Samuel Beckett with Alberto Giacometti
Samuel Beckett with Alberto Giacometti

Judith Wilkinson has written an interesting account of Samuel Beckett‘s friendship with the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti. In a recent piece published on the Tate website, she describes how they came to know one another:

“At the time of Giacometti and Beckett’s first meeting, Beckett was living at a modest artists’ hotel in Paris called Hôtel Libéria. Located down a narrow alleyway, Giacometti’s studio (and home) was a mere twenty-minute walk from Beckett’s accommodation. The two would meet late at night, when they had finished work, in one of the Parisian cafés, such as Café Flore, Le Dôme or La Coupole, to drink and socialise. The cafés were the central hub of French cultural and intellectual life during the period, and other notable artists and thinkers, such as philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Genet, as well as painters Jean-Paul Riopelle, Joan Mitchell and Bram van Velde also visited these establishments.

The pair would often leave the cafés in the early hours of the morning to embark on long walks around the city together. During their nocturnal rambles they frequently discussed each other’s work, although Giacometti is believed to have dominated these conversations with his anxieties concerning his artworks. Beckett and Giacometti’s nights routinely concluded with a visit to a brothel – the favourite being the legendary Sphinx located behind Montparnasse train station.”

Wilkinson will be giving a Tate Modern Tour that explores the links between Beckett and Giacometti on 24 July and 31 July 2017, respectively. For more information, take a look at the event page on the Tate website.

Rafia Zakaria (The Guardian) asks why the progressive French writer seems to have been left in the margins
Violette-Leduc
Violette Leduc

The explicitly sexual tell-all memoir, with its eager flirtations with the pornographic and dislocations of heterosexuality, has blossomed in the US and France in recent years. But Violette Leduc, who did it all and said it all more than 50 years ago, is a ghostly presence in its genealogy.

It is a mysterious marginalisation: Simone de Beauvoir, who took on Leduc as a protege, remains a feminist icon. Leduc’s contemporary Jean Genet, also wrote sexually explicit, homosexual texts and is widely read and venerated as a pioneer in French avant-garde writing. Not so Leduc. Her first book, the autobiographical novel L’Asphyxie, has still not been translated into English. Her novel Thérèse and Isabelle, written in 1955, was not published uncensored in France until 2000 and was only translated and published in English by the Feminist Press last year. [Read More]

Through exclusive interviews and previously unseen photographs, a new documentary offers an intimate portrait of the relationship between translator Barbara Bray and Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett

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Mark Thwaite (Ready Steady Book) posts an extract from Sontag’s Against Interpretation and Other Essays:
Simone Weil
Simone Weil

The culture-heroes of our liberal bourgeois civilization are anti-liberal and anti-bourgeois; they are writers who are repetitive, obsessive, and impolite, who impress by force—not simply by their tone of personal authority and by their intellectual ardor, but by the sense of acute personal and intellectual extremity. The bigots, the hysterics, the destroyers of the self—these are the writers who bear witness to the fearful polite time in which we live. It is mostly a matter of tone: it is hardly possible to give credence to ideas uttered in the impersonal tones of sanity. There are certain eras which are too complex, too deafened by contradictory historical and intellectual experiences, to hear the voice of sanity. Sanity becomes compromise, evasion, a lie. Ours is an age which consciously pursues health, and yet only believes in the reality of sickness. The truths we respect are those born of affliction. We measure truth in terms of the cost to the writer in suffering—rather than by the standard of an objective truth to which a writer’s words correspond. Each of our truths must have a martyr. (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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W. G. Sebald
W. G. Sebald
From a 2000 interview by Jens Mühling

Sebald: Being a writer is by no means an easy profession. It is full of difficulties, full of obstacles. For a start, there is the psychology of the author, which is not a simple one. There are these situations when suddenly nothing seems to work anymore, when you feel unable to say anything. In such cases it is very helpful if someone can tell you that this happens to everybody, and show you how one might deal with such problems. In these situations it is very often the case that people neglect the research aspect. Every writer knows that sometimes the best ideas come to you while you are reading something else, say, something about Bismarck, and then suddenly, somewhere between the lines, your head starts drifting, and you arrive at the ideas you need. This research, this kind of disorderly research, so to speak, is the best way of coping with these difficulties. If you sit in front of a blank sheet of paper like a frightened rabbit, things won’t change. In such situations you just have to let it be for a while. (more…)