Beckett, Samuel (Short Story Criticism)
Samuel Beckett 1906-1989
(Full name Samuel Barclay Beckett) Irish-born French short-story writer, dramatist, novelist, scriptwriter, poet, essayist, and translator.
The following entry provides criticism on Beckett's short fiction from 1991 through 2002. See also Samuel Beckett Literary Criticism (Introduction), and Volumes 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 11, 18.
One of the most celebrated writers in twentieth-century literature, Beckett is known for his significant impact on the development of the short story and novel forms as well as on contemporary drama. His works expound a philosophy of negation through characters who face a meaningless and absurd existence without the comforts of religion, myth, or philosophical absolutes. Often described as fragments rather than stories, his short fiction in particular evidences his use of sparse, economical language and stark images of alienation and absurdity to present truths that are free of rhetorical embellishment.
Beckett was born on April 13, 1906, and raised in Foxrock, near Dublin, Ireland. In 1927 he received his B.A. in French and Italian from Trinity College in Dublin. Beckett taught French for a short period in Belfast before receiving a fellowship to the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. There he met James Joyce, who had a profound influence on Beckett's early writing. Beckett returned to Trinity College in 1930 for his M.A., after which he accepted a position as a French instructor at the college. In 1932 he resigned his post at Trinity to move back to Paris and concentrate on his writing. When World War II began, he worked for the French Resistance and was forced to flee Paris when the Nazis discovered his activities. After the war, Beckett began writing almost exclusively in French and translating his work into English, beginning his most prolific and, according to many commentators, his most artistically complex period. In 1969 Beckett received the Nobel Prize for literature. He died in Paris in 1989.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Beckett published More Pricks than Kicks, his first collection of short stories, in 1934. A series of related episodes describing the adventures of a fictional Irishman named Belacqua Shuah, More Pricks than Kicks derived in part from Beckett's unpublished novel Dream of Fair to Middling Women (1992). In the collection, Beckett used an elaborate prose style and language derivative of Joyce. Most of Beckett's subsequent works of short fiction were originally written in French and translated into English by Beckett. Nouvelles et texts pour rien (1955; Stories and Texts for Nothing) consists of three stories and thirteen prose fragments. The three stories feature protagonists whose lives are desolate and at the same time highly comic. The prose fragments are rhetorically formalized vignettes with minimal narrative characterization. Beckett's style reached the extremes of minimalism in the 1960s and 1970s when he abandoned both conventional plot and conventional syntax, stripping his language down to fragmented phrases and one-word expressions to mirror what he considered the difficulty, if not impossibility, of human communication. Imagination morte imaginez (1965; Imagination Dead Imagine) takes place in an abstract rotunda, “all white in the whiteness,” where two bodies reside in a state of minimal existence. Bing (1966; Ping) uses depersonalized, machine-like language to describe a box containing a faceless and nameless figure. In Assez (1966; Enough), Beckett returned to a more traditional prose style. The first person monologue combines romantic and scientific language to describe a lost relationship. Sans (1969; Lessness) is perhaps the most extreme example of Beckett's experimentation with language in his short fiction. Beckett wrote sixty sentences, placed each in one of six groups containing ten sentences, and drew sentences randomly to create a work of art ordered by chance. Le dépeupleur (1970; The Lost Ones) examines the possibility that those who stop struggling against hopelessness will be the most content. Companie (1979; Company) depicts the thoughts of an individual lying in bed alone in the dark.
Initial response to More Pricks than Kicks was mixed. While the book received positive reviews outside of Ireland, Irish commentators found its ornate style distasteful. Several commentators have investigated the influence of Joyce's Dubliners on the collection. Beckett's later short works fared better with critics as the critical schools of Post-structuralism and Deconstruction complemented his linguistic experimentation. Some commentators have applied the linguistic theory of Jacques Derrida to Beckett's work and have explored the role of theology in his shorter texts. Recent criticism has focused on his short story “First Love” and its significance in Beckett's short fiction oeuvre. While generally not as highly regarded as his novels—particularly the trilogy Molloy (1951), Malone meurt (1951; Malone Dies), and L'innommable (1953; The Unnamable), considered his masterpiece—Beckett's short fiction is acclaimed for its verbal experimentation and artistic formalism. Although some commentators have debated the genre of some of his short prose works—classifying them alternatively as dramatic fragments, poetry, or short stories—most recognize the immense value of Beckett's short fiction and view him as a distinctive and innovative short-story writer.
More Pricks than Kicks 1934
Nouvelles et textes pour rien [Stories and Texts for Nothing] 1955
Imagination morte imaginez [Imagination Dead Imagine] (drama and prose) 1965
Assez [Enough] (novella) 1966
Bing [Ping] (novella) 1966
No's Knife: Collected Shorter Prose, 1945-1966 (dramas and short stories) 1967
Sans [Lessness] (novella) 1969
Le dépeupleur [The Lost Ones] (novella) 1970
Premier amour [First Love] (novella) 1970
First Love, and Other Shorts (short stories) 1974
Foirade [Fizzles] 1976
Four Novellas; also published as [The Expelled and Other Novellas] (novellas) 1977
Companie [Company] (novella) 1979
Mal vu mal dit [Ill Seen Ill Said] (novella) 1981
Worstward Ho (short novel) 1983
Stirrings Still (novella) 1989
As the Story Was Told: Uncollected and Late Prose (prose) 1990
Nohow On (novella) 1993
Collected Shorter Prose, 1945-1988 (prose) 1995
Samuel Beckett: The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989...
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SOURCE: Doherty, Francis. “Paf, Hop, Bing and Ping.” Journal of the Short Story in English, no. 17 (autumn 1991): 23-41.
[In the following essay, Doherty provides a stylistic examination of Ping and traces its revisions to gather further insight into the story.]
Beckett's short prose work, Ping, of 1967 is a complex text which presents the reader with many difficulties. In the first place, the sentences which the reader has to confront are daunting in their tonelessness, their fragmentariness and their apparent randomness. Repetition of over-repeated collocations seems to have the effect of neutral counters endlessly shifted in patterns, without the usual comforting illusion of a voice apparently speaking through language and of some kind of a story being told. We seem to have come into a world of language stripped of significance with a slab of text which refuses the conditions of narrative. Readers have grown used over time to a narrative voice which is their link to a shared humanity, and any story which is read is one which takes place in time, and some kind of teleology will take the reader to an “end”, and, equally, the story will engage with some of the small range of human emotions and with a relatively small number of situations and relationships which might be expected to engage a reader's attention. But Beckett's text, at first encounter, seems to be devoid of a human...
