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Il n’y a pas de Beckett

Christopher Prendergast

14 November 1996
Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel​ Beckett 
by James Knowlson.
Bloomsbury, 872 pp., £25, September 1996, 0 7475 2719 9
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Samuel BeckettThe Last Modernist 
by Anthony Cronin.
HarperCollins, 645 pp., £25, October 1996, 9780246137692
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol I: Waiting for Godot 
edited by Dougald McMillan and James Knowlson.
Faber, 472 pp., £75, March 1994, 0 571 14543 4
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol II: Endgame 
edited by S.E. Gontarski.
Faber, 276 pp., £50, November 1992, 0 571 14544 2
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol III: Krapp’s Last Tape 
edited by James Knowlson.
Faber, 286 pp., £50, May 1992, 0 571 14563 9
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Eleutheria 
by Samuel Beckett, translated by Barbara Wright.
Faber, 170 pp., £6.99, September 1996, 9780571178261
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... to countenance other-worldly aspirations. Similar considerations of a less starkly ultimate kind might arise in connection with the subtitle of James Knowlson’s new biography: ‘The Life of SamuelBeckett’. (The main title looks suspiciously like a publisher’s wheeze, a low-grade spin on Beckett’s desperate formula for the modern artist as doomed to fail or, more tantalisingly, as driven ...

Tears in the Café Select

Christopher Prendergast

9 March 1995
Paris Interzone: Richard Wright, Lolita, Boris Vian and Others on the Left Bank 1946-1960 
by James Campbell.
Secker, 305 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 436 20106 2
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Foreign Correspondent: Paris in the Sixties 
by Peter Lennon.
Picador, 220 pp., £16.99, April 1994, 0 330 31911 6
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The Good Ship Venus: The Erotic Voyage of the Olympia Press 
by John de St Jorre.
Hutchinson, 332 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 09 177874 3
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... as a young journalist writing, sporadically, for the Guardian, while, in the intervals, getting caught up in all kinds of adventures (best of all an improbable encounter, in the company of SamuelBeckett, with Peter O’Toole). This post-war Paris is largely made up of writers, intellectuals, editors, journalists, actors, jazz musicians, film-makers, students, hangers-on, ‘terrorists’ and the ...

Celtic Revisionism

Patrick Parrinder

24 July 1986
A Short History of Irish Literature 
by Seamus Deane.
Hutchinson, 282 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 09 161360 4
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The Peoples of Ireland 
by Liam de Paor.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £15, April 1986, 9780091561406
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Portrait of Ireland 
by Liam de Paor.
Rainbow, 192 pp., £13.95, May 1986, 1 85120 004 5
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The Complete Dramatic Works 
by Samuel Beckett.
Faber, 476 pp., £12.50, April 1986, 0 571 13821 7
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The Beckett​ Country: An Exhibition for Samuel Beckett’s 80th Birthday 
by Eoin O’Brien and James Knowlson.
Black Cat, 97 pp., £5, May 1986, 0 948050 03 9
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... William Joyce and James Joyce had their British passports in common. At least James’s literary nationality has never been in doubt, though this is scarcely true of his friend and compatriot SamuelBeckett. It would be interesting to know how many British university libraries shelve Beckett’s books under French, not Irish, literature. Traitors sell their nationality, whereas writers, if they ...

‘Not I’

Adam Mars-Jones

6 March 2014
... Lisa Dwan​ has been performing SamuelBeckett’s immensely demanding Not I since 2005. What audiences saw at two short London runs this year, at the Royal Court in January and the Duchess Theatre in February (the production now tours), differed ...
9 November 1989
Stirrings Still 
by Samuel Beckett.
Calder, 25 pp., £1,000, March 1989, 0 7145 4142 7
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Nohow On: Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, Worstward Ho 
by Samuel Beckett.
Calder, 128 pp., £10.95, February 1989, 0 7145 4111 7
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‘Make sense who may’: Essays on Samuel Beckett’s Later Works 
edited by Robin Davis and Lance Butler.
Smythe, 175 pp., £16, March 1989, 0 86140 286 3
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... to propose a set of updated spiritual exercises for the purpose of criticism was ridiculed by T.S. Eliot, who detected in the five points ‘a modern emotional attitude which I cannot share’. SamuelBeckett could surely have shared it, however; indeed, with some modifications, it is possible that he still could. Cosmic loneliness, a numbing scepticism and a sense of alienation from the animal ...

