Demystifying the Absurd in Samuel Beckett's Fiction and Drama
Keywords:This article is an attempt at reviving critical interest in Beckett's vision of the Absurd
Understanding the philosophy of the Absurd has always solicited the attention of modern and post- modern critics, scholars and researchers. The Absurd remains one of the most inscrutable concepts that both philosophy and literature have produced ever. The Absurd as a vision of life came at a time when Western societies were experiencing a transitional juncture in terms of social, cultural, philosophical, political and technological changes. These societies were progressively shifting from traditional values of conservatism and uniformism that were essential characteristics of the first half of the Twentieth Century to a more experimental and avant-gardist culture that defines most of modernist and post-modernist contexts. Writers of the period reflected the mood of the age which hinged on an outspoken need for change that would meet the aspirations of younger generations. However, the change writers were seeking was thwarted by the looming shadow of the philosophy of the Absurd which incarnated a deep feeling of loss of faith, pessimism and belief in the futility of human existence that finds its sustainabiliy in the meaninglessness of man’s endeavour to impart meaning to life. Absurdists problemized human actions and convictions, believing that they would lead to no avail as they are mere abstract notions devoid of any substantial significance or viability. I have always been struck by the similarity between the Absurd and cyberspace which is a defining marker of the 21th Century digital technology. Both breed virtual and abstract spaces : one on the stage and the other on digital tools’ screens. I even argue that William Gibson’s seminal defintion of cyberspace could be applicable to the Absurd as both a concept and a literary genre. Gibson defines cyberspace as « a consensual hallucination experienced by billions of legitimate operators… » (Gibson, 1984). Indeed, the phrase « consensual hallucination » finds relevance in the literary works of the Absurd, especially Samuel Beckett’s novels and plays which squarely dramatize the nothingness of human beliefs, values and convictions which are represented as sheer hallucinations and abstractions that humans consent to take for granted. Beckett’s philosophy of the Absurd will be examined through his « deformalization » of literary genre, deconstruction of language and disembodiment of the individual self.
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