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SOURCE: Cochran, Robert. “The Short Fiction.” In Samuel Beckett: A Study of the Short Fiction, pp. 3-20. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1991.
[In the following excerpt, Cochran surveys Beckett's early short fiction, including his short story collection More Pricks than Kicks.]
Samuel Beckett was 23, a scholar in the making recently arrived in Paris as lecteur at the École Normale Supérieure, when his first published study appeared in the spring of 1929. An auspicious debut, it was the lead essay in the imposingly titled Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress, a collection of essays in promotion and defense of what became Finnegans Wake. The young Beckett's work was titled “Dante … Bruno. Vico.. Joyce,” and it was soon printed separately in the literary journal transition, along with another effort by the author. This other was no learned article, however, but a short story. Titled “Assumption,” it was brief, running only four pages in print, and riddled with typos. It opened as in retrospect it needed to open, as if art imitated criticism, in brazen contradiction: “He could have shouted and could not.”1 Later, in more famous formulations, this trick will seem a badge of the author's presence, so much so that one instance will be a title, Imagination Dead...
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SOURCE: Kloss, Robert J. “The Turning Point at Last: Beckett's ‘First Love’ There is a Choice of Images.” Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 13, nos. 1-2 (March 1992): 21-33.
[In the following essay, Kloss identifies four short stories—“The End,” “The Calmative,” “The Expelled,” and “First Love”—as the turning point in Beckett's artistic career and provides a close reading of “First Love” to gain insight into the images, themes, and characterizations that came to preoccupy Beckett.]
In her biography of Samuel Beckett, Deirdre Bair vividly depicts a vision he had during one of his late-night, non-stop, drunken prowls that finished on the end of a Dublin jetty in the midst of a March snowstorm. Here, apparently in an epiphany, Beckett envisioned in an instant the direction his writing should take, the form it should have; he had come, in his own words, to “the turning point at last.” “All his writing,” Bair declares, “would henceforth begin from within himself, with his memories and dreams, no matter how ugly or painful; … no clearly defined fictional character would be needed to tell these stories, as no distancing is necessary between the teller and the tale.”1
Subsequently, Beckett no longer wrote in his native English but in French and turned from traditional narrative to what has since become a distinctive feature of his style,...
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SOURCE: Pireddu, Nicoletta. “Sublime Supplements: Beckett and the ‘Fizzling Out’ of Meaning.” Studies in Short Fiction 29, no. 3 (summer 1992): 303-14.
[In the following essay, Pireddu considers the disjointed and confused nature of the short texts in Fizzles, arguing that these texts “exhibit the idea of aborted endeavor as their constitutive element.”]
“Perhaps there is no whole, before you're dead” (Beckett, Molloy 35), meditates Molloy while lying in the ditch without remembering how he left town. If his name suddenly comes to his mind as in an epiphany, the purpose of his visit to his mother inevitably escapes him: “My reasons? I had forgotten them” (35). For each detail brought to light, other particulars are reabsorbed into forgetfulness. The activity of memory never provides the character with the total picture of his own self. Its discrete nature frustrates the need to continuity; its inability to fill the gaps opened up by oblivion reveals the arbitrariness of any attempt to master reality, and the inconclusiveness of Molloy's writing registers exactly the failure of such an effort.
If in Molloy the protagonist narrates the story of a fiasco, Beckett's Fizzles represent the fiasco of narration itself. Starting from their titles, both the English and the French version of these short texts exhibit the idea of aborted endeavor as...
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SOURCE: Fletcher, John. “Joyce, Beckett, and the Short Story in Ireland.” In Re: Joyce 'n Beckett, edited by Phyllis Carey and Ed Jewinski, pp. 3-20. New York: Fordham University Press, 1992.
[In the following essay, Fletcher finds similarities between Beckett's “Fingal” and James Joyce's “Ivy Day in the Committee Room.”]
In freshman classes, I tend to define the short story as a short prose narrative of concentrated effect, complete within its own terms, showing a firm story-line and often an abrupt ending, limited in its temporal and spatial location and in the number of characters deployed, and tending to work through understatement and humor rather than explicit comment.
Joyce's Dubliners is one of the greatest short-story collections ever published. Beckett's More Pricks Than Kicks, an early book—one he refused for many years to allow to be reissued—is far from being in the same league. Still, they are worth comparing in the light of the above definition for a number of reasons. The first, and most obvious, is that the young Beckett greatly admired his older compatriot and sought to imitate him. Secondly, they are both set in Dublin and feature Dublin people, as Joyce's title explicitly acknowledges. Thirdly, they both deploy a particular sense of humor—at once intellectual, sardonic, and self-consciously literary—which readers tend to associate...
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SOURCE: Harrington, John P. “Beckett, Joyce, and Irish Writing: The Example of Beckett's ‘Dubliners’ Story.” In Re: Joyce'n Beckett, edited by Phyllis Carey and Ed Jewinski, pp. 31-42. New York: Fordham University Press, 1992.
[In the following essay, Harrington investigates the influence of James Joyce on Beckett's short fiction, arguing that “A Case in a Thousand” is “the most apparent adoption in Beckett's early fiction of the style of Joyce's own early work.”]
After his work had taken on characteristic form and after he had acquired the public stature usual on winning the Nobel Prize, Samuel Beckett described his younger self of the 1930s as “‘a very young writer with nothing to say and the itch to make’” (Harvey 273). The itch to make without anything much to say is, of course, no specifically Irish phenomenon, but it was a particularly acute and a particularly dismal predicament in Ireland in the 1930s. The predicament was not lack of models, for there was a wide choice of exemplary figures as well as regular public debate over the quest for that fabulous Irish chimera, a unified national aesthetic. Rather, the predicament lay in the embarrassment of conveniently located riches. Writing on this in 1976 when, presumably, that predicament remained a current concern, Denis Donoghue concluded that “the price we pay for Yeats and Joyce is that each in his way gave Irish...
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SOURCE: Noble, Michael J. “Speaking the Same Language: Samuel Beckett, Jacques Derrida and Vice Versa.” The Journal of the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters 70 (1993): 81-90.
