Thursday, February 12, 2009

"This academic madness"

Beckett's work — especially in the early years though no less even now, I would imagine — is often misinterpreted. Or, it seems possible to say, simply interpreted, the mis- being implicit regarding Beckett’s work; in one interview [...] asked what, if not a philosophical one, is his reason for writing, he responds I haven't the slightest idea. I'm no intellectual. All I am is feeling.

This sense of 'feeling' and not 'intellecting' is what always brings me back to Beckett's prose so strongly and deeply, at least regarding work from the Trilogy onward.
Named Tomorrow goes on to read Beckett's writing in accordance with this important apprehension. It reminds me of Beckett's admiration for the mystics. When asked in the same book as in the link what he thought of the essays and theses about his work, Beckett waved his hand: "This academic madness..."

The blogger also quotes from a lecture he attended yesterday evening "by one of the editors of the recently published Volume 1 of Beckett's letters". As it happens, I was there too and also took delivery of a copy of the book. Next to me, a student placed a book from the library flat on the table. I tried to discern the title, expecting it to be Beckett-related. It wasn't. However, I was impressed to see that the spine also contained a review of the book.


  1. Great post, great reminder of whence Beckett's power comes from.

    Have you ever looked at the MBTI? would beckett be--based on this great line about feeling---be, then, an INFP?

    do you? why do I, like so much more---in terms of feeling---the Beckett of the prose trilogy onward rather than of the later and later plays??

    will the Letters reveal even more fully the beckett of feeling?
    Knowlton's biography maybe covers it over a bit too much??

  2. Yesterday I went to a performance of Thomas Bernhard's Der Schein trügt - The Shine deceives (Appearances can be deceptive, is I think the understood English sense). But anyway it's about two old men, half-brothers. One inherits a one-eyed canary and the other a house in the country.
    They spend two evenings a week routinely talking AT each other, the same old stories. I couldn't help thinking how Beckettian the whole thing was. It was almost Waiting for Godot revisted. Warm applause for Martin Schwab. How does an actor learn, word perfect, 90 minutes of monologue? Phenomenal.

  3. Bob, the MBTI won't be much use I suspect.

    The point about being "all feeling" might be that writing enables a distance which both helps and distorts, so one is always poised between its necessity and ruin. What some blog-commenters misunderstand is how Beckett implicates himself in his criticism of the academy. It is there in the writing of all feeling. "This mad game of writing." (Mallarme).

  4. Well I see how he criticizes the academy and intellectualistism, and applaud that loudly, but still his work is the work of a thinker who distances and helps and distorts---yes---but he is not exactly Aloysha or Dostoyevsky---i.e. his late works are as cold---thought-based---as possible. There is no feeling provoked or conveyed or described. Or very little. Wit, humor, yes---but it is all of the mind. The hard, cold mind---maybe against itself, great relief there.

  5. I've just read two essays by Matthew Feldman. Now I see what you're saying.



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