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FUN DE PARTIE: Puns and Paradigms in "Endgame" Author(s): Chris Ackerley Source: Samuel Beckett Today

FUN DE PARTIE: Puns and Paradigms in "Endgame" Author(s): Chris Ackerley Source: Samuel Beckett Today / Aujourd'hui, Vol. 19, Borderless Beckett / Beckett sans frontières: Tokyo 2006 (2008), pp. 315-325 Published by: Editions Rodopi B.V. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25781840 Accessed: 08-07-2015 16:50 UTC

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Editions Rodopi B.V. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Samuel

Editions Rodopi B.V. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Samuel Beckett Today /

Aujourd'hui.

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FUN DE PARTIE:

Puns and Paradigms

in Endgame

Chris Ackerley

Beckett's bilingual texts and self-translations raise awkward questions as to

how two 'different'works can be equally parts of a

greater whole or comple

mentary aspects of the 'same' text. In this paper I consider how puns, allusions

and other linguisticparadigms constitute points of

resistance, particularly when

sentiments originally written in one language seek expression in another. By

describing the 'machinery' of the pun in termsof 'sameness' and 'difference,'

I seek to identify its role in the dialectic of 'equivalence'

implicit in the binary

and 'mis-matching'

relationship ofFin de partie and Endgame.

Q: Is lifeworth living?

A: Depends

on the liver.

Q:

R: Question

La

vie, vaut-elle

de foie.

la peine?

Returning from his entretien with Father Ambrose, Moran

in the French

Molloy but in vain:

arrives home

"Le

in a vile humour

degut. Ou

to seek solace

dans

inMartha's

stew,

Re

stew me

sont les oignons? m'ecriai-je.

la cuisine,

duits, repondit Marthe.

des oignons que je la soupgonnais d'avoir enleves, sachant combien je

les aimais. Je fouillai jusque dans la poubelle. Rien. Elle me regardait,

narquoise" (1999, 139). The English textis tolerably faithfulto itscon

Jeme precipitai

a la recherche

sort: "The

cried. Gone

stew was

a great disappointment.

Where

to nothing,

replied Martha.

I rushed

are the onions?

into the kitchen,

I

to

look for theonions I

suspected her of having removedfrom the pot,

because

she knew how much

I liked them. I even rummaged

in the bin.

Nothing. Shewatchedme mockingly"

(1958a, 102). What is alsomiss

world

called up by the words,

"a

In his

later self

ing, of course, is the entire Proustian

la recherche," the onions mocking the madeleine.

translation, Beckett makes no attempt to capture this echo, and the Eng

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316

Chris Ackerley

lishtextis (arguably)impoverishedby thefailuretodo so. However, in

the next paragraph the French Moran

not easy, "quand

"when pain

lemalheur

is speculative";

D'Urbervilles

succeeds

in dozing

off, which

Tess

is

text offers,

of

short story

the

n'est pas delimite." The English

the echo

of Thomas

invoked

Hardy's

inBeckett's

(chap. 35), as previously

"Yellow"

elements not present in the original. Poetic equilibrium has been, per

haps, restored, but the experience of reading the two texts is clearly somewhat different and the networks of internal echoing and external

association have been changed.

(1972,

158), adds

to the translation at least two intertextual

Even more

bringing one universe

bining them

so than allusions

(which of discourse within

in action

they resemble,

by

the orbit of another and com

resistant

in a linguistic clench), verbal puns are notoriously

to translation. The

attempt to find an equivalent

for even

a

simple

phonic

jest is often doomed,

as in the translation of Eleutheria

by Mi

chael Brodsky:

M.

Krap.

je sens que ma femme approche.

Mile Skunk,tafin?

M. Krap. ma FEMME.

Cette catastrophe.

(1995a, 57)

M. Krap.

I have a feeling

my wife draws near.

Mile. Skunk.The endof life?

M. Krap. My WIFE.

That catastrophe.

(1995b,52)

Brodsky

duplicates in order to retain the sense

clunky paraphrase.

the echo

of "fin" and "femme"

of an ending

The strategy is not

with

he

"wife"

is forced

and

to a

"life," but

somewhat

entirely satisfactory,

and one is tempted to agree with the Ottolenghi

ster" when Belacqua

recalls

"one

superb pun,"

in"Dante and theLob

"qui

vive

la pieta

quando

e ben morta,"

with

but is unable

its double

to find in English

'pity'

and

an equivalent

"'Now'

for

he

the Italian pieta,

sense of

'piety':

said likea fool 'Iwonder how you could translatethat?'Still she said

nothing.