[In the following essay, Noble underscores the common characteristics of the language in Beckett's short stories and Derrida's language theory, contending that “the texts of Derrida and Beckett speak the same ideological and theoretical language.”]
The title page of an English edition of a work by Samuel Beckett or Jacques Derrida is likely to include a translation credit because these writers originally wrote in French. But French is not the only common characteristic of the language of these two writers; the texts of Derrida and Beckett speak the same ideological and theoretical language.
Derrida, as a reader of his own writings and those of Beckett, describes such a theoretical language when he answers a question posed to him in an interview by Derik Attridge. Attridge asks Derrida why he does not write about Beckett, and Derrida replies that he does not feel enough distance from Beckett to write about him:
This is a writer to whom I feel very close, or to whom I would like to feel myself very close; but also too close. Precisely because of this proximity, it is too hard for me. … I have perhaps avoided him a bit because of this identification. Too hard...
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SOURCE: Vandervlist, Harry. “Nothing Doing: The Repudiation of Action in Beckett's More Pricks than Kicks.” In Negation, Critical Theory, and Postmodern Textuality, edited by Daniel Fischlin, pp. 145-56. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994.
[In the following essay, Vandervlist identifies the repudiation of action as a unifying theme of the stories in More Pricks than Kicks.]
Samuel Beckett's early stories may not appear, at first sight, to share the kind of negative strategies characteristic of the better-known prose works, dating from the trilogy, Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable. Yet his 1934 collection of stories, More Pricks Than Kicks, provides an early example of Beckett's fruitful use of an apparently perverse negative stance: More Pricks Than Kicks repudiates one of fiction's fundamental aspects, the presentation of action. Beckett's early protagonists aim not to act, yet fail to avoid action, and the texts themselves echo this failure, succumbing to something less—but also more—than the simple negation of narration. An impulse to escape the necessity to “do something next” exists from the beginning of Beckett's career and “evasive strategies” similar to those described in Beckett's later prose1 are in fact at work in the 1934 collection, as I will show by way of a reading of the volume's opening story, “Dante and...
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SOURCE: Gontarski, S. E. “From Unabandoned Works Samuel Beckett's Short Prose.” In Samuel Beckett: The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989, edited by S. E. Gontarski, pp. xi-xxxii. New York: Grove Press, 1995.
[In the following essay, Gontarski assesses Beckett's achievements as a short fiction writer.]
While short fiction was a major creative outlet for Samuel Beckett, it has heretofore attracted only a minor readership. Such neglect is difficult to account for, given that Beckett wrote short fiction for the entirety of his creative life and his literary achievement and innovation are as apparent in the short works as in his more famous novels and plays, if succinctly so. Christopher Ricks, for one, has suggested that the 1946 short story “The End” is “the best possible introduction to Beckett's fiction,”1 and writing in the Irish Times (11 March 1995), literary editor John Banville has called “First Love” “the most nearly perfect short story ever written.” Yet few anthologists of short fiction, and in particular of the Irish short story, include Beckett's work. Beckett's stories have instead often been treated as anomalous or aberrant, a species so alien to the tradition of short fiction that critics are still struggling to assess not only what they mean—if indeed they “mean” at all—but what they are: stories or novels, prose or poetry, rejected fragments or...
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SOURCE: Scholes, Robert. “Playing with the Cries.” Samuel Beckett Today 7 (1998): 379-90.
[In the following essay, Scholes approaches “First Love” as a hypertext and recommends that the reader explore links found in the story.]
There is a page on the World Wide Web called “Play It Again, Sam”. If you should visit that page, you will find a sold black background, with the words “I Can't Go On” written there. If you click on those underlined words, you will find yourself on another black page, on which the words “I Must Go On” appear. A click there and you are back to the black page with “I Can't Go On” inscribed thereon. You can continue this as long as you wish. Play it again, Sam, indeed.
I mention these pages because they afford some insight into the way that Beckett appears in the modern cultural text—and because, like the words of any durable writer—they speak for us as well as to us. In my case, they speak for me. I have read this text, Beckett's “First Love”, many times, and I have nothing to say about it. And yet I must. I am back in school, a place I never really cared for, and the class is waiting for my book report. I am stalling, of course, trying not to begin, but I must begin. I have undertaken to write about “First Love”, and to write “semiotically”, if possible, so here I am, about to begin, which I shall certainly do—in a moment or two.
Actually, I would rather write about my own first love, and would certainly do so if I were sure which one it was. I think it must have been Carrie, who worked for my parents, was beautiful, I believe, and made wonderful cookies—of that I am certain. Yes, Carrie and her cookies would be a much pleasanter subject than Beckett and his “First Love”, but, come to think of it, Carrie left me—I must have been eight years old at the time—for a man. She married, had a child, and that was that. As Beckett says at the end of “First Love”, “either you love or you don't”.
I seem to have begun speaking of Beckett and his story (though perhaps not “semiotically”), but not because I promised do so. No, it is rather because Beckett is insisting. His words, as he almost said himself, can be applied to our situations. Yes, despite everything, these disgusting and somewhat boring post-Kafkaesque narratives of despair and degradation have something to say to us about our ordinary lives. And what's more, they are often funny—yes, amusing. You have to like a man who can say, “I have no bone to pick with graveyards”. What, then, is Beckett saying to us in “First Love”? How should we read this text?
We can take what we might call the pigeon's-eye view, flying high over this story, noting its broad outlines, and dropping our little messages upon the text, as pigeons do with monuments, thereby obscuring some of its words and meanings. Or we can take the worm's-eye view, grubbing around in the mouldering text, chewing on this or that bit to see if there is anything in it that can nourish us, but never seeing the whole picture. Let us not, however, get too caught up in our own grubby metaphors. Let us be eclectic—a little flying and dropping, with a little grubbing and chewing. From up above, we can see that this text has just seven paragraphs. Let me, like a good semiotician, list them, in order, with their size noted, and their opening phrases:
1. (four lines) I associate, rightly or wrongly, marriage with the death. […]
2. (fifteen lines) I visited, not so long ago, my father's grave, […]
3. (a page and a half) Personally, I have no bone to pick with graveyards […]
4. (almost two pages) But to pass on to less melancholy matters, […]
5. (over nine pages) But to pass on to less melancholy matters, […]
6. (almost three pages) There were in fact two rooms, […]
7. (about three pages) Gradually, I settled down, in this house.
