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Paul Stewart (Intercollege, Nicosia, Cyprus)
All known: Congruity and Disjunction in reading “Ping”

The proposed paper aims to explore the phenomenon of reading “Ping” and the textual relations between the story and Beckett’s wider oeuvre. The reader of “Ping” occupies the same space as that of the protagonist. Faced with the dense repetition, the traces of images and memories, the reader attempts to interpret the text just as the protagonist attempts to state the “all known”. Yet both are frustrated as the all known fails to coalesce and the prospect of slipping into the “white infinite” of textual possibilities, some of which are closely allied to other works in Beckett’s oeuvre, becomes more grave. The paper traces how significance within the text is created and then dissolved. The subtle changes in key phrases, the syntactical ambiguities and the indeterminacy of the “ping” at once encourage and frustrate the application of systematic interpretation, leaving reader and protagonist to grasp at the flitting images or memories as a source of
12Where my essay addresses both the widely-published Grove Press editions of Play, and the Evergreen Review publication of Play in extenso, it maintains that the later is the definitive source for Beckett’s text.

stability. These images break through the confines of the story to encompass associations with How It Is, Eh Joe, Play, The Lost Ones, and The Unnamable, thus leading the reader away from the “known” space of the story into a regressive search for significance within Beckett’s oeuvre.

The reading of “Ping” therefore conforms to a pattern of congruity and disjunction. The congruity between the reader and protagonist is such that both seek to apprehend the “all known” yet fail to do so as textual traces fail to cohere. Paradoxically, then, the paper argues that the congruity between the reader and the protagonist is one based on a shared experience of disjunction.

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