Samuel Beckett changed the ways we see the world. He did so by transforming the genres we use to represent it, remaking them in the light of his grand inquisitorial playfulness. Despite his endlessly self-effacing way of writing, plays like Endgame, novels like Molloy, and a host of inscrutable poems, essays and prose fragments, bear his unmistakable signature. They announce on every page: Beckett was here. It is perhaps paradoxical that such a minimalist should have had such a maximal effect, and an opponent of biographical readings of art such a high biographical profile (witness the big biographies by Deirdre Bair, Anthony Cronin and James Knowlson, and innumerable iconic photos). Beckett was a prolific as well as obscure minimalist and his fans and ‘biografiends’ have been waiting a long time for the light to be thrown from his huge correspondence. The Letters of Samuel Beckett 1929-1940 is the 700-page first instalment of a four-volume ‘comprehensive’ selection (later to be published complete in twelve or more volumes). The correspondence, much of which was written in Beckett’s elegant but almost indecipherable ‘Ogham script’, is edited with almost manic scruple by Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck, charged by Beckett in 1985 with the task of ‘its reduction to those passages only having a bearing on my work’.
more from Hugh Haughton at Literary Review here.