Very irregular paragraphing, notes our pigeon: Splat! In fact, the fifth paragraph is just about as long as all the others combined? Splat! A semiotician might find these matters interesting and revealing—but not this semiotician, at this moment. Our pigeon's flight over the text has not been in vain, however, for it has called our attention to the fact that the two central paragraphs in this text begin with exactly the same phrase: “But to pass on to less melancholy matters.” Given what is recounted in these paragraphs, it is clear that we are in a universe divided between more and less melancholy matters, like that Hegelian night in which all cows lose their colours. This repetition is also a clue, however, as to how we should be reading this text. It suggests that we should attend to repetition—of which, it turns out, there is a lot in these few pages. Let us return, then, by this commodious vicus of recirculation, to the beginning.
The first words of the text, after the title, are: “I associate.” Stop right there, please. Hold that phrase. (The semiotician, as Roland Barthes told us too long ago, breaks up the text! And where is our Roland? Where is the author of “A Lover's Discourse” and other lovelorn, melancholy texts? Where is the great apologist for écriture? He sleeps with kings and counsellors and other scriveners, including our Sam, whose corpse, if I may borrow some words from our narrator at the end of paragraph 4, has finally come “up to scratch”. Am I being macabre? Am I being impious to our great dead writers? I am being nothing that Samuel Beckett has not taught me to be, and my point is that these lessons are useful. Sam carried his heavy burden lightly, which is why he could indeed play it again and again.) But back to those first words: “I associate”—indeed you do, Sam, indeed you do—and so, then, must we, your readers, in our own attempts to come up to scratch. The first paragraph, I am suggesting, is, among other things, telling us how to read this text and others: by associating, by finding links. Even, as the text suggests, “other links on other levels”.
Finding links! How hypertextual! Like other postmodernist writers, Beckett seems to have been writing for hypertext avant l'ordinateur. Let us try to come up to scratch ourselves, however, and attend to our own itches. This text offers us—nay, insists upon—two orders of association, which semioticians once liked to call the metaphorical and the metonymical. Unhappy with the confusions evoked by those two terms, I shall refer to these two orders of association as simply the semantic and the syntactic. The semantic is based upon words, as they lie quietly in dictionaries and thesauruses—words, that is, referring to one another by similarity or opposition of meaning, like live and quick (semantic, based on similarity), or quick and dead (semantic, based upon opposition). The syntactic order, on the other hand, is based upon linkages established outside the dictionary, in the world and its texts, like death and the grave, the grave and the tombstone. I would say, “Let us get back to Beckett”, but death and graves and tombstones have already brought us back. Let us, in any case, look more closely at the words of “First Love”.
The first paragraph begins not with narration, as the seventh paragraph does (“Gradually, I settled down”), nor with description, as the sixth paragraph does (“There were, in fact, two rooms, separated by a kitchen”), but with a meta-discursive statement (that is, a statement about the discourse itself): “I associate.” The one who is recounting this narrative (the author? the speaker? the narrator?) is telling us how his mind and, by extension, his text, work. And what does this “I” associate? He—let us call him “he”, for various reasons—He associates marriage with death. Marriage and death—not your standard pairing of concepts—or mine either. This unusual combination, because of its oddity, offers us food for thought. The text, as early as the next paragraph, clarifies this odd association by supplying a middle term: birth. The entire narrative has in fact been organized as a working out of variations on the themes of death, marriage, and birth, in their various combinations and permutations—and Beckett, as a reading of Watt will remind us, is a virtuoso of the combinatoire. He takes pleasure—perhaps gives it, too, to readers who share his own combinatorial perversion—in expressing all the possible combinations of a few simple elements—often playing them over, again and again. At the beginning of “First Love”, however, Beckett's narrator poses for us the problem of what death and marriage may have to do with one another, and, in particular, what his father's death may have to do with his own marriage. Our reading thus becomes motivated by the desire for answers to these questions—which the text will indeed supply.
(Dear old Roland, in the heady days of early structuralism, when narratologists were scrambling around, pasting labels on every narrative device or code, offered us a name for this kind of motivation—but I have forgotten it. Does this mean that Barthes and other laboured in vain? No more than we all do, no more than we all do. The codes offered to us in S/Z could never be the last word in the study of narrative. Like other rhetorical and critical terms, they serve to call our attention, as readers, to certain aspects of texts that might otherwise escape us. Breaking up the text, as Barthes did in that justly famous reading of Balzac's Sarassine, also serves a great interpretative purpose, in that it forces us to awaken from our narrative slumbers, induced by the teleological charms of realistic narration. By breaking up the text arbitrarily we experience the kind of alienation or estrangement that enables us to stop, for a moment, reading, and start, for a while, thinking. A late (or post-) modernist writer like Beckett, however, is likely to alienate us himself, needing no critic to break up his text. Beckett, needless to say, is very good at this. Having broken up my own text, which was never seductive enough to lull the critical faculties of its audience, though perhaps capable of lulling in a more somatic sense, I must now find my way back to Beckett's. Ah, yes, we were talking about the way that the opening conundrum of “First Love”—that association of marriage and death—works to rouse a curiosity that only the text could supply.)
These supplements begin in the second paragraph, in which the narrator recounts his visits to the graveyard, to read a tombstone and thus obtain the dates of his father's death and birth. He does so, apparently, by way of research for the account he is offering us, in order to ascertain his own age (about twenty-five) at the time of his marriage. Knowing that he married shortly after his father's death, he will be able to calculate his age by subtracting his birth date from his father's death date. But he can look at no tombstone to find the date of his own birth. Where, then, does that date repose? It is, he tells us, “graven on my memory”. You will forgive the semiotical “aha” which caused me to emphasize that word “graven”. To engrave is to scratch, to dig, and, of course, to write in a durable way, to produce writing that cannot be easily erased, like the words scratched upon tombstones. If you look for me tomorrow, says the dying Mercutio to Romeo, you will find me a grave man. Well, this is a grave man who is writing our story here, a man who believes that, if his dead Papa could see him, he would find his “corpse not yet quite up to scratch”.
