath of the bombing of Saint-Lô during WWII.
Apparently, a woman survived the ordeal stuck exactly like Winnie.
In a letter, Beckett said the people had renamed Saint-Lô into “The Capital of The Ruins”.
That sounding like a fantastic title for a novel or movie, by the way.
Two more interesting things I have learned from Katherine Weiss about Happy Days earlier today.
1: In an early draft, the “news” from the newspaper involved Ireland. And priests, of course.
2: Winnie is a survivor. I do not know – nobody knows: it is not in the play – what Winnie actually had to go through. But I know something about being a survivor.
I am lucky enough I didn’t have to survive something like a bombardment or crossing the Mediterranean.
I am a barely published author. I am keeping on writing for myself, anyway. It’s one of the tools I use for not killing anyone. The garden being another of those tools.
While writing, writing what I write and why I write it, I often put myself in the position of having to deal with a troubled past. Of characters. Of myself. Isn’t it the same thing, after all?
Weiss tells us how Winnie is the image of the “perfect” survivor: she perfectly knows her past was very far from being happy. Yet, the past is what defines us (and here it is, Mr B. again, for the second time already in this diary, whispering into my ear: The past beats inside me like a second heart).
The past makes us what we are. Even more important: it makes us what we are not. Because for every and each survivor you have her or his mirror: the person they had to survive from.
Hold on, Winnie: hold on. You can’t go on, you will go on.
-4 days: Commercials
It’s the weekend, after all: let me go for a lighter entry.
And let me ask you a question: would you buy Beckettian merchandising?
I do, as per the photo.
I “make” it too. Personal use, of course. But nonetheless.
I liked having a Beckett’s quote as the first thing you see if you enter my home (the very first thing, actually, being the house’s number plate spelt as Gaeilge: trí cinn déag).
You can leave your shoes right beside the boots and feet thing.
But posters, postcards, fridge magnets (Thank you, MoLI!) are the usual stuff, right?
While Beckett is not exactly the usual… well: you know what I mean.
Probably Lego reached a status that is a little bit too mainstream for me to be still interested in.
Would I ever submit an idea to Lego Ideas, that would be probably a diorama connecting Waiting for Godot, Endgame and Happy Days scenes.
I always thought that Beckett’s world is a single one, ominous and unforgiving. When Clov looks out the window, I am sure he can see Vladimir, Estragon, Winnie, Willie… And Molloy’s bicycle, if he gets a spyglass.
Bicycles. Yes. Even if the “perfect” bicycle-ish book is, of course, The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien, The “perfect” Beckettian gadgets I’d love to have are bicycle (not bike!!!) related.
Imagine two separate sets of badges you can apply to bicycle wheels rays.
The first set:
I can’t go on
I’ll go on.
The second set:
You cycle, the wheels move the badges, the world has more Beckett in itself.
What a heavenly day would it be…
-3 Cúpla focal. And proud of them
Is my Gaeilge good enough to allow me to enjoy Laethanta Sona fully?
Not at all.
Is my Mongolian good enough to allow me to enjoy a The Hu gig fully? But the craic was ninety in The Academy, last February 16th 2020. You know: back when the world was normal.
My Mongolian vocabulary is now up to two words. I know how to say “how strange”. And I know another word, but I should kill you if I tell.
My Gaeilge vocabulary is richer than my Mongolian one, still very far from letting me understand Beckett in Irish.
Or just even the weather forecast, in Irish.
My fascination with languages and words dates to a long time ago. The time I tried to grasp the Cyrillic alphabet. I was so proud I knew “CCCP” wasn’t c-c-c-p at all.
I am so proud to know that the Russian word for on strike has Italian origins. To know the etymology of Kobold and grog.
With Gaeilge, the connection is, of course, deeper. And special: it’s Irish stuff, you know.
I bought the Italian – Irish vocabulary and gramma back in 2000. I have The Hobbit as Gaeilge – An Hobad – and I love the fact that you can go to Long Lake both in Middle Earth and in Donegal.
