John Pilling, Samuel Beckett (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1976), 244pp.


Preface and acknowledgements. Chaps: Biographical; Writings on literature and art; The prose fiction; Drama for stage, screen and radio; The intellectual and cultural background to Beckett; The literary background to Beckett; Beckett’s poetry; Conclusion; Sel. bibl.; Index.

Stanislaus Joyce: ‘There is properly speaking no national tradition. Nothing is stable in the country; nothing is stable in the minds of the people. Whent the Irish artist begins to write, he has to create his moral world from chaos by himself, for himself ... [it] proves to be an enormous advantage for men of original genius.’ (My Brother’s Keeper [Faber 1957], p.187; Pilling, p. 2.)

Quotes SB: ‘I slept through the École ...[5] ‘I saw that in teaching I was talking of something I knew little about, to people who cared nothing about it. So I behaved very badly; I ran away to the Continent, and resigned from a distance.’ ‘[C]ould not bear the indignity of teaching to others what he did not know himself.’ [7]

‘[I] couldn’t help writing poetry in English’ but in French he could write ‘without style ... perhaps only the French can do it’ [10]

Beckett saw rehearsal of Strindberg’s The Ghost Sonata in London dir. by Roger Blin, friend of Artaud, and chose him for Godot.

Quotes SB: ‘The artistic tendency is not expansive, but a contraction. And art is the apotheosis of solitude. There is no communication because there are no vehicles of communication ... . The only fertile research is excavatory, immersive, a contract of the spirit, a descent. The artist is active, but negatively, shrinking from the nullity of extracircumferential phenomena, drawn to the core of the eddy. (Proust, 64; 65-66)

Pilling remarks: ‘however much his body may disintegrate, no Beckett character doubts that, at least for the duration of the fictional work which calls him into existence, he is engaged in the act of thinking.’ [113]

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