The first stirrings of a writer’s voice

From The Telegraph:

Samuel_Beckett_1355426c When, in 1984, The Times asked Samuel Beckett for his New Year’s resolutions and hopes, he responded with a brief telegram: “resolutions colon zero stop period hopes colon zero stop beckett”. The best joke is kept till last: “stop beckett”. Much of Beckett’s career now looks like a set of painful and playful variations on the idea “stop beckett”, as he tried to come to terms with the sprawling mess of the world, while recognising that he would clutter it up even further with his descriptions of it.

His response to this paradox? To do more with less. To write works that shrink on the page but expand in the mind. To put words in their place. Beckett’s style took time to develop – a lifetime, in fact – but his early letters offer fascinating glimpses of its first stirrings, and this monumental edition gives Beckett’s own perspective on the years when he found his feet in the world and his voice as a writer.

Waiting for Godot opens with Estragon trying to take his boot off before giving up with a muttered “Nothing to be done”, and as a young man Beckett certainly seems to have got plenty of practice in getting nothing done. Like a weirdly inverted diary, his letters are a litany of what he has failed to do: “Nothing anyhow is so attractive as abstention”, “Nothing seems to come off”, “I can’t write anything at all”. Even his occasional dreams of escape – his more speculative career plans included working in Moscow under the film director Sergei Eisenstein and training as a pilot – end up with him rooted in the same place, writing sentences that snarl him up like a web.

More here.