beckett and “the impossible that we are…”


One of the last of Samuel Beckett’s letters in Volume One of this indispensable edition was written to James Joyce, in January 1940. In it Beckett thanked Joyce for having brought his work to the attention of a potential sponsor. “It was kind of you to write him about Murphy. He offers very kindly to read the translation & to ‘introduce’ me to the French public.” Nearly fourteen years later, Beckett wrote to Mania Péron, the widow of his friend Alfred, “I am in the shit fontanelle deep: rehearsals every day, translations on all sides, people to see. I can’t keep up”. And a month or so after that he wrote to his American lover Pamela Mitchell, “I went to Godot last night for the first time in a long time. Well played, but how I dislike that play now. Full house every night, it’s a disease”. The “disease” called En Attendant Godot raged untreated in Paris from its first night at the beginning of 1953, and would soon spread around the world. (When Beckett met Mitchell she was in Paris with a view to securing US rights to the play for her employer.) The thirty-three-year-old expatriate Irish writer who responded gratefully to the offer of an introduction to a French public for whom he did not exist had become, at forty-seven, a succès de scandale in his adopted country.

more from Alan Jenkins at the TLS here. (PS we are at 82% here on our fundraising drive. Samuel Beckett himself just contributed … and he is dead. What is your excuse? Please, a couple of minutes and a couple of bucks and we can be done with this damn thing. Thanks.)