Then:

'Do you think' she

murmured

totranslateit?'" (Beckett 1972, 19).

'it is absolutely

necessary

Puns

are the consequence

of the double

articulation

of language;

that is, of the capacity

level to express a greater number of features at another. Specifically,

of a smaller number of units at one hierarchical

in

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Puns and Paradigms in Endgame

317

English, a few phonemes (some forty or so) sufficeto give voice to a

larger number of morphemes,

words

and utterances;

similarly, a larger

but nevertheless

limited set of grammatical

rules structures and regu

lates theunlimited possibilities of expression; and finally, a large but

nevertheless

finite set of semantic

elements

(words)

can express

the

quite literally infinite variety of human experience, the physical and all

other possible worlds.

grammar and lexis, interact in complex ways, and since every sentence

or utterance conforms to the patterns of all three it has three structures

The

three systems

of

language,

phonology,

simultaneously. The relationship between these structures may be de

to an

scribed as one of 'manifestation,' one system giving realization

other and each

finding its realization

outside

itself in another system of

the

situational ambiguity). The essential principle is thatof

language (linguisticambiguity), or outside language (referential or

the infiniteuse

of finite means, as different hierarchical levels of language are mani

fest, or find expression the finitude ofmeans

in another; but the unavoidable

consequence

of

is 'ambiguity,' the property of sentences that they

may

be

stance),

interpreted inmore

that theymay

than one way,

that is (in the simplest

in

subsume

in the one phonic,

syntactic and/or se

mantic

form more

than one universe

of discourse.

Or,

to put

this in

another perspective, elements that are the same on one level of lan

guage may be seen as different on another.

It can be

said

of any

two things that they are the 'same'

or that

they are 'different'; but ambiguitycomplicates thistruism by requiring

that the linguistic elements be both 'same' and 'different' simultane

ously; more

of language

level

precisely, or reference, but 'different' at another. Aristotle points out

thismust be: "For names are finite, and

that the elements be seen as

why

things are

'same'

at one

inDe Sophisticis Elenchis

so is the sum-total of formulae, while

Inevitably,

infinite in number.

then, the same formulae, and a single name, have a number

of meanings" (165.a. 10-13). Redfern

people

puts itmore

and trees and elephants

and cars all have

simply: "The fact that

that

trunks just proves

there are more things than there are words" (7). Puns come in many

shapes and forms, including the non-linguistic,

assume themost obvious manifestation:

biguous when

but in this essay

that a word or utterance

I shall

is am

it is the

'same'

on the level of phonological

representa

tionbut 'different'on the level(s) of grammatical and/orlexical repre

'liver' may referto (a) one

sentation.In my epigraph, the English word

who

word foie conveys this latter meaning

lives or

(b) a glandular

organ of vertebrate animals;

but, unable

to express

the French

the other

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318

Chris Ackerley

sense, it exploits the phonetic similarityoffoi, or 'faith.'The effectis

similar, but the linguistic machinery is by no means identical. Disjunc tion is inevitable, because different languages (1) resolve the continuum

of sound into different phonemes (French has about thirty-five, most

subtly differentfrom their English equivalents); (2) organize language

by a very different grammar vocabularies.

borrowing accounts for some similarities, Proustian echo in Molloy) the translator's

or

set of rules;

and

(3) have

as well

distinctive

lexical

Linguistic

accident,

or coincidence,

as

the

is to find an effect

but more

problem instance, the French

often (as with

that is 'equivalent,'

rather than exact. For

titleFin

de partie impliesequally a game of chess and theend of a

theatrical

play;

apocalyptic

the English Endgame

associations

more

assumes

only the former, but may provoke

the original; while

yet, while

the

the

more

readily than does

German Endspiel

readily echoes

the French. And

three titles are in some respects different, they are equally

'the same';

that is, the similarity is sufficientto allow themto be considered as

equivalent - that is, ifwe choose to acknowledge otherwise ifwe prefer to accentuate the 'difference.'