To “come up to scratch” is a term from the old days of bare knuckle boxing. It referred to a line scratched in the earth, to which a fighter who had been knocked down had to return or lose the fight. In English idiom now, it signifies, loosely, being ready, measuring up. In Beckett's text, the dead father, “in his great disembodied wisdom”, may see “further than his son, whose corpse was not yet quite up to scratch”. The living son is, paradoxically, a corpse, but not yet a finished one, not yet perfected, not yet ready to be disembodied, to cross the line graven between life and death—“not yet quite up to scratch”. “Scratch”, then, signifies, at this textual moment, a line between being bodied and being disembodied, corpsed and decorpsed. One thinks of Yeats and his soul, “sick with desire and fastened to a dying animal”—that is the line of thought embodied or engraved in Beckett's prose, here. To be alive, in this textual universe, is to be a corpse, dragging the flesh around, whereas to be dead is to be disembodied, freed from the drag of the flesh, which prevents one from “seeing”. And the drag of the flesh is very much what this story is about. It is also, of course, about scratching, engraving, in a word: writing.
(Semioticians are always finding out that texts are about writing, about how they were written. How boring! How stultifying! And yet—Look! I have nothing up my sleeve. The references to writing are in Beckett's text. He put them there. And this is important. If I were bringing these meanings to the text all by myself, the whole process would be trivial and silly. Why bother? Interpretation is a game in which both the writer and the reader are players. “No symbols where none intended”, says Beckett at the end of Watt, knowing full well that intention is a slippery notion, extending, as it does, from conscious purpose to unconscious revelation. In the third paragraph our narrator concentrates on graveyards, telling us he prefers the scents of the dead to the odours of the living, but we mustn't let the shock of this revelation distract us from the attention paid to writing in this paragraph. For it is here that we discover our narrator to be a writer. He enjoys, he tells us, wandering among the slabs, “culling inscriptions”. He never wearies of these, since he always finds a few that are so amusing, “of such drollery”, he says, that he has “to hold on to the cross, or the stele, or the angel, so as not to fall”. More important for our interpretative purposes, however, is the revelation that the narrator has composed his own epitaph, which he inscribes not on stone but in our text, and that he has written other things that he finds revolting as soon as they are “dry”. This is a curious moment, for the narrator's life, as revealed in the subsequent paragraphs, seems to be that of a homeless person, expelled from his father's house after his father's death, briefly taken in by a woman, driven out again at the moment of his own dubious paternity by the cries of his new-born of his child. There seems to be no place in this life for pen, ink, and paper—for “writing” in the physical sense suggested by that expression: “My other writings are no sooner dry than they revolt me.”
I am inclined to read this curious allusion to “other writings” as a kind of break in the text, in which the author's voice is inscribed over that of the narrating character. If we attend to what I have called the “circumstantial” evidence about this text, we can note that Beckett did not like it very much when he wrote it in French, nor, again, when he translated it into English. This story, “First Love”, is, no doubt, one of the “other writings”, that our narrator/author finds revolting. Of this paring, author/narrator, it is the author, Sam, who writes on paper. Our narrator, who tells us that he should have made a note “on paper” of Lulu's proper name, did not in fact do so, though, in the throes of first love, he finds himself “inscribing the letters Lulu in an old heifer pat”, or, as he also puts it, “tracing her name in old cowshit” (paragraph 5). When our narrator writes (inscribes, traces—how many words he has for writing!), he writes on dung. But who has written this story—and on what? There are other moments, as well, when what we might call the register of this account shifts from the abjection of a dispossessed vagabond, to a different level, where the abjection and dispossession are on a grander scale, seeming to mirror, in however distorted a manner, the life of a citizen of modern Europe, who is, in fact, an exiled (self-exiled, like Joyce, no doubt) Irish writer, who has wandered through Europe, writing, in a foreign language, texts he finds revolting.
Our narrator is not the only one whose words are writ in cowshit, and cowshit is not the only kind of shit in this text. It seems that history also excretes. In one of the few passages that serve to locate these events in a specific place, the narrator speaks of his native land in this way:
What constitutes the charm of our country, apart of course from its scant population, and this without the help of the meanest contraceptive, is that all is derelict, with the sole exception of history's ancient faeces. These are ardently sought after, stuffed and carried in procession. Wherever nauseated time has dropped a nice fat turd you will find our patriots, sniffling it up on all fours, their faces on fire.
(“First Love,” 33-34)
Many a nation, not excluding my own, has had its moments of worship for the droppings of history. But that scant population, achieved without birth control, seems to point to Ireland more clearly than to anyplace else. (The text's most specific geographical reference, of course, is to the Ohlsdorf graveyard, in Hamburg, which is present by association, as the complete opposite of the graveyard visited by our narrator. Beckett, of course, did indeed spend some time in Hamburg early in his career.) The mask of this character/narrator is being worn loosely by the author, whose voice repeatedly makes itself heard, though the story is clearly too absurd, too beautiful, too neat—to be literally his. History's “ancient faeces”, of course, are themselves signs, already traces, inscriptions—which is why they are worshipped. By positioning them within his account of inscribing the word Lulu on cow pats, the author/narrator compares his own behaviour, when crazed by “first love” to the behaviour of his crazed compatriots, sniffling up the droppings of history: “Would I have been tracing her name in old cowshit if my love had been pure and disinterested? And with my devil's finger into the bargain, which I then sucked? Come now!” He sucks his sticky finger, the devil's finger, too, like the patriots, sniffling up the faeces of history with their faces on fire.
A pretty pass, to which our narrator was led by the events that took place on a bench by one of the town's two canals. These events, narrated in paragraph 5 (the second devoted to “less melancholy matters”) may be said to reach a climax when he stretches out, with her “fat thighs” under his “miserable calves”. Let us follow the event in his own deadly prose. (I will need to quote at some length, here.)
She began stroking my ankles. I considered kicking her in the cunt. You begin to speak to people about stretching out and they immediately see a body at full length. What mattered to me in my dispeopled kingdom, that in regard to which the disposition of my carcass was the merest and most futile of accidents, was supineness in the mind, the dulling of the self and of that residue of execrable frippery known as the non-self and even the world, for short. But man is still today, at the age of twenty-five, at the mercy of an erection, physically too, from time to time, it's the common lot, even I was not immune, if that may be called an erection. It did not escape her naturally, women smell a rigid phallus ten miles away and wonder, How on earth did he spot me from there? One is no longer oneself on such occasions, and it is painful to be no longer oneself, even more painful if possible than when one is. For when one is one knows what to do to be less so, whereas when one is not one is any old one irredeemably. What goes by the name of love is banishment, with now and then a postcard from the homeland, such is my considered opinion, this evening. When she had finished and my self been resumed, mine own, the mitigable, with the help of a brief torpor, it was alone.
