The space of the door 3

Krapp's Last Tape, Samuel Beckett's short play from 1958, introduces what he calls the 'equinox' in typical Beckett fashion: "Slight improvement in bowel condition...Hm...Memorable...what? (He peers closer.) Equinox, memorable equinox. (He raises his head, stares blankly front. Puzzled.) Memorial equinox?" (lines 53ff).

He returns to the matter a little later, after a diversion, as follows: "(Pause.) Spiritually, a year of profound gloom and indigence until that memorable night in March, at the end of the jetty, in the howling wind, never to be forgotten, when suddenly I saw the whole thing. (Impatient reaction from KRAPP.) The vision at last. This I fancy is what I have chiefly to (Violent reaction from KRAPP.) record this evening, against the day when my work will be done and perhaps no place left in memory, warm or cold, for the miracle that...(hesitates). (KRAPP thumps on table.)...for the fire that set it alight. What I suddenly saw was this, that the belief I had been going on all my life, namely - (KRAPP switches off impatiently, winds tape forward (mechanical with gabble, 2 seconds) switches on again.) - great granite rocks the foam flying up in the light of the lighthouse and the wind-gauge spinning like a propeller, clear to me at last that the dark I have always struggled to keep under is in reality my most - (KRAPP curses, switches off, winds tape forward, [mechanical with gabble, 3 seconds], switches on again.) - unshatterable association until my dissolution of storm and night with the light of the understanding and the fire - (KRAPP curses louder, switches off, winds tape forward [mechanical with gabble, 4 seconds], switches on again, [lowers head].) - my face in her breasts and my hand on her. We lay there without moving. But under us all moved, and moved us, gently, up and down, and from side to side. (Pause. [Raises head, stares front.]) Past midnight. Never knew such silence. The earth might be uninhabited. (Pause.) Here I end..." (lines 167ff).

The 'equinox' of what Beckett calls (not without horror at the presumptive language) "the whole thing", "reality" and "all", occurs in an uninhabited and uninhabitable space where the light and the dark, warm and cold, fire and night, and "up and down" occur together in "unshatterable association" - "by way of neither". The 'equinox' is a bond and way between these which is neither the one, nor the other, but something else which is unspeakable and dark beyond night: "Past midnight".

What has happened to Krapp ("Slight improvement in bowel condition"), in a "vision" or "miracle", is that he has experienced a shift in his foundations which can never be brought about by will: "We lay there without moving. But under us all moved, and moved us". Previously bound to (ie, in a world structured by) the antagonistic opposition of the light and the dark, he "suddenly" sees that there is another dark, one far deeper and more silent than the "gloom and indigence" he had previously taken for the dark: "the belief I had been going on all my life". This new dark, this second dark, is a dark that both separates and binds: "clear to me at last that the dark I have always struggled to keep under is in reality my most..."

In terms of the gigantomachia, Beckett has left off allegiance to the gods or titans (the light OR the dark) and found the child 'holding to both' (the light AND the dark, where the AND is a different and yet more silent dark). To do so, he has somehow taken the pathless path from one shape of being to another, and in this other shape he has first come to see the very way, the space of the door, which got him there in the first place.

Also see Early version of Krapp's tape

September 4, 2003 in Beckett, Equinox, Original difference | Permalink

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