Samuel Beckett

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Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Wed Apr 13, 2011 1:03 am

First page of the old ATU Beckett thread:

LINK EXPIRED

...but here's a picture of Sam:





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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Wed Jun 01, 2011 8:27 pm


Cover of the first English edition of Waiting For Godot.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Wed Jun 01, 2011 8:31 pm


Cover of 1957 Grove Press edition of SB's comic novel Murphy.

Murphy is considerably shorter than War and Peace, but Twood has not managed to finish either work.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 7:44 pm

A daunting task, trying to reconstruct this thread from memory:

"You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on."

(Last sentence of 'The Unnamable', third book of SB's Trilogy of novels preceded by 'Molloy' and 'Malone Dies').

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 7:53 pm

Sod it.

Let's go down the pub instead:




Samuel Beckett's Irish Pub 2800 South Randolph St., Arlington, VA

Ceilings two stories up, huge bookshelves lining the walls, a pair of working fireplaces, a mezzanine bar overlooking the rest of the pub — Samuel Beckett’s blows the dark-and-cozy Irish stereotype out of the water.

Though several hundred people could squeeze in comfortably here, clever design keeps Samuel Beckett’s from feeling too much like a barn. A restaurant with tables of dark wood occupies the front of the space, near the huge glass windows looking onto Campbell Avenue. A glass partition screens the curving main bar from the rest of the room and makes the pub area seem more intimate, especially when you can pull up a barstool and chat about soccer with one of the bartenders, several of whom have authentic accents.

If this area looks full, follow the narrow passage at the right end of the bar to the back, where there’s a tiny eight-seat bar and a lounge area with dinner tables and couches. My favorite place, though, is the mezzanine bar, which over looks the main bar and is reached by a grand staircase. There are only a dozen stools up there, along with a small group of tables, but you can’t beat the view.

The outdoor areas are almost as generously sized, with room for dozens of diners. Skip the sidewalk tables on busy Campbell Avenue and ask for the seats facing the wide pedestrian walkway on the side of the building.

The drafts at Samuel Beckett’s mix your traditional Irish and English taps with American microbrews, including the local Flying Dog. The pub’s menu is one of the better Irish selections in the area; the potato skins are topped with Irish cheddar and crunchy Irish bacon, mussels are cooked in Kilkenny Ale. But I find myself drawn to the lamb burger, perfectly seasoned and topped with rich, creamy Cashel blue cheese.

Overall, service has been friendly — if a little harried on weekends — and crowds range from couples on double-dates to groups of women knitting at the bar. Even the “slow” nights rarely feel empty, thanks to a popular pub quiz (Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.) and half-price burgers on Monday night.

The name is a nod to the neighboring Signature Theatre, though a more theater-literate friend jokes that the place is a little too ostentatious for a playwright whose later works were known for their minimalism. We laugh. I’ll have another Kilkenny.

-- Fritz Hahn (June 10, 2011)


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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:57 pm

Ah!<hic> That's better. drunken

Where were we?

Ah, yes:


"What! You are giving up your Queen? Sheer madness!"

SB wanted this photo for the original cover of Murphy which features an unconventional game of chess between our hero and a lunatic named Mr Endon- but the publisher objected, for some reason.

Here's that distinctly odd chess games in full:

http://www.redhotpawn.com/gameanalysis/boardhistory.php?gameid=3007756

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 5:29 pm

The general trajectory of Beckett's writing career is characterised by a progressive and self-imposed diminuation of conventional expressive resources.

The characters in early prose works such as the short story collection 'More Pricks than Kicks' or his London Novel 'Murphy' exists in a social milieu of sorts. Belacqua, the central character of 'More Pricks...', has to visit a shop to buy the lobster boiled alive at the end of the story "Dante and the Lobster" and a cook has to cook it:

-It's a quick death. God help us all.

-It is not.

And Murphy even has a girlfriend, an astrologer and a job as a nurse in a mental hospital. SB's early characters are, up to a point, social beings.

But from the Trilogy onwards (Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable), there is a sharp and distinct drawing inwards; social connections atrophy to the point where the speaker of The Unnamable is virtually a fetus in a glass jar on a laboratory shelf, blind to its environment and sensitive to no stimuli but the inner compulsion to talk.