(“FL” [“First Love”], 31)
One may pause to note the misogyny of this text. Our narrator, like many male modernists and postmodernists, wants to associate the female with the body and the male with the mind or soul. Unfortunately for him, however, he has a phallus, which ties him to woman, reminds him that he has a body, that he shares “the common lot”. “Even”, he says, “even I was not immune”. Of course, this narrator and his world being what they are, his erection is nothing to brag about—“if that may be called an erection”. But this is a strangely philosophical passage, is it not. The actual physical act, to which the title of the story may refer, seems to have taken place here, somewhere in or behind this paragraph, between the erection and the torpor, while the narrator was philosophising about the self and the nonself in his enervated existentialist jargon. “What goes by the name of love is banishment”, says this Irish exile. And he says it at the present moment, “this evening”. And which evening is that? We may well ask. Is it the evening of this first act of “love”? Probably not. That would be “then”. This is now, this evening. But the text also situates this moment as “today, at the age of twenty-five”, the age, that is, which the narrator was then. Uh-oh! Beware, interpreters! Traps and snares are being set for you. Is it the evening of the act of narrating? Perhaps. Is it also the evening of the writing? Possibly. Or of the translating? Maybe. Or is it no actual evening at all, but just the word “evening”, a signifier, with a signified, but no referent? Almost certainly. And yet, to read is to assign not only signification but reference to words, even if to read fiction is to assign fictional reference.
It is possible that this particular reference to “today, at the age of twenty-five” is intended only to describe how men in general, at the age of twenty-five, even in the present era still behave. But “today” and “this evening”, in association, reinforce one another in their apparent reference to a present time. This is a text that both invites and undoes the assignment of specific reference to its significations. But let us look more closely at certain other features of this paragraph. “She began stroking my ankles. I considered kicking her in the cunt. You begin to speak to people about stretching out and they immediately see a body at full length.” Notice first the pronouns: She, I, You, they. Two sentences of narration, referring to the two characters in this little drama, followed by two clauses of generalization, in which “you” and “they” have replaced “I” and “she”. This late modernist narrator generalizes almost as much as Balzac or George Eliot. But these generalizations do not reach us with the same ethical authority, because the narrator is neither steady nor reliable, and the author has been contaminated by the narrator—or vice versa.
That “stretching out” should lead visions of “a body at full length”, should come as no surprise to any late modernist with T. S. Eliot's “The evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table” always hovering in the intertextual background. Which ought to remind us that another major intertext for Beckett's story is “The Waste Land”.
While I was fishing in the dull canal, Musing upon the king my brother's wreck And on the king my father's death before him. White bodies naked on the low damp ground. […]
In Eliot's world, however, one doesn't consider kicking one's neighbour in the cunt. Such are the advances of late modernism over its predecessor. The narrator of “First Love”, in his own “dispeopled kingdom”, is not fishing in the canal near which he is positioned. He becomes, rather, to his own disgust, one of the “white bodies”, though neither naked nor on the ground. Unlike Eliot's mythical Fisher King with his sterilizing wound that will not heal, our narrator's wound is precisely his unsterility—that is, both his erection and his potency, his ability to engender. Or, perhaps better, his inability not to engender, his inability to terminate the absurd dance of corporeality so as to avoid passing it on to the next generation. His corpse, unable to come up to the scratch of decomposition, must continue to itch with the fever of procreation—and of composition. He must, in short, fuck and write.
He, that is his consciousness, cannot remain in the realm of pure thought but is “banished” by love to the badlands of the body, where his active corpse continues the gross joke of human existence. This is why the birth of his child is the final, unendurable indignity. Before that dreadful event, things had begun to get better for our narrator: “Already my love was waning […] Yes, already I felt better, soon I'd be up to the slow descents again, the long submersions, so long denied me through her fault.” At this time he also began to hear his voice uttering unintended sentiments: “I was so unused to speech that my mouth would sometimes open, of its own accord, and vent some phrase or phrases, grammatically unexceptionable but entirely devoid if not of meaning, for on close inspection they would reveal one, and even several, at least of foundation […].” He does not say what his words are devoid of. Which makes this particular utterance, written not spoken, grammatically exceptionable. But here again, where there is no narrative need for a discussion of expression and interpretation, the text finds it necessary to introduce the topic—and to leave it very much up in the air. The utterances of this speaker are alien to him, they may be full of meanings but they are (a) not really his, and (b) only “foundational”—whatever that may mean. I take it to mean that interpretation, working on these “foundational” meanings may indeed rise to others, but that these other meanings will be doubly detached from the author of the words being interpreted. Another warning from the author. Not only, no symbols where none intended, but also a guarantee that the utterances are cut off from any intention whatsoever. They will be the interpreter's responsibility. We must respect that thought, I believe, and take responsibility for our interpretations of this text and others—but we must also try to pin them on the author as a blindfolded child tries to pin a cardboard tail on a cardboard donkey—which means that we may pin out interpretative tails to the author's ear, or his haunch, or completely off the authorial image, but the goal is clearly to pin the tail to the author's ass, where it belongs.
Coming back from this metadiscursive excursion into the larger topic of interpretation, I want to pick up the interpretative thread of the birth/death connection. After Lulu/Anna begins speaking about “our” child in her womb, the narrator tells us that, “From that day things went from bad to worse, to worse and worse”. And then, the worst happened—not something like the death of mother and child that gives a modern novel like Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms its pathetic ending, but a perfectly normal live birth: “But I did not know yet, at that time, how tender the earth can be for those who have only her and how many graves in her giving for the living. What finished me was the birth. It woke me up.” He leaves a house for the second time in this narrative, driven out of his first home by the death of his father, and out of the second by the birth of his child. From this second house, however, he takes something with him—or rather something accompanies him. He is pursued by the cries of the new-born. He looks to the stars for orientation, if not for consolation, but he cannot even find the one he used to remember out of the many that his own father had shown him. He discovers that he cannot hear the cries when he is walking. His footsteps drown them out. But, whenever he stops he hears them. Then, he tells us, he “began playing with the cries”—playing a kind of fort-da game, “on, back, on, back, if that may be called playing”. The cries became fainter as he distanced himself in space and time from the dreadful event of the birth, but, like the beating of the telltale heart in Poe's gothic tale, they never stopped altogether. And what, he asks, does it matter, that they grew fainter: “cry is cry, all that matters is that it should cease. For years I thought they would cease. Now I don't think so any more. I could have done with other loves perhaps. But there it is, either you love or you don't”.
