Gyorgy Kurtag Endgame Piano.jpg

“In the fall of 1956, the Soviet Union crushed an uprising in Hungary, swiftly ending an attempt to escape the superpower’s grip on the Eastern bloc. The Soviet tanks that rolled through Budapest also brought an end to the belief of many intellectuals and artists here in the ideals of Communism.

The Hungarian composer Gyorgy Kurtag, then 30, felt his whole world collapse that year. “Not just the outside world, but my inner universe, too,” he once said in an interview.

Mr. Kurtag spent the next two years in Paris, seeking new meaning for his life and work under the guidance of a psychoanalyst. He studied with the composer Olivier Messiaen, and heard the music of Anton Webern and Arnold Schoenberg at concerts given by Pierre Boulez. From the isolation of Communist Hungary, he had emerged into the West’s center of musical modernism.

It was in Paris during this period that Mr. Kurtag first saw Samuel Beckett’s play “Endgame.” The encounter set him on a lifelong journey, studying Beckett’s works and creating music inspired by them. Six decades later, on Nov. 15, this odyssey — and the career of one of the last living giants of 20th-century music — will culminate in Mr. Kurtag’s long-awaited, long-delayed first opera, based on “Endgame,” at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.”

The New York Times

Stephen Moss (The Guardian) traces Beckett’s lifelong fascination with the game
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Samuel Beckett
Beckett had a lifelong interest in chess and was a keen player, following many of the big matches, says his nephew, Edward, who oversees the Beckett estate. Samuel was taught to play by his elder brother, Frank, and by his uncle, Howard, who achieved the remarkable feat of beating the Cuban José Raúl Capablanca, later world champion, at an exhibition in Dublin. There are a score of chess books in the library of Beckett’s old flat in Paris, which is now occupied by Edward and his wife. Beckett played regularly with friends during the second world war, when he was holed up in France working for the Resistance; he liked to annotate master games – the chess books in his library are full of comments – and corresponded with Spanish playwright and fellow chess aficionado Fernando Arrabal. In the early 1940s, he also played – and lost to – Marcel Duchamp, an expert on the game who wrote a chess column for the Paris newspaper Ce Soir.

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American academic and writer shares his passion for the work of Samuel Beckett with Electric Literature

Colin Winnette: What motivated this recommendation?

Brian Evenson: It’s a book I’m very fond of, and I tend to think contemporary American fiction would be more interesting if more writers knew Molloy.I tend to think contemporary American fiction would be more interesting if more writers knew Molloy.

I think it’s also a very funny book (though weird humor sometimes) and has some amazing sentences. (more…)

Rhys Tranter talks to the renowned Beckett actor and director
On 24 September 1977, Samuel Beckett wrote a letter to the American theatre director Alan Schneider. At the time, the playwright was in Berlin, busily rehearsing a production of Krapp’s Last Tape with the American actor Rick Cluchey: ‘Rick is an impressive Krapp’, Beckett confided. In future correspondence with Schneider, he would go on to convey similarly approving remarks. One comment in a letter from 1981 finds Beckett surmising: ‘Rick’s Krapp about right for me’. And, in another from 1982, he suggested that the actor’s strength derived from the ‘massive presence’ he emanates on stage.

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29-30 June 2015 · University of Western Sydney
Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett

The Endlessness of Ending: Samuel Beckett and the Mind
29-30 June 2015 · University of Western Sydney

Samuel Beckett’s work across the genres has always shown a keen interest in both the topography and the function of the mind. The experience of interiority in Beckett is complex and it is often on the brink of its own collapse. Beckett undertook a comprehensive self-education of the mind, primarily from the disciplines of philosophy and psychoanalysis, to understand this interiority which he would render poetically. If Beckett is interested in a physics and even a geometry of the psychic space, the recurrent image of the skullscape—from The Trilogy and Endgame to Worstward Ho—is also replete with the minimal and yet necessary possibilities of thinking. (more…)