In "Three Dialogues With Georges Duthuit", SB characterises his Art as, "The expression that there is nothing to express; nothing which with to express; nothing from which to express; no power to express; no desire to express; together with the obligation to express..."

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 5:44 pm

So it is, too, with the dramatic works.

SB's first and unperformed play, ironically entitled "Eleutheria" (Greek for "Freedom"), is said to be a comparatively conventional 3-Act play with a realistic setting and a narrative of sorts (about a young man who, realising the pointlessness of his existence, "turns his face to the wall").

And his first stage success "En Attendant Godot" has a setting (Tree. County Road. Evening.), residual traces of a plot (a previously arranged appointment is not kept) and characters capable, at least, of movement and speech:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAZPzrC6dZc
Waiting For Godot- end of Act I.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:17 pm

Beckett's next stage play 'Endgame'- we're back to chess again- has a setting identifiable only as an interior of some sort with two windows set high in one wall.

One character Hamm is confined to a wheelchair; his servant (?- the precise social relationship is unspecified) Clov is apparently incapable of sitting down; and Hamm's parents Nagg and Nell lead a bleak existence in separate ashcans where they live off pap.

The play has no plot to speak of, except that supplies of every commodity are rapidly running out and that nothing living is to be seen through the two high windows.

Life in a bunker after a nuclear holocaust? That's one reading.

Another is that the two widows are eye sockets; the walls of the "bunker" the inside of a skull; and the various characters represent forces inside the human mind. The process of the interiorisation of SB's dramatic work has begun:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Joj4Akj_rPo
Endgame (Part 1)- The San Quention Drama Workshop, directed by SB.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:25 pm

The interiorisation process continues a stage further with "Krapp's Last Tape", in which the cast has been reduced to a single player and the only "conversation" is between that character (Krapp) and his past "selves", an effect achieved economically by means of the mechanical device of the tape-recorder:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPB9_Ql_fzc
Krapp's Last Tape (Part 1)


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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:29 pm

And so the diminution process goes on....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7gtfetC3Zs

That Time (1/2)- SB.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:33 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3cjRicX1Hw
Rockabye- SB. With Billie Whitelaw.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:51 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8C4HL2LyWU
Not I- SB. With Billie Whitelaw.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 7:12 pm

The last gasp (sic) of this reductionist process must logically have come with "Breath", a piece Beckett wrote (as a joke?) for the drama critic Kenneth Tynan's erotic review "Oh, Calcutta!":

The curtains part on a stage filled with rubbish. Sound of breathing. The curtains close.

http://www.encyclopedia.com/video/Y1ZON66BbB0-breath-by-samuel-beckett.aspx
Recent production of Breath, designed by Damien Hirst.

A lot like Life, really. Very Happy


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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 7:26 pm

Sam continued to write plays, of course, for both stage and TV, particularly for the work of performers such as Billie Whitelaw whom he admired (see clips above).

But was he just going through the motions? Did he have anything important left to say? The clip of "Catastrophe" (below) suggests he might have been wearying of the whole process of theatrical production. Or perhaps he was just taking the piss?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COZ0QXyDgYI
Catastrophe. With Harold Pinter and John Geilgud.


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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Fri Jun 17, 2011 3:42 pm

As for the prose work, just the same progress- more of a via dolorosa, really- towards minimalism is in evidence. Beckett worked as the half-blind Joyce's secretary during the latter's composition of Finnegans Wake, remember- and if Joyce is about anything, he's about abundance and exuberance of effect. Beckett came to be just the opposite: the poet of impotence with words, of near-aphasia. Think of Joyce as Pozzo and Beckett as Lucky and you get the general idea:



But that wasn't always the case and we're getting too far ahead of ourselves. The prose of an early Beckett novel such as Murphy is not exactly bells and trumpets but it's not the occasional dismal hoot either.

The turning point was Beckett's move to Paris and his decision to write in French rather than English:

"Parce-que en Francais c'est plus facile d'ecrire sans style..."

...which I take to mean without the flourishes of his Anglo-Irish prose heritage.

While he wasn't the first writer to choose a language other than his native tongue (one thinks immediately of Conrad) he must have been the first to do so as a self-conscious act of alienation and then- this is the extraordinary part- to TRANSLATE HIS OWN WORK BACK INTO ENGLISH.

