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Was Godot From 'Waiting For Godot' Just A Shite Tour De France Cyclist?

Was Godot From 'Waiting For Godot' Just A Shite Tour De France Cyclist?
By Donny Mahoney
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I was enjoying a few quiet pints in the company of good friends in the Oak last night when a visibly-inebriated man with confidante took a seat beside me. They were showing Wigan-United again and upon seeing the match, the drunk man began a strange, but controlled interpretative dance dedicated to Paul Scholes. A half hour later, I wandered down to the toilets and encountered the two men washing their hands and discussing a Beckett play being performed at Trinity.

"Do you know you man Godot?" says the drunk man.

"Yeah, he's the one they're waiting for. Just waiting, waiting, waiting."


"No he was a cyclist, an old fella. Last place in the Tour de France."

With that, they returned to the beverages. Never one to question the wisdom of a drunkard, I went online this morning to do some further research on the subject. And lo and behold, it seems Beckett was indeed partly inspired by cycling when creating his theatrical masterpiece. In his essay 'The Cartesian Centaur' Hugh Kenner writes that when asked about the origins of Godot, Beckett said he was "a veteran racing cyclist, bald, a 'stayer,' recurrent placeman in town-to-town and national championships, Christian name elusive, surname Godeau, pronounced, of course, no differently from Godot."

That may seem definitive, but it is interesting how many different theories on the kind of cyclist Godot was exist. The TodayinLiterature site claims Godot's connection to cycling are more of an urban legend -


Another story is that one day while walking through the streets of Paris Beckett stopped to ask members of a large crowd what they were doing. They replied, "We are waiting for Godot," explaining that he was the oldest cyclist in the Tour de France, and had not yet passed by.

Interestingly, buried deep in a 2007 Guardian minute by minute on the Tour, Matthew Tempest proposes the following theory on the roots of Godot's name, which is linked directly the Occupation and the Holocausht:

Not a lot of people know this, but the Godot of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot was a track rider between the wars, when Beckett used to visit a velodrome in Paris. Later that same venue was used as a holding centre for deporting Jews under the Nazi occupation. People in the crowd used to watch all the pre-show entertainment saying they were Waiting for Godot.

Finally, a commenter on a New York Times article on the proper way to pronounce Godot shared the world a theory he'd heard from somebody, which though impossible to verify, has a sort of seductiveness about it:

A young Sam Beckett was staying in a French town where the Tour De France was passing through. One of the cyclists was a man named Godot, who was notorious for always finishing last of the pack by a mile. So Sam is walking through the town one late evening, after the rest of the cyclists have long come and gone, and he sees two old tramps sitting by the side of the road.

He asks them what they’re doing, and one of the tramps replies wearily;

“Monsiuer, nous attendons Godot.”

Until all of the entrants of every Tour de Frace up to 1947 is online, we may never know for sure, but until then, I'm going to stand behind my drunken comrade and say that Godot was some sort of shite cyclist.

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