Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Why should we read Beckett?

What is your favorite work by Beckett and why?

How has Beckett's writing influenced you?

What questions about Beckett and his work do you think still need to be answered?

 

Maria from California
I have read this poem more often than any other:

Samuel Beckett
Cascando, 1936

1

why not merely the despaired of
occasion of
wordshed

is it not better abort than be barren

the hours after you are gone are so leaden they will always start dragging too soon the grapples clawing blindly the bed of want bringing up the bones the old loves sockets filled once with eyes like yours all always is it better too soon than never the black want splashing their faces saying again nine days never floated the loved nor nine months nor nine lives

2

saying again
if you do not teach me I shall not learn saying again there is a last even of last times last times of begging last times of loving of knowing not knowing pretending a last even of last times of saying if you do not love me I shall not be loved if I do not love you I shall not love

the churn of stale words in the heart again love love love thud of the old plunger pestling the unalterable whey of words

terrified again
of not loving
of loving and not you
of being loved and not by you
of knowing not knowing pretending
pretending

I and all the others that will love you
if they love you

3

unless they love you

Siggy
because he challenges us, by removing that safety net of morality and reason, he forces the absurd upon us like no one else can

Pablo - Read Beckett?
Please, someone who appreciates Beckett, respond, help me out—what is a key for a novice wanting to get some of what he has to offer? I've tried, having faith that there is something important and interesting there; but, just can't get it.

Rick - For the novice?
A spur to get a new Beckett reader going?... They should know that his language is sparse (i.e., they needn't know splashes of Latin or be versed in Roman Catholicism, a la Joyce; that it is often funny.

I would have a newcomer read mid- or later Beckett works. I find his very early work, including even Watt, strangely tough. But, hey, tell 'em to read Godot and tell them it's a comedy.

Pierre from Montreal
Because Beckett tells us to keep on going, whilst trying to get the most of a potentially happy (even though too often unhappy) life; the point of life is to have fun, if there is any point at all...

Sam is the greatest cheerleader of all the writers in the world, after Henry Miller.

Happy Days!

Pearl Marie Brown
I think I am going to read Beckett because of his thought that holes in paper can open up and take a person fathoms from anywhere.

Kelly Anspaugh - Genius and humility
I guess that's what has the strongest effect on me, creates my strong respect for this man: how he used his genius to represent loss and failure in a beautiful way. Such a strong affection for the man and his work. Such comfort in his corpus. Of all the writers I've studied, the one I would have been proudest to have called friend.

Jon - Reading Beckett??
To quote Beckett from WORSTWARD HO:

"No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Anonymous - Absurdist Theatre - the point?
Any idiot can face a crisis - its day to day living that wears you out.

JRF - Read Beckett?
Ease into him. Read Molloy. It's the third best of his many novels (behind The Unnameable and Malone Dies). He's funny in all of them; in a way like no other's; but for my taste, Molloy is as funny as Mark Twain. As for the "serious" Beckett—he's never not serious; just can't help laughing and joking—the "it's day to day living that wears you out"—it's all there in Molloy, too. But read, at first, for the laughs. They'll take you somewehere else by themselves.

Michael from Madrid - Read Beckett?
Start with All that fall, the radio play, then read/watch Rough for Threatre 1 and read or listen to the radio play The old tune and then read Murphy.

The radio plays can be listened to on the rte radio 1 web page Follow the Beckett 100 link.

Charles Kell - On Reading Beckett
To find oneself in a horrible predicament, then to read Beckett, one thought or many thoughts flood the brain and heart, then the predicament can and will be faced—one will go on—because of Beckett.

arka chattopadhyay
We should read Beckett to learn the craft of madness, to fathom the hidden secrets of language & non-language. Beckett is a folkloric myth-maker whose work is the history of civilisation—the encrypted core of human existence. Beckett's Biblical rhetoric of authority may jut out, but we would always have the soothing silences! His war was with language of his expression. To him, words could never express the self, they rather problematized & alienated the self! Beckettian dilemma is thus to say on in a world of ill seen-ill said! TO RESTORE SILENCE IS THE ROLE OF OBJECTS! That is what he tries to do all the while, reaching out to the metalinguistic void! Even if the great man fails, as he says it's always a newer & better failure! Beckett is the most original, powerful, visionary & prophetic of the 20th century literary personalities. I just love him!

killian o donnell
Good God. So much ernest desperation. There is nothing 'to get' in Samuel Beckett. Come back down to the page and read. The marvel is self-evident in each and every sentence. Basta.

mella - Beckett
At the first time, thank you for this blog that as evey one of us may notice gives the opportunity to evoke view towards reading Beckett. Till now, Beckett and his writtings are still inaccessible. thy're locked. They are so full of mysteries like Beckett itself.