Although that of French, ferences between

the 'sameness,'

but

the vocabulary of English

so that equivalences

the languages may

to some degree overlaps with

are often readily found, subtle dif

complicate

the effect. In Fin de

partie,

as Clov

(pronounced

(pronounced

know,

about?"),

feels Nell's

[dezert];

pulse,

"Desert!").

a baragouine?"

she utters her final word:

When

"Deserte"

wishes

to

(39,

English,

Hamm

"Qu'est-ce

Clov

qu'elle

("What's she blathering

aller, dans le desert"

reports: "Elle m'a

dit de m'en

1958b, 23). Nell

is using the familiar form of the imperative of

deserter (to abandon,

to leave Hamm,

haps

to desert),

as throughout the play Clov

that is, she is telling him

to leave, per

threatens to do; but

this form of the verb corresponds

closely with

the noun,

le desert

(pro

nounced

[dezer], English,

'the desert').

(accented

English on the second

offers almost

syllable)

the same

and the

effect, but the verb

'to desert'

noun 'desert' (accented on thefirst syllable),althoughspelt identically,

differ in stress, the verb

iambic and the noun

trochaic.

Consequently,

Clov's "She toldme to go away, intothedesert" (1958b, 23) is a little

forced, despite

the considerable

equivalence.

Direct

equivalence

is sometimes

possible,

particularly when

the

pun

is independent

of a particular

language,

as

that on "Kov"

and

'Cobh,'

but more

thesmall seaport near the city ofCork (1957b, 72, 1958b,52);

often such exactitude

is impossible.

Consider

Hamm's

afflic

tion, his sense of somethingtapping inhis head, in thethreeversionsof

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Puns and Paradigms in Endgame

319

the play thatBeckett eitherwrote (Fin de partie), translated (Endgame),

or scrutinized

"C'est

closely

in the translation of another (Endspiel):

(35); English:

French:

little

peut-etre une petite veine"

"Perhaps

it's a

vein" (20);

German: "Es istvielleichteinAderchen"

(35). Although the

French original hints at the sense of en vain the suggestion of 'vanity' is more obvious in the English version, where Beckett has developed the

translation, by contrast, that

ambiguity more

ambiguity

explicitly.

In the German

is not so easily

invoked, so the translator (Elmar Tophoven,

presumably with Beckett's approval) retains only the physiological

meaning.

However,

the Theatrical Notebooks

record: "9 Hamm's

head

heart 3 (es

klopft + Aderchen)" (qtd. in Gontarski, 118); Gontarski

[rectetropft]1 & Ader

translatesthis:"9Hamm's headheart3 (Es klopt

chen [vein])" (120); and in his EditorialNotes he comments:"1 -

Beckett's

'klopt' or 'klopft' from klopfen, to knock,

I suspect

that it is less

an

is simply an error

to

for 'tropft'" (178).

error than an attempt

compensate forthe lost pun of theFrenchand

English texts,by invok

ing the phonetic similarity of klopft,"[it] knocks," and tropft,"[it]

has

drips." As

"makes its own statement

a mildly

Tophoven

observed, the task is to produce a text that

in translation just as itdoes

in English"

ingenuous comment, as his English was poor and he was

(324;

trans

lating from the French

text). This

attempt tomake

a "statement" may

have been dropped, but another was

retained: "Es

tropft, es tropft in

meinem Kopf' (1960, 33); which adds a poetic echo to themore pro

saic English:

Even

"There's

if phonic

something dripping in my head"

(18).

identity cannot be easily

sustained from one

lan

guage to another, phonic play can nevertheless be initiated in each to

In

create effects that are equally

exuberant

and obliquely

equivalent.

Fin de partie, Clov

finds that he has a flea:

CLOV.

HAMM.

CLOV.

moins

HAMM.

coite.

La vache!

Tu

l'aseue?

On dirait. (// lache le carton et arrange

ses vetements.) A

qu'elle

ne se tienne coite.

CoYte! Coite

tu veux dire. A moins

qu'elle

ne se tienne

CLOV. Ah! On ditcoite?On ne dit pas coite?

HAMM.

Mais

voyons!

In Endgame thisbecomes:

Si elle se tenait coite nous serions baises.

(51)

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320

CLOV.

The bastard!

Chris Ackerley

HAMM. Did you get him? CLOV. Looks like it. (He drops thetinand adjusts his trousers.)

