January 31, 2006
Just finished reading the play 'No Exit' by Sartre; something I'd been meaning to do ever since Samuel Beckett happened to me.
'No Exit' was quite along the lines of other existentialist literature, though very short. I believe that was in keeping with the curfew timings charted out by the Germans at the time. The play has three main characters, all in the realm of the dead, all trying to live down a shameful past, all trying to find 'an essence' for their existence, but in each others eyes, both literally and figuratively. The young and pretty Estella has to use Inez as a mirror to make sure her lipstick is on right since the room is devoid of any reflective surface. These three disparate and dead characters are forced company for each other while they wait for the 'torturer', who never shows up, in a room from where there is 'no exit'.
The play was so reminiscent of Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot' that I had read earlier (though chronologically, Sartre's play came way before Beckett's). In both plays the playwright depicts the absurdity of the human situation where we continue 'to wait for what cannot come', like the 'torturer' in No Exit and 'Godot' in Beckett's play. The protagonists in both plays seek to give purpose for their being, and are looking to the future to give meaning to a senseless past. To no avail; their wait is endless as denoted by the last line of the play 'No Exit'. A line that was echoed ten years later in the concluding line of Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot'.
The two plays force the reader into an in depth analysis of the human situation, and being 'the-glass-is-half-full' kind of a personality, I am disbelieving of the picture that Sartre and Beckett create of the human predicament. Yet it's a picture that many noted writers and philosophers have bought into over the years. Buy it, you may not, but it's a picture you cannot ignore.
'No Exit' is a short, captivating, and fodder-for-the-mind read.