Joseph Anderton’s compelling new study explores the role of creaturely life in Beckett’s post-war prose and drama

Joseph Anderton, Beckett's Creatures: Art of Failure After the Holocaust (Bloomsbury, 2016)
Joseph Anderton, Beckett’s Creatures: Art of Failure After the Holocaust (Bloomsbury, 2016)
In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, Samuel Beckett volunteered with the Irish Red Cross on the European continent. With a strong grasp several languages, the writer was assigned the role of driver and translator in the devastated Normandy city of Saint-Lô. During this time, while still stationed in the city, Beckett submitted a record of his experiences to Ireland’s national broadcaster, Radio Telefis Éireann (RTÉ). It was entitled ‘The Capital of the Ruins’. This unaired report on a landscape of wounded civilian casualties and collapsed buildings is the starting point for Joseph Anderton’s compelling new study, Beckett’s Creatures: Art of Failure After the Holocaust. [Read More]

This is an excerpt from a review of Joseph Anderton’s Beckett’s Creatures: Art of Failure After the Holocaust (Bloomsbury, 2016), published in Studies in Theatre and Performance(October, 2016).

A new title refines and condenses more than a decade of Jean-Michel Rabaté’s thinking on Beckett

Jean-Michel Rabaté , Think, Pig! Beckett at the Limit of the Human (Fordham University Press, 2016)
Jean-Michel Rabaté , Think, Pig! Beckett at the Limit of the Human (Fordham University Press, 2016)
Glancing at the title of Jean-Michel Rabaté’s excellent new book, you might be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of self-help manual from the shelf of tough love. The author clears up any confusion: “This is not a self-help book”, he writes; rather it undermines such projects of affirmation by “questioning the humanism that we take for granted”. Through the motif of the “animal”, Samuel Beckett’s prose and drama re-examines what it means to be human in the aftermath of the Second World War. Think, Pig! (Pozzo’s demoralizing order to Lucky in Waiting for Godot) refines and condenses more than a decade of Rabaté’s thinking on Beckett. The book’s focus is ethical and interrogative, but is peppered with a lively and inventive sense of humour. [Read More]

This extract is from my review of Jean-Michel Rabaté’s Think, Pig! Beckett at the Limit of the Human, published in the Times Literary Supplement, 14 October 2016.

An article for NYC’s Lincoln Center exploring the writer’s presence on social media
samuel-beckett
@SamuelBBeckett: An online resource for quotes, photographs, news, and events

Samuel Beckett is on Twitter, and perhaps we should not be surprised. As a playwright, he was what we would now call an “early adopter” of modern technology. His 1958 play Krapp’s Last Tape made revolutionary use of the reel-to-reel tape recorder the same year RCA manufactured full-size cassettes for home use. His works for radio and television—including All That Fall, which is being presented as part of the 2016 White Light Festival—stretched each medium to their technical limits, producing sights and sounds that had never before been broadcast. And it’s not just his engagement with technology that makes Beckett a natural candidate for Twitter: his compact observations and incisive remarks are perfectly trimmed for our social media age.

Beckett always had a talent for pithy observations about birth, death, and all the pesky stuff that happens in between. In 1984, when The Times (London) asked him about his New Year’s resolutions, he replied: “resolutions colon zero stop period hopes colon zero stop beckett.” His short, sharp telegram cuts to the quick, but also makes us smile at our own obsession with self-improvement. This is the kind of wit and economy that became his signature in plays like Waiting for Godot, Endgame, and Happy Days. (more…)

I talk to Jan Wilm about the Nobel winner. He shares his approach to Coetzee’s writing, and the first two novels that sparked his enthusiasm
J. M. Coetzee
J. M. Coetzee

When did you first encounter the works of J. M. Coetzee?

There seem to me to exist two very common encounters with the literary texts that change one’s life in one’s salad days. Encounter one is raw, perhaps pure, immediate and emotional, when one feels the literary text entering very deeply into what used to be called one’s soul. There, it seizes one, lifts one up and sets one on a course that will retrospectively seem like the right path. Encounter two is marked by bewilderment, lack of understanding, a sense of loss even, being shaken at the feeling that one has failed to taste from the greatness one was sure to find. (more…)

A 2011 review of the luxurious Sylph Edition
Archives: The writer Samuel Beckett in France in April, 1997.
Samuel Beckett

The title of George Craig’s recent book, Writing Beckett’s Letters, is both playful and paradoxical. And it prompts the question: how can Craig claim to be the author of someone else’s correspondence? The answer is both simple and complicated: Craig is a translator. He has spent the last fifteen years as part of a band of scholars, translating literally thousands of letters written by Samuel Beckett from French into English. It is a job that few are cut out for, involving long hours of arduous transcription and the seemingly endless search for that most elusive of things: the right word.

The work forms part of a hugely ambitious project, culminating in a four-volume edition of Samuel Beckett’s Letters. The first part, released in 2009, covered much of Beckett’s early period: intellectual development, his move to Paris, his encounters with James Joyce and the European literary scene. Its publication ushered a new period in the scholarly appreciation of Beckett’s work, whilst offering a rare glimpse into the personal and artistic life of this most private of writers. (more…)

An exclusive glimpse inside a new online archive, cataloguing the Nobel laureate’s personal reading habits and artistic influences
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Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon, Samuel Beckett’s Library

The Beckett Digital Library (BDL) is a digital reconstruction of Samuel Beckett’s personal library, based on the volumes preserved at his apartment in Paris, in archives (Beckett International Foundation) and private collections (James and Elizabeth Knowlson Collection, Anne Atik, Noga Arikha, Terrence Killeen,…). It currently houses 757 extant volumes, as well as 248 virtual entries for which no physical copy has been retrieved.

The BDL module is a part of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project and contains scans of book covers, title pages, all pages with reading traces, flyleaves, colophons, tables of contents, indexes and inserts of various kinds. In addition to facsimiles, the BDL also offers transcriptions of readings traces and links to Beckett’s manuscripts.

The BDL is accompanied by a monograph (Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon, Samuel Beckett’s Library, Cambridge UP, 2013)

What follows is an exclusive preview of the Beckett Digital Library (BDL), with quotations excerpted from Van Hulle’s and Nixon’s companion book. Each image presents an actual edition owned by the writer himself. (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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Espen Terjesen’s beautifully drawn essay on Bernhard’s writing

4b523-espen-terjesen-thomas-bernhard-graphicnovel-comic

I’m very excited to share a beautiful and concise ‘graphic essay’ on the work of Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. The essay was written, drawn, and designed by Espen Terjesen, an illustrator, cartoonist, pixel artist, teacher/lecturer, and writer working in Bergen, Norway. In addition to the original essay, Terjesen has also been kind enough to provide me with an English translation.

Terjesen’s work not only presents themes from Bernhard’s writing with striking, icy accompaniments, but offers a playful approach to the traditional academic essay. By combining elements of literary criticism with the graphic novel, Terjesen’s reading of Bernhard becomes, in itself, a creative act. What we are left with is something both thought-provoking and accessible.

To see the strip in its original format, please find links to Terjesen’s essay at the bottom of this post. In its complete form, the essay includes a number of footnotes and recommended reading. You can click any of the images to enlarge them. Enjoy! (more…)