Unless

HAMM.

he's

Laying!

laying

doggo.

Lying you mean. Unless

he's

lying doggo.

CLOV. Ah?

One says lying? One doesn't say laying?

HAMM.

Use

your head, can't you. If he was

laying we'd

be

bitched.

(34)

In the English text, the distinctionbetween coite (coitus) and coite

(tranquil, silent) is not exact, but Beckett

lent in the grammatical

distinction between

has found

"laying"

captures the effect completely.

a stunning equiva

and "lying," which

As Beckett

insisted in his Berlin Diary,

there are no accidents

in

Endgame, forthe play is all built on analogies and repetitions(qtd. in

Gontarski, xiii). This is not technically correct, as the correlation be

tween 'laying' and iying' (as that of co'ite and coite) derives from acci

dents of language; but the comment reflects the extent towhich pattern

ing dominates

posture,

the play, motion echoing other motion, posture imitating

other

gestures

repeating

other gestures,

and

sounds

echoing

sounds. However,

and largely as a consequence

of ongoing

translation

and Beckett's own experience as a director, these analogies were more and more accentuated. Endgame, for instance, in this passage, offers in

the English

text echoes

that are not present

in the original

and which

testify to a greater complexity:

"bastard,"

(or swine) who does not exist (55); "Use

invoking God

your

as the bastard

head" as a reiterated

motif (53); and referencesto dogs thataremore insistentthan in the

French:

"Depuis

whelped" (14).

ma

naissance"

(28)

The English "bitched"

becoming

"Ever

since

I was

is part of this pattern, whereas

the French baises helps constitute a series of sexual echoes

sent in the translation.

largely ab

Cultural

considerations

complicate

Consider

the following

sequence:

the effects of the bilingual

pun.

NAGG. Ma bouillie!

HAMM.

Maudit

progeniteur!

NAGG. Ma bouillie!

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Puns and Paradigms in Endgame

321

HAMM.

qu'a

Ah

9a!

il n'y

a plus

de vieux!

Bouffer, bouffer, ils ne pensent

(23)

NAGG. Me pap!

HAMM.

Accursed

progenitor!

NAGG. Me pap! HAMM. The old folksathome!No decency left! Guzzle, guzzle, that'sall they thinkof.

(9)

The rhetorical structure of the passages

decency

is equivalent,

save that the Eng

lishtextadds "No

/"Accursed progenitor") to thethemeofNoah and

starting over again; but eachmakes a slightly differentuse of accidents

left"; and bothallude

("Mauditprogeniteur" the possibility of life

present

phonic

present

guistic accident

suggests by a different but nevertheless

French "Ah il n'y a plus de vieux"

in the one

half-echo

language and culture yet absent from the other. The

of the French

"Mon

bouillie"

and "Maudit"

use

of

is not

the lin

by

version, which,

a

however, makes

literal translation of "bouillie,"

equivalent

response

the

after

in the English

that the "pap,"

chance

'father' and thus triggers Hamm's

linguistic mechanism.

echoes

However,

the lament often voiced

World War

I, inwhich

so many

young men

died:

"II n'y

a plus

de jeu

nes"; and thereby insinuates themotif of post-calamity desolation

way

that the English

text does not attempt. Instead, Endgame

popular

Stephen Foster

in a

a

song, and thereby intimates its chorus, "All de

echoes

world

am

two

sad and dreary

instances

,"

in a way

that the original

does

not.

reference,

In

these

rather than by linguistic means.

the effects are contrived

by cultural

A further complication

of the bilingual

pun concerns

the mirror

like relation (with consequent lateral distortions) of theFrench and

English

elements of the text, each as seen from the perspective

of the

other tongue. The

name Godot,

for instance,

combines

the English

morpheme

point as

responds

Clov

"god" with

to how

the French diminutive

primary

language

"-of9;

it remains a moot

or French,

one whose

is English,

emotionally

to the portmanteau

effect. While

the 'nails'

-

(clou), Nell ('nail'), and Nagg (Nagel) - retaina triangulation, the

'hammer'

of Hamm,

to say nothing of Mother

Pegg,

loses

in English

in French, al

the alienation

(Verfremdung)

effect that the words

have

though the implication of crucifixionis common toboth languages(or,

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322

Chris Ackerley

perhaps,

notation

cultures). Many

of Hamlet

like instances could be discussed,

permits

a consideration

in Hamm

but the con

of the Shake

spearean

echoes

in the play,

these, not surprisingly, being much more

in the English

pervasive

portance of dramatic self-reference

text than in the French, despite

in each piece.

the equal

im

As noted earlier, the

title, Fin de partie,

intimates the symbiosis of

theatre and chess

as that of Endgame

does not; but Beckett

advances

compensatorystrategies in the English text,firstlyby imaging Hamm

as a Player King

un boueux!"

