Hugh Kenner, Samuel Beckett: A Critical Study (Calder 1961), 207pp.

Samuel Beckett: A Critical Study (1961)

Ded. Mercier, ‘polymath’; Contents, The Man in the Room; The Rational Domain; The Cartesian Centaur; Life in the Box; Voices in the Dark.

‘Waiting for Godot reflects in its dusty but accurate mirror the Noh drama (tree, journey, concatenated rituals), Greek theater (two actors, messengers, expectation of a deus ex machina), and commedia dell’ arte (unflagging improvisation round a theme), while Endgame beats its bleak light on Shakespeare’s stage, dominated by a prince of players named Hamm. novels and plays alike recapitulate the past of their art, so sparely that if we stare at a parallel it vanishes, so casually that if we ask Beckett the meaning of all this incumbent tradition he can cry with Dan Rooney, ‘it is he thing I carry about with me!’ Yet its presence contributes to the powerful sense - irradiating his inert material - that he has gotten at the form’s central source of energy, and looks into a long tradition with X-ray eyes.’ [67]

‘The crucial place of Ireland in the recent history of Western literary art is accounted for in the historical fact that Ireland escaped the humanist dogma. Consequently the great Irish nihilists (for so they appear in a humanist perspective) have been the persistent reformers of the fictional imagination.’ [69]

the imprint of the ... exhaustiveness of Ulysses, that next great Irish book, is to characterise Mr Leopold Bloom as a lost mind immersed to the eyes in quantifiable matter. The number of things to the square inch of Joyce’s text defies computation [69].

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