(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The terse, ambiguous title of this story is consistent with the tale itself, in which a narrator describes flatly the real (or imaginary) discovery of a small rotunda in a white wasteland, the investigation of the same with some scientific care, and the final withdrawal from it after its dimensions, shape, and occupants have been systematically examined. The narrator leaves, convinced that there will be no chance of ever finding the building again.

The obvious thinness of such an overview may sufficiently convince a reader that something more is going on, and that a more detailed account must be given to make sense of the story. Detail is important in Samuel Beckett’s world, and this tale is full of it.

The story begins in mid-conversation, in which the oral shorthand must be deciphered by the reader. The speaker seems to be rejecting with abrupt arrogance a comment that there is no sign of life. Unconcerned, the speaker suggests that it is irrelevant so long as imagination exists, but he immediately accepts the possibility that even imagination is dead. Good riddance to it and its inclination to describe the world in terms of the old nature as humankind knew it. The narrator posits a world of unrelieved whiteness, one in which a small building appears. He gets inside the building and measures the interior, a circle divided into two semicircles. Without evidencing any surprise, he records the presence of two human bodies, one in each semicircle. He checks the...

(The entire section is 609 words.)