Multi-ethnic, Indigenous, and Intertextual Dialogues in Drama
Edited By Dorothy Figueira and Marc Maufort
Rossella Ferrari Beckett’s Chinese Progeny: Absurdity, Waiting, and the Godot Motif in Contemporary China 133
Beckett’s Chinese Progeny: Absurdity, Waiting, and the Godot Motif in Contemporary China Rossella FERRARI SOAS, University of London “Nothing to be done,” Estragon states, matter-of-factly, in the very first line of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (11) and again, repeatedly, throughout the play. In the Western dramatic imaginary, this lapidary statement has come to encapsulate a sense of impotence and nihilism deprived of purpose. It betokens a world deprived of God—or a world in which God(ot) has forever abandoned mankind to “waste and pine” (42). This negative ontology took shape as an intellectual response to the Western crisis of values in the aftermath of World War II—a war that had made Europe a spiritual wasteland ravaged by the horrors of the battlefield, the menace of nuclear disaster, the incommensurability of the Holocaust, and the near-certainty of the demise of any metaphysical dimension within human experience. Why, then, would such a perception of reality as aimless and absurd appeal to anyone in China in the heyday of post-Maoism, when the country had just emerged from the Dark Ages of the Cultural Revolution and totalitarian obscurantism had just subsided, heralding in the bright vision of reform? Why would the European tradition of the absurd set roots in the Chinese theatre at this historical juncture that was brimming with possibilities and confidence in a new national project of economic modernization and social reconstruction? Why, again, would this “alien” and alienated dramaturgical mode generate its most prolific offspring in the early...
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