It was this "siege in the room" that produced his great prose Trilogy of novels.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Fri Jun 17, 2011 3:49 pm

The Trilogy gives us, in effect, the via dolorosa towards minimalism in miniature:


Molloy.


Malone Dies.


The Unnamable.

...after which writing marathon he turned to drama as light relief and came up with "En Attendant Godot" which he called "a marvellous liberating diversion" after the hard slog of the prose work.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Fri Jun 17, 2011 4:06 pm

eddie wrote:Beckett worked as the half-blind Joyce's secretary during the latter's composition of Finnegans Wake

Pause for amusing anecdote:

Joyce is dictating a passage of Finnegans Wake to Beckett when there's a knock at the door: it's the lad from the cobbler's come to deliver a pair of shoes. Work resumes, and after a while Mr Joyce asks young Sam to read back that morning's timeless prose.

But there's an awkward moment:

JJ- What's this "Come in"?
SB- It's what you said.

( Ah! The lad from the cobbler's. Joyce has a think.)

JJ- Let it stand.

So, somewhere in the ocean of words that is Finnegans Wake there's a droplet of two words contributed by Samuel Beckett.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Fri Jun 17, 2011 8:32 pm

Time for a survey of other formative influences on Beckett's work apart from his admiration for Joyce, about whom incidentally he wrote his first published work:

Wiki:

In 1929, Beckett published...a critical essay entitled "Dante... Bruno. Vico.. Joyce". The essay defends Joyce's work and method, chiefly from allegations of wanton obscurity and dimness, and was Beckett's contribution to Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress (a book of essays on Joyce which also included contributions by Eugene Jolas, Robert McAlmon, and William Carlos Williams).

********************************************************************************

Firstly, there is the landscape around Dublin, a city situated on green arable land between mountains and sea:



This is the landscape of "Mercier and Camier", "From an Abandoned Work", "Molloy", "Malone Dies" and of "Waiting for Godot"'s opening stage direction "A tree. A country road. Evening".

Wiki:

The family home, Cooldrinagh in the Dublin suburb of Foxrock, was a large house and garden complete with tennis court built in 1903 by Samuel's father William. The house and garden, together with the surrounding countryside where he often went walking with his father, the nearby Leopardstown Racecourse, the Foxrock railway station and Harcourt Street station at the city terminus of the line, all feature in his prose and plays.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Fri Jun 17, 2011 8:45 pm

Beckett is the most apparenly apolitical of writers because he is never explicit about those kind of power struggles. It is pointless to attach any particular meaning to the master-slave pairs in his work such as Hamm and Clov in "Endgame" or Pozzo and Lucky in "Godot".

But it's worth bearing in mind that he was 10 years old at the time of the (failed) Easter 1916 Dublin uprising and still very young at the time of the struggle for Irish independence and the subsequent Civil War. At the very least, one could say that this lent a certain atmosphere of anxiety to his youth.

It's also worth nothing that he joined the French Resistance during WWII. He and his wife-to-be Suzanne had fled Paris on foot like thousands of others during the Nazi occupation, and it has been suggested that "Godot"- with its footsore travellers and its abortive rendezvous- is suggestive of that episode in his life.

After a visit to Ireland, he returned to France with the Red Cross and witnessed the effects of allied bombing of French town such as St Malo, a poem on the subject of which appears in his poetry volume "Echo's Bones".


Beckett (3rd from left, front row) and other members of the Irish Red Cross in St Lo, France.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Fri Jun 17, 2011 11:20 pm

Perhaps the single most important relationship (or non-relationship) of Beckett's formative years was with his mother, the formidable Mary Roe Beckett, a former nurse who married SB's kindly quantity surveyer father William.

The relationship was a destructive one which certainly must have contributed to years of psychosomatic boils, rashes and other complaints and to his eventually seeking psychiatric help in London, the setting for Murphy.

Samuel Beckett used to divert his university friends with a yarn about his earliest memory: being in his mother's womb under the table at a dinner party. Sam was testing the limits of his friends' credulity, presumably, but it is striking how many of Beckett's dramatic characters are confined or restricted in some way:

Lucky at the end of a rope held by Pozzo.
Ham in a wheelchair.
Nagg and Nell in ashcans.
Winnie of "Happy Days" up to her waist in a mound of earth in Act I and up to her neck in Act II.
The three adulterous characters of "Play" in funerary urns.
Billie Whitelaw in a rocking chair in Rockabye.