With these final words the narrator brings us up to the present again, and the author's voice once again seems to be heard. “Playing with the cries” is an apt description of everything this author has written, text after text, in which we are allowed to hear the cries of corpses who have not yet come up to scratch. All of which would be unbearable for us as readers, if it were not for the fact that Beckett is indeed playing, that the texts are full of jokes and other verbal gifts, and that this author does not stand aside and sneer at his characters, nor blame the cosmos for its structure, but recognizes his own implication in his texts and allows us to see and share it, too. For this kind of playing with the cries of human existence, however, imperfect, however, in Beckett's own word, “revolting”, we must simply be grateful. There is much more to be said about a rich text such as this one. There are scenes and episodes I have left unconsidered, and I have not said nearly enough about “the dread name of love”. But limits are limits, and I must now abandon my own text, which I assure you, revolts me as much as Beckett's revolted him.
SOURCE: Ayers, Carolyn Jursa. “An Interpretive Dialogue: Beckett's ‘First Love’ and Bakhtin's Categories of Meaning.” Samuel Beckett Today 7 (1998): 391-405.
[In the following essay, Ayers applies Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of dialogue to “First Love.”]
Discussing Beckett and Bakhtin together presents a challenge, to say the least; it seems remarkable that two men who led somewhat parallel lives could come to such diametrically opposed conceptions of man's place in the world. They were, after all, rough historical contemporaries (Bakhtin's dates are 1895-1975, Beckett's are 1906-1989), and lived through some of the same experiences of the twentieth century. Both survived in precarious conditions during the Second World War, and although neither was inclined toward political activity, both occasionally found themselves objects of political suspicion. Furthermore, they both endured painful and debilitating illness over the course of many years. Both men were highly educated, very much at home in the Western literary tradition, and widely read. And they were, I think, both acutely aware of the collapse of coherent meaning systems in the twentieth century. They experienced the tension of the thinking individual whose relationship with the world is insecure and fragile. And yet the conclusions they drew from all this point in entirely different directions: Beckett's textual world is profoundly...
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SOURCE: van Peer, Willie. “Beckett's ‘First Love’ and Cynical Philosophy.” Samuel Beckett Today 7 (1998): 407-17.
[In the following essay, van Peer places “First Love” within the philosophical tradition of cynicism.]
My interpretation of “First Love” forms part of a larger argument, that sees all interpretation, contrary to present-day fashionable theories, as a quest for truth, guided by specific methodological rules. There is no space to expound on this matter here, so let me restrict the issue with a reference to an article where I have developed this matter in more detail; see Van Peer (1998). As a brief illustration, however, I would like to point out one of the specific methodological rules we employ when we interpret a work. I am sure that we all follow some of these rules, and that if we didn't, our colleagues would not take our work seriously. This creates a strange schizophrenia in current literary studies: theoretically the existence of rules is vehemently denied, but when it comes to practice, nearly all scholars scrupulously stick to very traditional rules. One of these is quite evident in the materials to which we have access surrounding the story at hand. These contain the editorial history of Beckett's story, including an account of the different extant versions. We learn in Notes on the Texts, for instance, that the phrase “to put it wildly” in the first...
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SOURCE: Hillenaar, Henk. “A Psychoanalytical Approach to Beckett's ‘First Love’.” Samuel Beckett Today 7 (1998): 419-37.
[In the following essay, Hillenaar provides a psychoanalytical reading of “First Love.”]
“First Love” is the first soliloquy that Beckett wrote, just after World War II. It has the characteristic features that we find in all his novels, plays or short stories. Especially striking is the combination of a strongly structured, and often comical language, which presents the thinking of a very “adult” person, on one side, with descriptions of very elementary sensations and feelings—those of an earlier life—supporting and feeding this adult thought on the other. In this story, a highly intelligent person is looking back to a highly regressive world, his own inner world, where he behaves again as a child, a baby, now and then even as a foetus.
Such behaviour reminds us very strongly of what happens in the consulting room of a psychoanalyst. Certainly, when the writer is talking about the way to interpret feelings of love, about “money”, “the bench” or even “sessions”, the reader he is addressing seems to resemble a psychoanalyst. The slightly or openly aggressive tone he likes to adopt towards the reader—“Come now!”—confirms the latter in this feeling. And we know the author didn't like psychoanalysts very much. Still, it seems...
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SOURCE: Boxall, Peter. “‘The Existence I Ascribe’: Memory, Invention, and Autobiography in Beckett's Fiction.” The Yearbook of English Studies 30 (2000): 137-52.
[In the following essay, Boxall maintains that “First Love” signals a turning point in Beckett's writing style with his employment of the monologue form as well as his “oscillation between remembrance and invention as a form of storytelling.”]
BECKETT, MODERNISM, AND AESTHETIC AUTOBIOGRAPHY
This essay takes as its starting point what I suggest is a seminal moment in Beckett's fiction. In his 1946 novella, “First Love,” the narrator draws attention for the first time to an opposition between two categories of thingness which persists as a foundational structural distinction for the remaining four decades of Beckett's prose writing career. Talking of the objects, people, and places that from the subject matter of his stories, the narrator claims: ‘I have always spoken, no doubt always shall, of things that never existed, or that existed, if you insist, no doubt always will, but not with the existence I ascribe to them.’1 From this point on, the movement of Beckett's writing is structured around this reluctantly conceded distinction. His narrators repeatedly claim absolute imaginative control over the non-existent world that they invent, whilst equally repeatedly, if unwillingly, allowing...
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SOURCE: Johansson, Birgitta. “Beckett and the Apophatic in Selected Shorter Texts.” Samuel Beckett Today 9 (2000): 55-66.
[In the following essay, Johansson explores Beckett's utilization of the apophatic approach, which is the theory that God is unknowable, in his short texts.]
Samuel Beckett's rambling discourses play with boundaries between the sacred and the secular. His protagonists can represent voices that pray, although they may not always be conscious of this. At least, praying does not appear to be their main objective in life, if one can speak of objectives or volition in their case. As Lawrence E. Harvey puts it, “renunciation of personal will” in Watt, for example, “is couched in religious language that suggests the ascetic preliminaries to mystic experience” (Harvey 1970, 364). This is an initial implication of a bond between Beckett and theology.
