Subsequent to my previous question about the meaning of “his peers” used in Magna Carta quoted in Jill Lepore’s article, “After the fact,” in New Yorker March 21st issue, I’m drawn to the phrase, “Eat your heart, Samuel Becket” in the following paragraph:

“You lied,” Marco Rubio said to Trump during the truth-for-tat February debate. Cruz tried to break in, noting that Rubio had called him a liar, too. Honestly there was so much loudmouthed soothsaying that was hard to tell who was saying what. A line from the transcript released by CNN reads: UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tell the truth, I tell the truth. Eat your heart out, Samuel Becket.

I know what the idiom, “Eat your heart out + a name” mean, and that Samuel Bechet is a famous French novelist, play writer, and poet. But the Republican Presidential debate held in February and Samuel Becket’s work doesn’t straightly link each other to me.

Does “Eat your heart out, Samuel Becket” mean the debate of Republican Presidential candidates was so terrible and eccentric as the story and characters in Becket’s plays and novels? What does it mean?

Additionally, What does “soothsaying” here mean?

  • Becket preferred to write in French but he was an Irishman. May 5, 2016 at 11:42

2 Answers 2


The word 'soothsayer', though commonly used to mean 'future teller', originally meant 'truth-teller'. This is the sense in which the article means it - that there are many people 'telling the truth' (or at least saying that they are telling the truth, because they contradict each other).

Becket's work was often about the nature of truth, and often featured characters who claimed to tell the truth but maybe didn't. The implication is that even in his most Absurdist moments he never had as many contradictory characters claiming to tell the truth as the Republican Primary debates.

  • So are you saying that the unidentified male was one of the presidential candidates, but unidentifiable, and was saying 'I tell the truth' sarcastically, mocking the other candidates for irrelevantly claiming truthfulness?
    – Mitch
    May 5, 2016 at 13:25
  • @Mitch I doubt he was being sarcastic. May 6, 2016 at 17:21

The "eat your heart out, Samuel Becket[t]" is not directly related to the sense of "soothsaying" -- DJClayworth's answer gives a pretty good explanation of the latter term, but I think overemphasises the "truthiness" aspect of the whole thing.

It's important to note the reference to the transcript of the debate --- the line quoted from the transcript (including its attribution to the 'character' of "UNIDENTIFIED MALE") looks like a line from the script of a Beckett play. It comes out of nowhere (or at least from an 'unidentified' source), yet seemingly has some great moral weight or importance; it is the fact that such non sequitur dialogue is thought to be typical of Beckett's works that the author is making reference to. You are right that the overall idea that the author was trying to convey was that the scenario was as absurd as a Beckett play, but this is introduced through a much more direct observation of the fact that the actual transcript itself looked like a script of such a play.

As noted, Samuel Beckett was Irish.

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