Journal of Romance Studies

Beckett and French war propaganda

A new source for Waiting for Godot

Journal of Romance Studies (2019), 19, (1), 1–22.


In this article, I demonstrate that the Second World War has had a stronger bearing on Waiting for Godot than has previously been suggested. I shall do so by focusing on the differences in terms of place-names, stock phrases and puns in Samuel Beckett’s French and English versions of the play. Through analysis of new documentary evidence, I will show that the French Godot contains several allusions to Philippe Pétain’s ideology and Vichy propaganda that have remained unnoticed until now, and which have been erased in the translation process from French to English.

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Works cited

Addyman, David (2013) ‘A new philosophical landscape for Godot’, in Samuel Beckett: Debts and Legacy. New critical essays, ed. Peter Fifield and David Addyman (London: Bloomsbury), 63–84. Google Scholar

Anderton, Joseph (2016) Beckett’s Creature. Art of Failure after the Holocaust (London: Bloomsbury). Google Scholar

Armstrong, Gordon S. (1990) Samuel Beckett, W.B. Yeats and Jack Yeats. Images and Words (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press). Google Scholar

Beckett, Samuel (1952) En attendant Godot (Paris: Editions de Minuit). Google Scholar

Beckett, Samuel (1993) The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Volume I: Waiting for Godot, ed. Dougald McMillan and James Knowlson (London: Faber and Faber). Google Scholar

Beckett, Samuel (1995) Eleutheria (New York: Foxrock); trans. Michael Brodsky (1995) Eleutheria (Paris, Editions de Minuit). Google Scholar

Beckett, Samuel (2010) Waiting for Godot, ed. Mary Bryden (London, Faber and Faber). Google Scholar

Boninchi, Marc (2005) Vichy et l’ordre moral (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France). Google Scholar

Bryden, Mary (2010) ‘Preface’, in Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (London: Faber and Faber), vii–xxxi. Google Scholar

Burrin, Philippe (1995) La France à l’heure allemande: 1940–1944 (Paris: Le Seuil). Google Scholar

Callu, Agnès, Patrick Éveno, and Hervé Joly (eds) (2009), Cultures et médias sous l’Occupation (Paris: CTHS). Google Scholar

Dalisson, Rémi (2008) Les Fêtes du Maréchal. Propagande festive et imaginaire national dans la France de Vichy (Paris: Tallandier). Google Scholar

Derval, André (ed.) (2007), Dossier de presse ‘En attendant Godot’ de Samuel Beckett (Paris: IMEC and 10/18). Google Scholar

Garden, Maurice, and Jean-Luc Pinol (2009) Atlas des Parisiens de la révolution à nos jours (Paris: Editions Parigramme). Google Scholar

Gibson, Andrew (2014) ‘French Beckett and French literary politics 1945–52’, in Edinburgh Companion to Samuel Beckett and the Arts, ed. Stan Gontarski (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press), 103–116. Google Scholar

Gibson, Andrew (2015) ‘Beckett, Vichy, Maurras, and the body: Premier amour and Nouvelles’, Irish University Review 45.2: 281–301. Google Scholar

Gordon, Lois (1998) The World of Samuel Beckett 1906–1946 (New Haven: Yale University Press). Google Scholar

Gouvard, Jean-Michel (2018) ‘Samuel Beckett’s Watt and the early 1940s in France’, Essays in French Literature and Culture 55: 133–149. Google Scholar

Graver, Lawrence (2004) ‘Godot in French and in English’, in Beckett: Waiting for Godot (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 70–78. Google Scholar

Haynes, James, and James Knowlson (2003) Images of Beckett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Google Scholar

‘Imprimés anti-britanniques’, Institut d’histoire du tps présent (IHTP), CNRS. (accessed 14 February 2019). Google Scholar

Josse, Vincent (2012) ‘Le maréchal Putain’, France-Inter. (accessed 23 February 2018). Google Scholar

Kennedy, Seán, and Katherine Weiss (2009) Samuel Beckett: history, memory, archive (New York: Palgrave Macmillan). Google Scholar

