Beckett the Nietzschean Hedonist


Richard Marshall in 3AM Magazine:

‘Clov: There are so many terrible things now.
Hamm: No, no, there are not so many now.’ (‘Endgame’).

A body of despair has been assembled. It has manifest arrangements. Atomic loneliness engulfs us as if parodying our vast populations. Hopes for even timid liaisons diminish in paradox. We recognize that the best times for such hopes are when alone. Never has solipsistic terror been so crowded. Conrad wrote, ‘Who knows what true loneliness is – not the conventional word but the naked terror? To the lonely themselves it wears a mask. The most miserable outcast hugs some memory or some illusion.’ Charlotte Bronte is autobiographical: ‘The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.’ Loneliness will always have an obscure history. If it led to easily discerned conclusions then it would be less so. But we refuse obedience to the logic of ending it, aping willpower though powerless. We continue with the hubris of the lonely. This is when the ego strives to stay at least at stalemate and refuses suicide. That is the absurd ground. What are we to make of this attachment to our calamity? Schopenhauer’s question hovers around this: why not self-annihilation given so much agony? The writer finds her ground variously.In Beckett an isolated atomic subjectivity finds a strange equipoise in choreographic endurance. Think of ‘Quad 1’ and ‘Quad 2’ where a dance of exactly such anonymous atomic subjectivity persists unabated over millennia. Jean-Michel Rabaté is pithily deft. He describes the effect of these works as ‘the Inferno as ballet’. This captures their condensed enormity. There is a species of the harmonious in it, a harmony of despair that is ironical, bleak and registering dimensions summarised in Mercutio’s bitterly wry: ‘tis not so deep as a well, nor wide as a church-door; but ‘tis enough, ‘twill serve.’

Beckett’s characters are wrecked particles in this body of despair. Are they outside of anything but a naturalistic philosophy?