Scholarly studies such as Laura Barge's, God, the Quest, the Hero: Thematic Structures in Beckett's Fiction (1988), Jean van der Hoden's, Samuel Beckett et la question de Dieu (1997), and Mary Bryden's, Samuel Beckett and the Idea of God (1998) analyse Beckett's tragi-comic vision of circumstances and of the relationship between human beings and the conceptualisation of God. There are, however, also studies that stress Beckett's idiosyncratic approach to theology. Thus, Gabriel Vahanian...
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SOURCE: Campbell, Julie. “‘Echo's Bones’ and Beckett's Disembodied Voices.” Samuel Beckett Today 11 (2001): 454-60.
[In the following essay, Campbell situates Beckett's unpublished story “Echo's Bone's” within his earlier and later texts.]
The dead die hard, trespassers on the beyond, they must take the place as they find it, the shafts and manholes back into the muck, till such time as the lord of the manor incurs through his long acquiescence a duty of care in respect of them. They are free among the dead by all means, then their troubles are over, their natural troubles. But the debt of nature, that scandalous post-obit on one's own estate, can no more be discharged by the mere fact of kicking the bucket than descent can be made into the same stream twice. This is a true saying.
These are the first lines of “Echo's Bones”, an unpublished short story, which was originally planned as the final story of More Pricks Than Kicks (1934), but which did not appear, after all, in the published text. It relates Belacqua's adventures after the death that occurs in the penultimate story “Yellow” of More Pricks [More Pricks Than Kicks]. Here we see that death isn't the end of it all for Belacqua. Perhaps fittingly, as his name is borrowed from Dante, we are introduced to an afterlife in which a “debt” must “be...
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SOURCE: Connelly, Joseph F. “The Shared Aesthetic of Jack Yeats and Beckett: More Pricks than Kicks.” Notes on Modern Irish Literature 13 (2001): 47-54.
[In the following essay, Connelly investigates the relationship between the short stories in More Pricks than Kicks and the visual arts, particularly the work of the Irish painter Jack Yeats.]
When the Irish short story comes under scrutiny, Samuel Beckett's collection More Pricks than Kicks (1934) is neither at the forefront nor, at least, even mentioned. As a writer of prose fiction, Beckett is an anomaly as he is considered more French than Irish, and his reputation rests in theater and the novel originally in French and later translated into English. The collection MPTK [More Pricks Than Kicks] is regarded as apprentice work, a curiosity that interests a handful of readers who then may label the stories as neglected in light of the later and more thought provoking fiction.
My approach in examining MPTK as short pieces that constitute a whole is twofold: to analyze Beckett's relationship with the visual artists, and to establish an aesthetic from which the stories may have evolved. The Irish painter Jack B. Yeats, whom Beckett befriended in 1931, demonstrates the major connection between Beckett and the visual artists, in particular their shared aesthetic, which various commentators have...
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SOURCE: Hunter, Adrian. “Beckett and the Joycean Short Story.” Essays in Criticism 51, no. 2 (April 2001): 230-44.
[In the following essay, Hunter determines the influence of Joyce's Dubliners on More Pricks than Kicks.]
Reviewing More Pricks than Kicks in 1934, Edwin Muir identified a Beckett very much at home in Bloom's kitchen: ‘the toasting of a slice of bread, or the purchase and cooking of a lobster, can become matters of intellectual interest and importance to him’.1 For Muir, the influence of Joyce was no cause for concern, though he was firm in his conclusion that, as yet, Beckett's work ‘[did] not nearly come up to’ the standard of the master. Other reviewers at the time were not so forgiving, blaming the waywardness, incontinence and ‘verbal aggravation’ of Beckett's prose on his obvious enthralment to ‘Mr. Joyce's latest work’ (i.e. ‘Work in Progress’), a book which for any young writer was bound to prove ‘a dangerous model’.2 While it is not surprising to find reviewers connecting the two authors, it is nevertheless odd that they should identify Beckett's debt as owing to Ulysses and the ‘Work in Progress’ and not to Joyce's volume of similarly interconnected short fictions, Dubliners. As John P. Harrington points out, if one reads the More Pricks [More Pricks Than Kicks] stories alongside...
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SOURCE: Alber, Jan. “The ‘Moreness’ or ‘Lessness’ of ‘Natural’ Narratology: Samuel Beckett's ‘Lessness’ Reconsidered.” Style 36, no. 1 (spring 2002): 54-75.
[In the following essay, Albert utilizes “Lessness” to test the narratological approach of Monika Fludernik's Towards a ‘Natural’ Narratology.]
According to J. E. Dearlove, the fragmentary short prose works that Samuel Beckett produced in the period following the publication of Comment C'est (1961), i.e., “All Strange Away” (1963-64), Imagination Dead Imagine (1965), Enough (1965), Ping (1966), Lessness (1969), and The Lost Ones (1966, 1970), might strike readers as “utterly alien and incomprehensible,” and by thrusting the burden of creating order and meaning on readers, “demand a new critical response” (“Last Images” 104, 116). Similarly, Mary Bryden points out that some readers have reacted adversely to Beckett's later prose, seeing it as “perversely uncommunicative” and “teasingly mysterious” (137). The short prose work Lessness is definitely one of the most enigmatic texts of the period after How It Is. Because of the initial shock that this strange and incomprehensible prose work might produce in readers, it may be used as a case to test the new narratological approach Monika Fludernik puts forward...
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Amiran, Eyal. Review of Samuel Beckett: The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989, by Samuel Beckett. Studies in Short Fiction 34, no. 4 (fall 1997): 523-25.
Cathleen Culotta, Andonian, ed. The Critical Response to Samuel Beckett, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998, 428 p.
Collection of critical essays.
John, Pilling, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Beckett, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, 249 p.
Collection of essays on Beckett's work.
Additional coverage of Beckett's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: British Writers: The Classics, Vol. 2; British Writers Retrospective Supplement, Vol. 1; British Writers Supplement, Vol. 1; Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography, 1945-1960; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8R; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vols. 33, 61; Contemporary Authors–Obituary, Vol. 130; Contemporary British Dramatists; Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, 14, 18, 29, 57, 59, 83; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vols. 13, 15, 233; Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook, 1990; DISCovering Authors 3.0; DISCovering Authors: British Edition;...
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