...and so on.

It is striking, too, that the torrent of prose which burst forth when SB abandoned his mother tongue coincided with his own mother's death.

Note that the first line of "Molloy" (and of the Trilogy) is "I am in my mother's room. It's I who live there now" and note, too, the destructive relationship with his mother endured by the narraror of "From an Abandoned Work".

I've trawled the web for some time without success searching for images of Mary Roe Beckett with a Pomerarian dog (which puts in an appearance in "Molloy") and with one of her many donkeys. Any results gratefully received.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Fri Jun 17, 2011 11:34 pm

Important also to the development of Beckett as an artist was his study of Proust:


Marcel Proust in 1900.

I can't claim to have much more than a fleeting acquaintance with A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, but I have read SB's own study of the writer and I'm aware that the main preoccupations here are with the themes of Time, Habit, Attainment and Memory.

"Krapp's Last Tape" could be viewed as a stage animation of these themes:

1. TIME. It deforms us. Krapp views his younger self as "that stupid bastard I took myself for thirty years ago".
2. HABIT. Krapp's a boozer and a compulsive consumer of bananas. He records a new diary entry every year on his birthday.
3. ATTAINMENT. Krapp's a failed writer. The much-vaunted artistic "vision" he once pursued has come to nothing.
4. MEMORY. The girl in the punt, his single moment of transcendence, is the tape to which he returns at the close of the play.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Fri Jun 17, 2011 11:49 pm

These two:



...and other screen vaudeville clowns such as Chaplin and Keaton.

It's hardly necessary to emphasise the resemblance to the characters in "Waiting for Godot". Jean Anouilh described Waiting for Godot as "a music hall sketch of Pascal's Pensées performed by the Fratellini clowns".

SB's sketch of Krapp at the beginning of the text of "Krapp's Last Tape" (white face, red nose, pointed white shoes etc) is the description of a clown- and the stage business with bananas speaks for itself.

The wheel came full circle when SB asked Buster Keaton to appear in his short cinematic piece "Film":


Buster Keaton and Samuel Beckett on the set of "Film".

Buster read the script and thought it "needed fixing up a bit". It had to be explained to him that they didn't usually "fix up" Beckett's work.




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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:12 pm

Samuel Beckett

Ireland

Full name Samuel Barclay Beckett

Born April 13, 1906, Foxrock, Dublin

Died December 22, 1989, Paris, France (aged 83 years 253 days)

Major teams Dublin University

Batting style Left-hand bat

Bowling style Left-arm medium



Profile

Wisden obituary

Samuel Barclay Beckett, who died in Paris on December 22, 1989, aged 83, had two first-class games for Dublin University against Northamptonshire in 1925and 1926, scoring 35 runs in his four innings and conceding 64 runs without taking a wicket. A left-hand opening batsman, possessing what he himself called a gritty defense, and a useful left-arm medium-pace bowler, he had enjoyed a distinguished all-round sporting as well as academic record at Portora Royal School, near Enniskillen, and maintained his interest in games while at Trinity College, Dublin. Indeed, Beckett, whose novels and plays established him as one of the important literary figures of the twentieth century, bringing him the Nobel Prize for literature in 1969, never lost his affection for and interest in cricket.

Wisden Cricketers' Almanack


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Re: Samuel Beckett

Post  eddie on Wed Jun 22, 2011 5:50 pm

I once directed a production of Beckett's "Footfalls". It turned out pretty well, but was nowhere near as good as Billie Whitelaw:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGvwqERVkFw
Footfalls- Billie Whitelaw as May.

What strikes one about all these clips is the blend of Beckett's great prose and striking visual imagery: SB's "Artform" theatre in a nutshell.

Whitelaw once described being rehearsed by Sam as having someone teach you a tune they had in their head, which you had to learn down to the merest millisecond of a pause. She broke down under the strain on one occasion during rehearsals for "Not I". Sam disappeared, returning minutes later with a glass on brandy from the theatre bar, gave it to her and stroked her hand saying "Oh my God, Billie, what have I done to you?"

Harold Pinter had a similar experience of Beckett's kindness when he was taken violently ill in a Paris restaurant after eating some dodgy onion soup. Again Sam disappeared into the night and returned with a glass of bicarbonate of soda.

Pinter swore it saved his life.

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Re: Samuel Beckett

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