KRAPP'S LAST TAPE
by Daniel Sack
Be again, be again. (Pause.) All that old misery. (Pause.) Once wasn't enough for you.
A short volume on Samuel Beckett's great monologue of memory and disappointment. Every birthday Krapp narrates an account of his past year on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Every birthday he listens to an earlier year's recording before embarking on his current recollection. In Krapp's Last Tape we witness the old man reckoning with his younger selves and his present longings.
Intended for the general reader as well as the Beckett scholar, the book is divided into five brief and focused chapters covering central themes in the play, selected production history, and connections with Beckett's life and work. Responding to the play's intensely autobiographical aspect, the book also unearths a personal relationship to its haunting worries.
Part of Routledge's Fourth Wall Series.
from CHAPTER 1
Krapp's Last Tape is Beckett's most personal and most autobiographical creation. It is, perhaps, his most accessible work, his most realistic, and, perhaps too, his most moving. Beckett's dramatic universe features worlds in which couples are consigned to trash bins (Endgame) or reduced to purgatorial imprisonment in urns (Play), worlds where a woman can be buried in a mound of earth up to her waist or neck (Happy Days), or reduced to a mere mouth speaking endlessly in the dark (Not I). These images of capture and claustrophobia sear themselves into one's memory the way a recurring nightmare might resound interminably unresolved. Against these, Krapp's Last Tape is the closest thing to everyday reality that Beckett would write for the stage. Indeed, we might recognize Krapp sitting night after night in the darkened corner of our local pub, bar, or café. The bartender might whisper about that man enclosed alone in drink—the failed author, the failed lover. We might see our future selves reflected in his limpid stare, looking back.
So it was with me, when I first read the play in my freshman year of university, some fifteen years ago. I saw Krapp as a future I might inherit. At the time I thought myself an actor and a writer. I knew I was too young to play Krapp, but I feared I was already preparing for the role. For what if a script were a forecast, a kind of promise about how your life might unfold? Isn't this what all dramatic scripts offer us—the outline of a prospective event to inhabit some day? The published script of the play begins with the suggestive time signature: A late evening in the future. Frightening words. Premonitions of a time at the other end of this time, not just an evening in the future, but on the far side of that future evening, too late to be up and yet sleepless, pacing or poring over material in half-light. We could certainly make the case that Beckett saw his future self in the faded writer, that the late evening in the future would be his own time many years hence: a portrait of the artist as an old man. So one wonders who happens in this play--the character, the author, or the audience/reader? The timeless voice or the aging body?