Charles Juliet, Conversations with Samuel Beckett and Bram van Velde, trans. Janey Tucker, with intro. and notes by Adriann van der Weel and Ruud Hisgen (Academic press Leiden 1995).

First pub. in French by Fata Morgana, Montpellier as Rencontres avec Bram van Velde (1973; Aug. 1978) and Rencontres avec Samuel Beckett (1986); consists in record of conversations of 1964 and 1977, incl. ‘Conversations with SB’, pp.135-67.

‘I have always had the feeling that somebody inside me had been murdered. Murdered before I was born. I had to find that person and try to bring him back to life. ... I once went to a lecture given by Jung ... He talked about one of his patients, a little girl ... AT the end, when the audience were already filing out, Jung stood there in silence. And then he added, as if to himself, in amazement at a sudden discovery: “In fact, she had never really been born.” /I have always had the feeling that I had never been born either.’ Juliet records that this lecture eventually formed the basis of an episode in All That Fall. [138]

Beckett revisited Dublin in 1946 and ‘realised that things couldn’t go on as they were.’ Tells about that night, on the end of the jetty in Dublin, witht he storm raging about him, as recounted in Krapp’s last tape: ‘Spiritually a year of profound gloom and indigence until that memorable nght in March, at the end of the jetty, when suddenly I saw the whole thing. The vision at last. This I fancy is what I have chiefly to record this evening, agains the day when my work will be done and perhaps no place left in my memory, warm or cold, for that miracle ... [hesitates] .. for the fire that set it alight. [...&c]

‘I had to eliminate all the poisons ... and find the right language .. When I wrote the first sentecne of moolowy, I had no idea where I was heading. And when I finished the first part, I didn’t know how I was going to go on. It all just came out like that. Without any changes. I hadn’t planned it, or thoght it out al all. [140; note that Juliet characterises ‘poisons’ as ‘intellectual decencies, knowledge, certainties ...’)

A propos Godot, Beckett denies that he has read the oriental philosophers: ‘they offer one way out and I didn’t feel that there was one’ [141]

[Talks of having just thrown away a little piece for the theatre:] ‘However, I have to go on ... I am up against a cliff wall, yet I hae to go forward. it’s impossible, isn’t it? All teh same, you can go forward. Advance a few more miserable millimetres.’ [141]

‘I am like a mole in a molehill’ [142]; ‘illness has been a great help to me’ [143]

remarks that it was his wife Suzanne ‘who persisted and eventually found Lindon, at the Editions de Minuit’ to published Watt.

‘Yes, there was a kind of indecency ... An ontological indecency’ [146]; ‘This academic madness’ [147]

On the theory that artistic enterprise is impossible without rigorous ethical standards: ‘What you say is correct. But moral values are not accessible and not open to definition. To define them, you would have to make value judgements, and you can’t do that. That’s why I have never agreed with the idea of the theatre of the absurd. Because that implies making value judgements. You can’t even talk about truth. That is part of the general distress. Paradoxically, it’s through form tha the artist can find a kind of solution - by giving form to what has none. It is perhaps only a that level that there may be an underlying affirmation.’ [149]

‘behaved very badly’ in resigning his TCD job; reached Paris just after the assassination of Paul Doumer; transl. Rimbaud’s Le bateau ivre for American magazine; returned to London to avoid deportation; attempted literary criticism but made no progress with journals; lived off his family; death of father in 1933; lived frugally in lodgings; personal crisis; travelled in Germany on foot and train; reached Paris, summer 1937; became friends with Geer and Bram van Velde; saw a lot of Giacometti and Duchamp; fled to Rousillon with wife, 1942; travelled to see his mother, 1945; spent months at Saint-Lo, as storekeeper and interpreter; returned to ireland, 1946; experienced vision.

‘Up to that point, I had thought I could rely on knowldge. That I had to equip myself intellectually. That day, it all collapsed.’ [150]

quotes a previous comment: ‘I wrote Molloy and the rest [of] the day I understood my stupidity. Then i began to write down what I feel.’ [150]

‘I caught a glimpse of the the world I had to create to be able to breathe’ [151]

Commenced Molloy at his mothers; continued in Paris and Menton at house of ‘an Irish friend’, being cousin Maurice Sinclair.

carried along by frenzy to write Molloy, Malone Meurrt, En attendant Godot, L’innomable, and Texte pour rien. REgards the pieces written after 1950 as mere sketches [151]; says his ambition is to capture life and death in th narrowest of spaces, citing momento mori paintings such as ST. jermoe meditating on a skull [151

Admires yeats’s old age, ‘the active, productive old age of great creative minds.’ [152]

‘Getting published isn’t the omportant thing. You write in order to be able to breathe.’

‘I’ve always ot something on the go. It may start off long, but it gets shorter and shorter’ [156]

‘Yes, up to 1946 I always wanted to know, in order to be able to act. Then I realised that i was going about things the wrong way. But perhpas there are only wrong ways. Allt eh same, you do have to find the wrong way that suits you.’ [156]

denies that he studied mystics ‘in depth’, or that he ever studied anything ‘in depth’; accepts that he may have something in common with mystics, adding ‘perhaps at times the same way of coping with the unintelligible’ [157]

Acknowledges that he has increasingly eliminated himself from his writings: ‘in the end, you don;t know who is speaking any more./The subject disappears completely. That’s teh end result of the identity crisis.’ [157]

Regards the survival of his faith in writing and in communication as a mystery [157]

‘In Ireland there are no just two brands of fanaticism, but three or four or five, and each of those are beign torn apart by other factions’ [149]

responds positively but wordlessly to mention of Van Gogh.]

talks about the importance of footsteps [163-64]

‘The fall of a leaf and the fall of Lucifer are the same thing ... It’s marvellous, isn’t it? The same ... But the probem is how to express that ... There is no pronoun .. I, he, we - nothing is quite right. ... It is this confounded world, there’s every reason for indignation ... [164] But at the level of work .. What can one say? ... nothing is expressible.’ [164-65

of Leopardi and Schopenhauer: ‘... perhaps they did still have some hope of an answer, a solution, while I haven’t.’ [165]

‘negation is no more possible than affirmation. It is absurd to say that something is absurd. That’s still a value judgement. It is impossible to protest, and equally impossible to assent.’ [165]

‘You have to work in an area where there are no possible pronouns, no solutions, no reactions, or standpoints .... That’s what makes it so diabolically difficult. [165]

on freeing himself from religion: ‘Outwardly, I suppose. But otherwise ...’ [166]

discussing Biblical prophets: ‘And Job ..’[167]

On the mystics: ‘Yes, I like ... I like their ... their illogicality ... their burning illogicality ... that flame .. that flame .. that burns away filthy logic.’ [167]

[ back ]
[ top ]