As much as I enjoyed the recent HBO documentary about the pro wrestler, Andre the Giant, I was disappointed at its leaving out the part of Andre’s life I find most intriguing—Samuel Beckett and Andre knew each other. Beckett owned a place in the French countryside near Andre’s home when Andre was growing up. Although we may never know much about this relationship, it is documented that Beckett did drive Andre to school. I first learned about this relationship from a two-character play Sam and Dede, Or My Dinner with Andre the Giant that I saw in a 50-seat theater a few years ago.
According to the play, Andre was too big for the school bus, and Beckett, paying off a debt to Andre’s father, offered to drive the boy to school in his truck. During the drives, the two mostly spoke about cricket, which both played. While there are sources to support these facts, I am guessing that the most of the play was based on a playwright’s speculations. In the play, the two became friends, a friendship that lasted even after Andre had become a huge star and Beckett had become a worldwide literary figure. They have wide-ranging conversations about art and storytelling. Beckett is intrigued with professional wrestling, and Andre is intrigued with the lack of traditional storytelling in Beckett’s work.
Pro wrestling, unlike much of Beckett’s work, has stories, and it has writers. Beckett is interested in wrestling; wrestling has writers; Beckett is a writer. What if, I could not help wonder, Andre had gotten Becket to write for wrestling. I don’t pretend to be a Beckett expert, but from what I have seen, he seemed concerned with the absurd, and surely so wrestling meets that standard. Perhaps he could have had Andre alone in the ring “calling out” someone he was “feuding” with. Beckett might have had a solo spotlight on Andre who says, “Big Show, if you want to take my title come out here.” Then for three minutes nothing but silence. Andre repeats his challenge. Another three silent minutes and another challenge. Another three minutes and Big Show appears at the arena’s entrance. He does not utter a word. Three minutes of silence. Big Show laughs. Three more silent minutes. The lights go out. When the lights return, neither wrestler is there. The giant television comes on. It says, “Waiting with Andre.” The TV goes off. And the audience wonders, What just happened? What did that mean?
In Beckett’s Endgame, two men in trash cans converse. In professional wrestling, men frequently bash each other with metal garbage cans. What could Beckett have done with wrestlers and those props? We will never know, of course, but I feel a bit cheated.
Little is known about the relationship between Beckett and Andre other than the fact that one existed. The possibilities are so intriguing; I wished that the documentary had probed it.