In the 1980s, Samuel Beckettâ€™s plays, which include well-known works like â€śWaiting for Godot,â€ť were banned in communist Czechoslovakia. But the regimeâ€™s censorship didnâ€™t stop Mr. Beckett from becoming a hero of the opposition in the eastern European country. In 1982 he dedicated a one-act play, â€śCatastrophe,â€ť to Vaclav Havel, a playwright and future president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic who was then serving a 4.5-year sentence in prison.
The International Association for the Defence of Artists, which was organizing a night of solidarity for Mr. Havel to draw attention to the prosecution of artists under communist regimes, asked Beckett to write the play. It was originally written in French and performed at the Avignon Festival in 1982.
Catastrophe was Beckettâ€™s most overtly political play, according to his biographer James Knowlson. In it, a director and his assistant subject a mute character to their commands, â€śpreparingâ€ť him for the stage. The dehumanized characterâ€™s only act of resistance is to raise his head at the end of the play, facing his oppressors.
Once Havel was released from prison he wrote a response to Beckettâ€™s â€śCatastropheâ€ť in the form of a play.