George Craig at Music & Literature:
Between 1948 and 1952 there took place a particularly remarkable correspondence: that between Samuel Beckett and Georges Duthuit. In the course of his life Beckett wrote something approaching 20,000 letters. Fascinating as many of these are, they offer nothing that can match this explosion of words. But then Duthuit was not just any correspondent: he was a highly cultured and intellectually rigorous art historian and critic, with total confidence in his own judgement. For Beckett, recognising these qualities and drawn by Duthuit’s impatient refusal of cultural orthodoxies, he represented something close to an ideal interlocutor: someone to whom, in the areas that mattered, anything could be said.
These voluminous letters are in French. Beckett’s years in France – at first in Paris before the War, then, during the Occupation, in hiding in the South, finally, after the Liberation, back in Paris – were a time during which, slowly at first but with increasing urgency, the move to writing in French took shape. The risks were huge, but by the mid-1940s the impulsion was irresistible. It issued in two bodies of writing: the early stories and Molloy; and the letters.