I cannot denied that reading him provide me with a great appreciation. Yet, i think that i was found several time in front of a work that needs more and more implication. I can ever say that one reading can never be suffisient to hold all its meaning.

All this to ask if there is someone who is interested or want to accept to discuss about some of his works especially the "innommable"????

It will be of a great pleasure for me:-)

alain from montreal - smell
for pablo: You should try to smell the words before trying to read them.

Pablo - Thank you all
So much help; many thanks. OK, I'll fail better; I'll go on; maybe I'll even come back down to the page and read, after smelling the words of course.

George - Beckett delivers Keats's Promise
Early in my literary explorations I repeatedly encountered phrases echoing Keats's (and other's) idea that Truth is Beauty. I could repeat that mantra and use it effectively in papers, but I didn't really intuitively understand it. Then I read Beckett. I was disquieted from the start, but kept going, and going, and going, even when I thought I could go no further. Beckett removes all our familiar landmarks in literature, those things we have grown comfortable with. He removes all traces of what we think of as Beauty and replaces them with long spinning tales that really go nowhere. He forces us to adopt a new perspective outside of the traditional literary views, and he does it with such humor. Within these rambling diatribes, between the lines, we see the Truth, and that is truly beautiful. Beckett made Keats real for me.

Matt Melia - Roger Blin - WWII
Can anyone let me know what Blin DID during the war? was he active in resistance activity like Beckett? was he involved at all? cheers.

jonathan - read beckett?
i would suggest going to see one of his plays or watching them on dvd - it will enable you to understand his philosphy which permeates all of his works. when you see his characters come to life, you will understand his humour, nuances and characters and it will make reading his books a lot easier.

puchin - Why read Beckett?
Dare I say it in this era of celebrity? Dare I breach the purity of the divide between the artist and the artist's work? Dare I defy Beckett's own resistance to celebrity, but generosity to anyone interested in the work? Times change, and we are here in 2007. And so I shall. (Reasons, obvious.)

For there is no other 'contemporary' artist, whose work is an expression of who he was, more than Samuel Barclay Beckett. Sometimes I think Sam Beckett was the last truly noble man: a great humanist, at once brave and modest. His deeply felt understanding and sympatico for men and women and children of this lovely and troubled Earth is in the work and in the life. Beckett's enormous, impeccable kindness, his gentleness, his generosity, his funny bone and love of laughter: all of the man is in the work.

Such an immensely beloved man is beloved for many reasons. Find out why in the work: look for the audacity written by a gentle man whose voice was so soft and low. The beauty of his person is embodied in the well of empathy and sympathy that were integral to his artistic impulse.

Also: his erudition is such a bracing contrast to the lack of such, at least in the current public arena of blow hards.

So, buy a bottle of Bushmill's, ("since 1608") Beckett's preferred whiskey, pour a tall glass and open the four-volume Grove Complete Works, especially if you are having a 'I can't go on, I'll go on' kind of day.

(month,year,life...)

Dan - The Exhibition
The online exhibition ia a marvel. It is a chance to see publications of legendary rarity: Henry Music, More Pricks than Kicks and the Bordas Murphy for a few. Kudos to the Center for sharing these images.

NAME_______: EMAIL______: SUBJECT____: THOUGHTS__:

de Je - favorite
his me favorite

Bharath - A hyperbole
Ooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!
[Extended Silence]
[A lone voice speaking in dark]

This is my scream.
Is the scream mine?
It shatters me, bullies me into disintegrating myself.
Ask it to stop, stop it must, for it is shattering me beyond repair.
I want the wrench. The wrench. Where is it that fate has hidden my wrench?
I want to tighten the dislodged screws. Is it there? Yes, it seems to be.
But it isn't my wrench, for its circumference doesn't fit mine.
Mine is small, for the nuts that hold my sanity intact to my being are
small, inconsequential to the general grandioseness!!
The wrench is metallic and should shine with mild light bouncing off it!
I know there isn't any light anywhere. It is dark!

Ooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!
[Extended Silence]
[A lone voice speaking in dark]

Who is shouting? I can't bear the intensity of its that hits me in
incessant waves!
I will go mad. Or am I already mad and afraid of becoming sane!.
Whatever!I want the scream to stop. I see the joints on my skull vibrating.
I see??? How can I see them in dark? Do I feel them then? But what is the
certitude that the sensation the feeling conveys might be true?
What is it? Some form. Stagnant or moving? If moving, is it moving away or
towards me?
It is a form. How do I know? It isn't me screaming. It's somebody else,
somebody outside me, detached from the being that I am. I have eyes. Yes,
I do have and they see. But how? In darkness nothing is visible. Not even
my own self. Is it true that I have eyes?
It isn't noise. It is a lone voice or is it that noise has merged to
manifest itself as a single heart-rending voice, a scream. There isn't any
scream. There isn't any noise, no voice speaking to me.
I am a deaf. I had always been deaf and I will always remain one. Scream,
especially emanating from an external source, can't penetrate me. Or is it
that I am deluding myself about me being deaf while I am not. The scream,
somebody should go and hit the source of the scream to silence it. Will it
kill?

Oooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!
[Extended Silence]
[A lone voice speaking in dark]

It is the scream that is making me write. Or else I would never write. It
is the pain the scream produces that goads me into writing what I write.
Good-for-nothing musings.
Do I write?
It surely is a human scream or am I deluded there too? It does have the
shades of beastly pain sprinkled on it but it is human.
How am I sure? The intensity and pain it conveys sprouts from thinking
chaotically and humans are the only animals who can create chaos from
order. They are the only ones who can question order even at the cost of
self-annihilation.
There is insurrection in that voice, a defiance, pain laced in the smell
of clotted blood.
It is a human voice.

It isn't here that I was born. I was born elsewhere. Somewhere I don't
know the identity of. Was I born? Not possible. If I was born, then I
would die.
Am I not dead? If I am dead, then how is it that I perceive the scream? It
is killing me and a dead man can't be killed.
He is already dead.
I was born and I am alive. In dark, imagining forms that aren't there,
not knowing whether I am blind or otherwise. Being deaf and yet,
listening to heart chilling screams.
There can't be any other existence around me. I am alone and I myself am
not there. Then who is it about whom I talk, about whose eyes am I
wondering and about what noise am I bothered?
The scream can continue, for it isn't showing any signs of ebbing. I don't
care. It continues as a continuum, with no fluctuation and no modulation,
a plain revelation that is threatening in its plainness, threatening in
its lack of complications. It neither raises itself nor falls. It runs
continuously, as one single wave, unbroken, and I listen to it in spite of
my non-existence.

Oooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!
[Extended Silence]
[A lone voice speaking in dark]

Ah, there is some change and the change isn't for better. The scream is
cracking my bones and bursting my arteries and veins. I could feel myself
loose, hanging parts inverted upside down. Yes, that is my state, a
hanging state. A single black pole, and a horizontal fusion at the top,
like the numeral 7. And I know that I hang from the protrusion. It is dark
at the front and at the back, where I can't turn and see, there is a
blaze. I obstruct the red light and seem dark.
They have punctured me and a dark liquid is oozing from within me, my self
melting and tracing the pole to get soaked in the soil. I am flaccid,
smelling and the degradation is repugnant.
I smell. That is a surprising observation. I can't smell.
How do I know? I don't know. It's just a hunch.
Isn't there anything other than the pole and my form hanging onto it with
a orange hue at my back and a perpetual darkness covering me, my fine
features, effacing their existence? Is the geography that barren?
I rise and fall, swinging on the poll as if it were erected for my
entertainment. There are corpses littering the floor and it is highly
unlikely that I can get down. Corpses of butterflies hitting the glass to
reach the world at the other side.
I know that my requests would go unheeded, that the scream would persist.
Is it my name that it is trying to give form to, without much success though?
What is my name? Is it Moruheer? Possible. But how am I to be sure of it?
Who called me by that combination of words for me to assume that it is my
name? I don't remember. I don't even know that I had once been with
anybody like me. I was always alone assuming that I myself existed. If at
all I existed.

Ooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!
[Extended Silence]
[A lone voice speaking in dark]

The aural backdrop can't be full of scream. It has to be vacant. Just like
the visual landscape, barren, with my form hanging on that thin pole
serving as a disturbance to the soothing continuity of vacuity.
Can't somebody stop it? Can't somebody convince the source to remain
silent, to calm down? It is the terrain that looks rugged, the surface of
the rapid, with one wave from behind trying to overtake the one at front
and creating eddies.
Disturbances give rise to form, bizarre shapes and sounds that fill the
universe and in their violence they destroy the bleak blitheness of
nothingness.
Is the voice getting shrill? Is it receding away from where I stand or is
it coming near?
Where is space for it to be meandering thus? Is it stalking the hollow
interiors of mine?
I have a hollow physique that encompasses everything and hence is empty.
Emptiness is everything.
It screams and my teeth chatter, it recedes and my suction goes alongside
it, away from me. There is motion that is stagnant and it too is filled by
the nonsensical garbage that the sound emits.
Is the whole place littered with the offal of the dead sound that is
dying? Alas, I don't have a form to probe; my physical being is mere
consciousness floating thinly over the centuries of thought that cloud my
existential sky. I see them heavy, pregnant, the emetic surge that would
drench me any moment and me, my lone self of unarranged thoughts, is
overpowered by the discipline of their onslaught, caught in the precision
of the way they wield their blade to bring about catharsis and I am
purified, reborn.
Why isn't my voice as potent as that scream is? Why is it puny in
comparison to that overpowering shriek, muffled? It even tends to lose its
identity in the confluence of voices that reveals itself as a scream.
Will it stop? Do I want it to stop? Isn't it there because I want it to
be, because I nurture it, nourish it by imparting the vitality of mine and
I drain, my life force flowing towards it and I die while struggling to
sustain it. I conspire, work against conventional instruments that are
trained to silence the agitated voice, and the rebellion raises its head.
I am its cause and yet, it is not from me that it issues forth. The source
is obscure as is my existence. A mystery.
It is the time when the whole habitation is asleep and a shadow slithers
down the deserted street. When everybody is busy knitting the fabrics of
their dream while reality is busy corroding their bones. They are getting
older howsoever much young they were in their dreams. I see the shadow as
it slithers down on the wings of time.
They aren't waiting for the dawn in their sleep. They don't know of the
imminent arrival of dawn. They have forgotten their existence and they
don't know dawn exists. They are lost, lost to the world they live in and
the world is lost to them too.
I am tired. Shall I stop talking? Or am I talking? Am I not supposed to be
dumb? It is the soliloquy that is getting imprinted on the pages as words.
I am not talking. I am thinking. Will that help me? If I stop thinking,
will the scream cease? Is it screaming merely because it wants to submerge
my thoughts?

[An extended silence. The sudden ceasing of that scream]
[A deep breathe, an extended exhalation]

Why has the sound ceased? Why isn't it filling the vacuity? Doesn't it
realize that I wanted it to stop just because I could air my grievances
verbally? I didn't mean what I wanted.
My existence depends on it, it depends on the nerve shattering lonesome
call of its. It can't leave me in lurch.
Silence isn't the alternative. I am used to the sound, I am entrenched in
the juices of the sound, I am soaked by it and now, when the moisture has
corroded my constitution, when there isn't any other alternative but to be
with it, it has ceased, stopped.
I am the hanging death. I am the one who wants all sounds to cease and I
myself am the one who can't extend my stay beyond the existence of the sound.
My fate is intertwined with the scream and the scream is my bane. I can't
carry it and yet can't leave it. I take form through the vocally fluid
nature of its and the moment it ceases, I cease.

The breath dies. There is silence and there is darkness. The voice ceases to talk and the consciousness dies.