Kennedy, Seán (ed.) (2010) Beckett and Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Google Scholar

Knowlson, James (1996) Damned to fame. The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury). Google Scholar

Knowlson, James (2010) ‘Preface’, in Samuel Beckett, Happy Days (London: Faber and Faber), vii–xvii. Google Scholar

Lindblad, Ishrat (1976) ‘Waiting for Godot: translation or revision?’, Studia Neophilologica 48.2: 269–281. Google Scholar

‘Memo Arch. 02540, carton 1’, Archives du Mémorial Caen-Normandie. (14 February 2019). Google Scholar

Morin, Emilie (2009) Samuel Beckett and the Problem of Irishness (New York: Palgrave Macmillan). Google Scholar

Morin, Emilie (2017) Beckett’s Political Imagination (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Google Scholar

Nixon, Mark (2011) Samuel Beckett’s German Diaries 1936–1937 (London: Bloomsbury). Google Scholar

Ory, Pascal (ed.) (1977) La France allemande (1933–1945): paroles du collaborationnisme français (Paris: Gallimard/Julliard). Google Scholar

Ory, Pascal (1980) Les Collaborateurs, 1940–1945 (Paris: Le Seuil). Google Scholar

Passera, Françoise (2008) ‘La propagande anti-britannique en France pendant l’Occupation / Anti-British Propaganda in France during the Occupation’, Revue LISA / LISA e-journal (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes), 124–150. Google Scholar

Perloff, Marjorie (2005) ‘In Love with Hiding: Samuel Beckett’s War’, Iowa Review 35.1: 76–103. Google Scholar

Petit, Maryse (2009) ‘« Ce qu’il ne faut pas voir » dans le théâtre de Maurice Maeterlinck’, Image [&] Narrative 10. (accessed 23 February 2018). Google Scholar

Rastier, François (2008) ‘En attendant Valentin Temkine’, Texto ! 13.1: 19–38. Google Scholar

Rossignol, Dominique (1991) Histoire de la propagande en France de 1940 à 1944 (Paris: PUF). Google Scholar

Serieys, Jacques (2017) ‘Pétain, du pain ! Pétain putain (Toulouse, 5 novembre 1940)’, in Midi insoumis, populaire et citoyen. (accessed 23 February 2018). Google Scholar

Sheehan, Paul (2013) ‘Waiting for Nothing: Commitment, Resistance and Godot’s underground ancestry’, in In Dialogue with Godot: Waiting and Other Thoughts, ed. Rajan Ghosh (Lanham: Lexington Books), 99–112. Google Scholar

Spinoso, Emanuela (2016) Le bruit de l’indicible dans les drames de Maeterlinck et de Beckett (Padoua: Università degli Studi di Padoua). Google Scholar

Strinberg, August (1912) The Dream Play, in August Strinberg, Plays, trans. Edwind Björkman (New York: Charles Scribner Sons), 61–62. Google Scholar

Temkine, Pierre (2008) ‘Ce que ça fait de ne rien dire’, Texto ! 13.1: 14–18. Google Scholar

Temkine, Valentin, and Pierre Temkine (2008) ‘D’où viennent tous ces cadavres? Une lecture historique d’En attendant Godot’, Texto ! 13.1: 1–8. Google Scholar

Uchman, Jadwiga (2012) ‘Crossing the Borders of Language and Culture: Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot’, Text Matters – A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture 2.2: 46–61, (accessed 21 January 2019). Google Scholar

Worth, Katharine (2014) The Irish Drama of Europe from Yeats to Beckett (London: Bloomsbury). Google Scholar

Zeifman, Hersh (1977) ‘The Alterable Whey of Words: The Texts of Waiting for Godot’, Educational Theatre Journal 2.2: 77–84. [Reprinted in Beckett: Waiting for Godot (1987), ed. Ruby Cohn (London: Macmillan), 86–95.] Google Scholar

Zelizer, Barbie (2010) About to Die: How New Images Move to the Public (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here


Author details

Gouvard, Jean-Michel