(Hamlet)

and then by translating "Mon

royaume pour

(38) as "My kingdom fora nightman!"(23, Richard III,

5.4.7),

to intimate not

a

'garbage

collector'

or

a

'road sweeper'

(in

French), or one who removes night-soil (in English), but rather a chess board Knight. Beckett said that this echo was unintentional, but was

willing to accept the pun, and, indeed, pointed it out to others (Gontar

ski,54-55). It isdifficultto say how implicit the Shakespearean allusion

is in the French original, but the rhythm is similar and royaume invites

the intertextual echo; certainly, the English translation makes the allu

sion more determinate than the French phrase would be on its own.

Likewise, when Nagg finally sinksback intohis bin, theFrenchHamm

comments,

the partie

lish equivalent,

"Finie

la rigolade"

(78), which

neatly

relates

to the end

of

but which

does not altogether convey

the effect of the Eng

its echo of Pros

"Our revels now are ended"

(56), with

pero's

the insubstantial pageant

such stuff /As

a

farewell

speech

in The Tempest, with

its sense

of the fading of

just presented, and the sentiment that: "We are

on, and our little life / Is rounded with

life and the play

soon will

dreams are made

sleep"

(4.1.154-57),

as, indeed, Hamm's

be. Again, this aspect of The Tempest is implicit in theFrench text

(rather than explicit, as

citation of Shakespeare

in the English version), even though thereisno

as such;

indeed, when Fin de partie was

yet a

two-act draft, act 2 began with thisallusion (Gontarski,62).My instinct

is that the Shakespearean

echoes were

'there' in the French from the

start, but thatittakes thetranslationtomake them explicit; and in this

sense the two versions are complementary, each needing the other for

its full expression.

thatthe

Beckett began his translationofFin de partie

textwould

believing

English

be inferior, "a poor substitute for the original"

(qtd.

in Gontarski,

xxiii). Curiously,

at least until the later, more

truly bilin

gual works,

the translations

into French of Beckett's

such as Murphy

and Watt, are much

inferior, whereas

English

originals,

those texts writ

tenfirstinFrench and subsequently translatedinto English are at least

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Puns and Paradigms in Endgame

323

the equals of their originals. English, I would argue, was Beckett's

tive language, and his French, however

the same depths and nuances

na

excellent,

did not have for him

as the language

that he shared with Joyce

and Shakespeare.

German,

it came

Thus, when

and despite Elmar Tophoven's

to translating Fin

de

limited knowledge

partie

into

o f E n g l i s h ,

of English,

Endgame

French

"seems

and German

to have

become

the standard

for the revision

of

texts" (Gontarski, xxiii). Nowhere

apparent than in the echoes of The Tempest noted above,

is this more

for as Gontar

skinotes (62), inhisBerlin production Beckett emphasized theallusion

by substituting Schlegel's translation of Shakespeare's line, "Das Fest

ist jetzt zu Ende,"

for Tophoven's

translation of the original

French,

"Der Spass ist zu Ende." (The gremlins managed

rical Notebooks textual notes with an unintended pun, "Das Fest is jest

zu Ende.")

to get into the Theat

Revenons

a nos oignons,

that is, let us get to the heart of themat

ter. As Beckett says in Murphy,

of chaos?"

the pun." He could make

(65). Enter the element of irrationality, so cen

"In the beginning was

further reflects, "what but an imperfect sense of humour

such a mess

traltoBeckett's vision and implicitequally in the ambiguous natureof

of

natural language, for its double articulation often leads to lack of clarity

natural

language. Ambiguity

is often considered

to be a deficiency

or equivocal vagueness; Beckett's distrust of language reflects his in

stinctivesense of this.Yet ambiguity can equally imply control:an

author can exploit the potential for multiple meaning,

corral and c