I absolutely loved Manchán Magan’s Thirty-two Words for Field. Manchán’s book is actually mind-blowing when it comes to connecting words and the structure of Gaeilge with quantum physics.
I know nothing about the relation between Beckett and Gaeilge. And, scholars, please: start writing your essays, start telling everything and the contrary, about this! ;-)
Jokes aside: I have found interesting ‘So much Gaelic to me’: Beckett and the Irish Language – Journal of Beckett Studies – Vol. 24, No. 2 (2015), pp. 163-179 (17 pages) – Alan Graham.
The fir – mná thing and the concept of “Irishization” of the toilettes are brilliant. I love the concept of Beckett’s complex foreignness of Irish.
Yet, there is something we will never know: what would Beckett think of Laethanta Sona? And if language can’t (or, maybe, must not) confer identity, what Beckett could think of the odd Italian guy going to watch Laethanta Sona knowing he won’t understand?
I think he would have loved that.
But I am biased.
Another heavenly Monday.
Because, I mean: sometimes weekends are long and strange chunks of time.
Because, I mean: the last couple of years haven’t been all rosy.
When I say Beckett’s voice has become more and more important to me in the last few years, I mean it.
I remember myself, ages ago, looking at the one-star-out-of-five review given by someone to Waiting for Godot on anobii.
It was probably 2009.
It was, probably, the first time I felt a personal connection with Beckett.
The idea of writing a thriller about a serial killer who kills people giving bad reviews to Beckett’s works, came slightly later.
What I felt was deep envy of our Mister One Star guy.
Because you have to be lucky if you don’t “get” Waiting for Godot.
It means you have never had to wait for something that will never come.
I wasn’t that lucky: that very one star was letting me understand that Beckett was talking to me in his works. For me.
One star and Beckett was now part of my family. Or Pantheon, maybe. Or whatever.
One of the lads, as you would unceremoniously say in Dublin.
I never had, of course, an actual opportunity of interacting with him. But I have now my fair amount of “personal” Beckett’s stories.
I know about his lost letters, lost after (not “in”) a plane crash.
About the office in D2.
And a very personal story too: when I had to go to the hospital after (because..?) All That Fall, here in Dublin.
And now, let’s go back to the last not so easy weekend.
The Chair, on Netflix. And me, almost moved by the mention of the old Sammy along with Camus and Pavese.
Fighters of the useless – yet good – fight.
-1 Albuquerque, Galway. Beckett.
Godot has arrived. Me being Godot, Galway where I was supposed to be.
With covid, everything has changed,
says the B&B’s landlady.
The Corrib, the sun – when it shows itself – are the same as in 1999 or 2020.
In 1999 I bought the IRFU jersey here in Galway. I have learnt Amhrán na bhFiann twenty years later.
I remember Ms Kenny. The bookshop was still in the city (town?) centre, I bought my Lord of the Rings in English there. One year later, probably. I remember asking someone (Tomás, probably) about the existence of LOTR as Gaeilge.
Not yet – He said.
An Hobad had to suffice, years later.
I am, probably, not a good traveller. I do love being in places, but I don’t like going to places so much.
Sometimes I think all the fuss about Ireland has been to skip the airports. I am here. Already.
Being probably not a good traveller means that the night before leaving is always troubled. I have sleep problems frequently. Always when I have to go somewhere the following day.
We put a few Better Call Saul‘s episodes under the belt before going to bed.
I am sure while watching that the sh*ittiest, drug cartel-related motel is a nod to Beckett.
But it wasn’t Worstward Ho. It was just Westward. Even if things with the psycho killer twins definitely go… worse.
If the supposed nod to Beckett had the purpose of letting me sleep better, that didn’t work, anyway.
I have been dozing on the bus, and now here I am.
It’s not even rain but, just in case, I brushed up my Aussie hat, which has been on the Islands already ten years ago (Jaysis, where the time flies?).
A heavenly day is ahead.
I just have to get to the right island tomorrow (to another time the stories about wrong islands…). I missed the Islands. I am happy to go back with Sammy, an old friend of mine.