Thinking About Samuel Beckett

Reply Fri 9 Mar, 2012 04:18 am
I was thinking about Beckett and his ideas and relating them to a personal perspective. What do you think about Beckett?

At the beginning of the Five Year Plan(1937-1944) of the North American Baha’i community, a Plan I am confident that the Irish novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett(1906-1989) knew nothing about---but one whose extension into a series of Plans I have been associated with now for nearly 60 years--- Beckett wrote a letter to the publisher Axel Kaun. This letter was, wrote another Irish novelist John Banville(1946- ), “one of the most significant and revealing Beckett ever wrote.”1-Ron Price with thanks to 1John Banville, “Beckett: Storming for Beauty,” The New York Review of Books, 22 March 2012.

Was your goal in ’37 in Ireland some
abstract literature, dissolving word’s
surfaces, dealing as you tried to do
with your depression, psycho-somatic
problems, your book and your mother.2

Words are not like music, nor are they
like painting. They rub-up against actual
things and, if they lose their meaning, all
one has is noise. One must struggle with
the faintest pinpricks of light, & darkness
when one communes with oneself, & the
world as one looks for meaning—you did.

You were hospitable, but you had not any
sustaining metaphysics. You were serious,
evoked a complex psychological reality, a
sense of futility and despair as well as an
endless waiting and we too, Samuel, wait.3

1 See, The NYRB above and The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Volume I: 1929–1940 (Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 512–520. The freedom and directness, unique in the letters published so far, that Beckett allowed himself in addressing Kaun, may in part be accounted for by the fact that the letter is written in German, a language that Beckett knew well but in which he was not entirely fluent….Beckett was one of the greatest letter writers.
2 Samuel Beckett, Wikipedia.
3 Tim Parks, “Beckett: Still Stirring,” The New York Review of Books, 13 July 2006.; and “Samuel Beckett, infoplease.

Ron Price
8 March 2012
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Reply Fri 9 Mar, 2012 04:50 am
"Women dont have prostates". I think this was an attempt to be miscogynistic in the play where Valdimir keeps leaving the stage to pee. I may be wrong cause I never really got Godot. It was one of those plays you must be suitably mellow to enjoy.

Didnt Beckett get stabbed by some girlfriend while in Germany in the 30's? , and because of the savagery of which, he almost died?
Reply Sun 8 Apr, 2012 07:04 am
Thanks, farmerman, for your response. Lots of people did not "get" Godot. When it opened in New York in 1953 it got bad reviews; people did not understand it. There is for millions a kind of hell of frenetic passivity in life in our post-WW2 world, if not for a long time before. Working out how to live, what to do, where to find meaning, what to avoid, whom to marry, when to marry, what career to follow, whether to go fishing this afternoon or to watch the movie.

This hell could just as easily be called a hell of frenetic activity. It seems to me that millions become so adjusted to this hell that it becomes a normal behaviour pattern.(1) Of course, it is not always experienced as a hell; sometimes the spaces seem to be filled to overflowing with life's rewards, life's juices. --(1) Samuel Beckett, Waiting For Godot, 1953(1948). This theme of meaningless passivity is portrayed with some profundity.
I'll add one more piece I wrote on Beckett:

At the beginning of the Baha’i Seven Year Plan in 1937,(1) the now famous writer Samuel Beckett(1906-1989) settled in Paris while he was working out the publication of his novel Murphy. I am confident Beckett knew nothing about that Baha’i Plan as Europe was heating up/heading for a second big war in which he would play a part and receive a medal for his role.

I have always been fascinated by this writer, this now famous 20th century playwright, due to his mental health difficulties, his depressions, his battles with inner demons, and the persistence of what you might call a type of ‘religious’ seriousness in spite of his declared absence of any sustaining metaphysics.(2) His philosophy, it seems to me, comes closest to the philosophical doctrine of nihilism suggesting the essential meaninglessness of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.(3)

In his later years he was also conspicuously hospitable to his friends but notoriously reclusive in relation to the media. In some ways, this is a paradoxical dichotomy. I find that this same dichotomy has come to characterize my life, reclusiveness and hospitableness, but for different reasons and exercised in different ways than Beckett’s. –Ron Price with thanks to 1the first Baha’i teaching plan from 1937 to 1944; 2 Tim Parks, “Beckett: Still Stirring,” The New York Review of Books, 13 July 2006; and 3 See Wikipedia for an overview of nihilism.

You wrote about the experience
of waiting and struggling with a
pervading sense of futility: how
true this seems to me as I watch
and have watched the millions in
their own Waiting for Godot lives.

You wrote of a lost world and of
any attempt to order the world
of experience, & its unbearable
realities, its horrors and terrors,
entre deux guerres that were so
very unbearable from 1914 until
1989 when you went into a hole.

You were a strange personality
& many have found me strange,
Samuel. But many also found us
kind and generous, loyal, gentle,
humorous1 and we were late in
finding our own literary voices.2

1 Morris Dickstein, “An Outsider in His Own Life,” A Review of Anthony Cronin’s Samuel Beckett: The last Modernist, in The New York Times on the Web, 3 August 1997.
2 idem. Beckett and I found our literary voices in our 40s.

Ron Price
13 January 2012

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