Life of Brian

Kevin Barry

25 January 1990
No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O’Brien 
by Anthony Cronin.
Grafton, 260 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 246 12836 4
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... Between 1947 and 1950 SamuelBeckett and Francis Stuart produced a clutch of novels which extend Irish fiction into the world of Europe. Beckett’s life in wartime Paris is not irrelevant to Molloy, Malone dies and The Unnamable, nor is Stuart’s in wartime Berlin to The Pillar of Cloud, Redemption and The Flowering Cross. Ten years earlier ...

Highlight of Stay So Far

Stefan Collini: Beckett’s Letters

1 December 2016
The Letters of Samuel Beckett​ Vol. IV: 1966-89 
edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 838 pp., £29.99, September 2016, 978 0 521 86796 2
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... Faced​ with the threatening possibility of hope, Beckett liked to get his retaliation in first. ‘Downhill begins this year,’ he announced with grim satisfaction in 1966. Even this may have been a slip, allowing the possibility of there having been an ...

Sorry to be so vague

Hugh Haughton: Eugene Jolas and Samuel Beckett

29 July 1999
Man from Babel 
by Eugene Jolas.
Yale, 352 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 300 07536 7
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No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett​ and Alan Schneider 
edited by Maurice Harmon.
Harvard, 486 pp., £21.95, October 1998, 0 674 62522 6
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... the German Expressionist Georg Trakl (in translations from French and German by Eugene Jolas). A decade later, the last issue was still churning out Work in Progress, now alongside work by Hans Arp, Beckett, Breton, Kafka (the first English translation of ‘Metamorphosis’, again by Jolas), Michel Leiris, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Herbert Read, Soupault and Jolas himself. Glancing through its faded ...

Her Father’s Dotter

Terry Eagleton: The life of Lucia Joyce

22 July 2004
Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake 
by Carol Loeb Shloss.
Bloomsbury, 560 pp., £20, June 2004, 0 7475 7033 7
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... her brother. Lucia once wrote a letter to her father, assuring him that ‘if ever I take a fancy to anybody I swear to you on the head of Jesus that it will not be because I am not fond of you.’ SamuelBeckett remarked that anyone wanting to be her lover would find himself an ‘in liu’ – in lieu – ‘man’. Joyce himself commented that Lucia ‘loved her brother in an extraordinary way ...
8 November 2012
... to an unknown man, or accompanied by an unknown man who spoke to an unknown woman, and in the event that all the captions are not correct, please turn to page 307. [fr. 286 as p. 47 of Endgame by SamuelBeckett] In your kitchen, on the one hand, bright corpses starting to stink of having an idea, where one of my legs [is] and beneath sooner or later the whole universe doesn’t ring and won’t ...
8 April 1993
Dream of Fair to Middling Women 
by Samuel Beckett, edited by Eoin O’Brien and Edith Fournier.
Black Cat, 241 pp., £18.99, November 1992, 0 7145 4212 1
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... There is a moment in SamuelBeckett’s story ‘The Expelled’ in which the hero watches a funeral pass: Personally if I were reduced to making the sign of the cross I would set my heart on doing it right, nose, navel, left nipple ...

My Darlings

Colm Tóibín: Drinking with Samuel Beckett

5 April 2007
... irrelevance. On a busy day it is easy to go into the GPO in O’Connell Street without a single thought for MacDonagh and MacBride and Connolly and Pearse, or without remembering for a second that SamuelBeckett once asked his friend Con Leventhal to betake himself ‘to the Dublin Post Office and measure the height of the ground to Cúchulainn’s arse’, as Neary in his novel Murphy wished to ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: Editions de minuit

14 January 2002
... courts, but he gave no ground. He became quickly, and unusually for a publisher, a moral force in the country. And he quickly became a literary force, too. He was the first French publisher to think SamuelBeckett had possibilities, once Beckett began writing in French, and then, in the late 1950s, he took on the authors who together became known for a time as the Ecole de Minuit, before entering ...

Wheezes

Jonathan Coe

13 May 1993
Cleopatra’s Sister 
by Penelope Lively.
Viking, 282 pp., £14.99, April 1993, 0 670 84830 1
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... SamuelBeckett was one of the first to realise that in a predominantly agnostic and sceptical age, nothing could be more irrelevant than the novel whose plot continued to imitate the workings of a benign deity: the ...

Who to Be

Colm Tóibín: Beckett’s Letters

6 August 2009
The Letters of Samuel Beckett​ 1929-40 
edited by Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 782 pp., £30, February 2009, 978 0 521 86793 1
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... In his essay on the painter Jack Yeats, which he sent to Beckett in 1938, Thomas McGreevy wrote: ‘During the 20-odd years preceding 1916, Jack Yeats filled a need that had become immediate in Ireland for the first time in 300 years, the need of the people to ...

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