Samuel Beckett (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
Despite its obvious gaps and omissions, some of which are carefully noted by the author, the first biography of that very private person Samuel Beckett is not likely to be superseded for some time. When approached, Beckett insisted that he would “neither help nor hinder” the project, adding further that he did not intend to read the book before or after publication, but he did, apparently, open doors enough to produce this massive, detailed, and readable volume. The result, as one would expect, is a study in paradox: the image of a man who, frequently paralyzed by inner conflict and torment, made his very psychic pain the successful subject of his work, and who, though an absurdist, risked his life in the French underground during World War II, while one of the great pacifists of our time, James Joyce, bewailed the pointlessness of it all.
One wonders whether there is, in a man like Beckett, a special bump of faculty that makes a source of strength out of that which would inhibit most of us, for there seems to be little doubt that he was inhabited by self-destructive tendencies from childhood on, tendencies symbolized by his habit of throwing himself from the top of one of the tall pines that surrounded his house. He was soundly thrashed by his mother for such escapades but was scarcely deterred; in fact, as Bair points out, he seemed to invite her anger and her beatings. Without a doubt, readers will find the tale of Beckett’s childhood and young...
(The entire section is 1966 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
America. CXXXIX, July 15, 1978, p. 37.
Antioch Review. XXXVI, Fall, 1978, p. 515.
Commentary. LXVI, September, 1978, p. 80.
National Review. XXX, September 1, 1978, p. 1093.
Saturday Review. V, August, 1978, p. 46.
Times Literary Supplement. October 6, 1978, p. 1108.
Yale Review. LXVIII, Autumn, 1978, p. 114.
(The entire section is 33 words.)