Samuel Beckett in Berlin, 1969
This film by Rosa von Praunheim and Daniel Schmid, Werner Schroeter
See also : Daniel Schmid talk about this film
Samuel Beckett in Berlin, 1969
This film by Rosa von Praunheim and Daniel Schmid, Werner Schroeter
See also : Daniel Schmid talk about this film
Samuel Beckett’s letters are full of the literary names he encountered through his work: authors he wrote about (Proust), poets he translated (Apollinaire), peers he monitored (Ionesco), and predecessors he admired (Joyce). But, in his non-professional life, Beckett was also an avid reader, discussing his favorite reads (and not-so-favorite) with many of his correspondents.
These mentions from The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Volume 2 shed some light on what was on the writer’s nightstand during the period from 1941 to 1956.
“Hear a little more,” said Murphy, “and then I expire. If I had to work out what you are from what you do, you could skip out of here now and joy be with you. First of all you starve me into terms that are all yours but the jossy, then you won’t abide by them. The arrangement is that I enter the jaws of a job according to the celestial prescriptions of Professor Suk, then when I won’t go against them you start to walk out on me. Is that the way you respect an agreement? What more can I do?”
He closed his eyes and fell back. It was not his habit to make out cases for himself. An atheist chipping the deity was not more senseless than Murphy defending his courses of inaction, as he did not require to be told. He had been carried away by his passion for Celia and by a most curious feeling that he should not collapse without at least the form of a struggle. This grisly relic from the days of nuts, balls and sparrows astonished himself. To die fighting was the perfect antithesis of his whole practice, faith and intention.”Samuel Beckett, Murphy
Behind me, I should like to have heard (having been at it long enough already, repeating in advance what I am about to tell you) the voice of Molloy, beginning to speak thus: ‘I must go on; I can’t go on; I must go on; I must say words as long as there are words, I must say them until they find me, until they say me - heavy burden, heavy sin; I must go on; maybe it’s been done already; maybe they’ve already said me; maybe they’ve already borne me to the threshold of my story, right to the door opening onto my story; I’d be surprised if it opened.’
A good many people, I imagine, harbour a similar desire to be freed from the obligation to begin, a similar desire to find themselves, right from the outside, on the other side of discourse, without having to stand outside it, pondering its particular, fearsome, and even devilish features. To this all too common feeling, institutions have an ironic reply, for they solemnise beginnings, surorunding them with a circle of silent attention; in order that they can be distinguished from far off, they impose ritual forms upon them.
Inclinations speaks out: ‘I don’t want to have to enter this risky word of discourse; I want nothing to do with it insofar as it is decisive and final; I would like to feel it all around me, calm and transparent, profound, infinitely open, with others responding to my expectations, and truth emerging, one by one. all I want is to allow myself to be borne along, within it, and by it, a happy wreck,’ institutions reply: ‘but you have nothing to fear from launching out; we’re here to show you discourse is within the established order of things, that we’ve waited a long time for its arrival, that a place has been set aside for it - a place which both honours and disarms it; and if it should happen to have a certain power, then it is we, and we alone, who give it that power.’
Yet, maybe this institution and this inclination are but two converse responses to the same anxiety: anxiety as to just what discourse is, when it is manifested materially, as a written or spoken object; but also, uncertainty faced with a transitory existence, destined for oblivion – at any rate, not belonging to us; uncertainty at the suggestion of barely imaginable powers and dangers behind this activity, however humdrum and grey it may seem; uncertainty when we suspect the conflicts, triumphs, injuries, dominations and enslavements that lie behind these words, even when long use has chipped away their rough edges.
What is so perilous, then, in the fact that people speak, and that their speech proliferates? Where is the danger in that?”Michel Foucault, The Discourse on Language
Yes, [my texts] deal with distress. Some people object to this in my writing. At a party an English intellectual—so-called—asked me why I write always about distress. As if it were perverse to do so! He wanted to know if my father had beaten me or my mother had run away from home to give me an unhappy childhood. I told him no, that I had had a very happy childhood. Then he thought me more perverse than ever. I left the party as soon as possible and got into a taxi. On the glass partition between me and the driver were three signs: one asked for help for the blind, another help for orphans, and the third for relief for the war refugees. One does not have to look for distress. It is screaming at you even in the taxis of London.”Samuel Beckett, in Tom Driver, ‘Beckett by the Madeleine’, Columbia University Forum, 4:3 (1961). (via samuelbbeckett)
This claim, from Jodi Dean’s book Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies, is a particularly interesting one to try out on the audience of this blog (who almost exclusively arrive at this blog via Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook).
Are you reading this?
And are you engaging with the things written on this blog (or on blogs generally)? Do you debate and discuss these ideas? Do you share them with others or do you just click “Like” and move on to the next thing?
And, especially for the Tumblr audience, why are you blogging? Knowing that there are millions and millions of Tumblr blogs, do you think your posts matter and, if so, in what way?
Or is Dean right that we’re just engrossed in the whole idea of consumption and contribution, leading us to believe that we’re participating in a national (or even global) political conversation when, in fact, we’re not?
Ah yes, if only I could bear to be alone, I mean prattle away with not a soul to hear… Not that I flatter myself you hear much, no Willie, God forbid… Days perhaps when you hear nothing… But days too when you answer… So that I may say at all times, even when you do not anwer and perhaps hear nothing, Something of this is being heard, I am not merely talking to myself, that is in the wilderness, a thing I could never bear to do—for any length of time… That is what enables me to go on, go on talking that is… Whereas if you were to die—or go away and leave me, then what would I do, what could I do, all day long, I mean between the bell for waking and the bell for sleep?… Simple gaze before me with compressed lips…… Not another word as long as I drew breath, nothing to break the silence of this place… Save possibly, now and then, every now and then, a sigh into my looking glass…
— Samuel Beckett, Happy Days
Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape
They say I suffer, perhaps they’re right, and that I’d feel better if I did this, said that, if my body stirred, if my head understood, if they went silent and departed, perhaps they’re right, how would I know about these things, how would I understand what they’re talking about, I’ll never stir, never speak, they’ll never go silent, never depart, they’ll never catch me, never stop trying, that’s that, I’m listening. Well I prefer that, I must say I prefer that, that what, oh you know, who you, oh I suppose the audience, well well, so there’s an audience, it’s a public show, you buy your seat and wait, perhaps it’s free, a free show, you take your seat and you wait for it to begin, or perhaps it’s compulsory, a compulsory show, you wait for the compulsory show to begin, it takes time, you hear a voice, perhaps it’s a recitation, that’s the show, someone reciting, selected passages, old favourites, a poetry matinée, or someone improvising, you can barely hear him, that’s the show, you can’t leave, you’re afraid to leave, it might be worse elsewhere, you make the best of it, you try and be reasonable, you came too early, here we’d need Latin, it’s only beginning, it hasn’t begun, he’s only preluding, clearing his throat, alone in his dressing-room, he’ll appear any moment, he’ll begin any moment, or it’s the stage-manager, giving his instructions, his last recommendations, before the curtain rises, that’s the show, waiting for the show…”
This vision of humanity’s predicament has echoes of Samuel Beckett at some of his more nihilistic moments – except that Beckett allows his tramps to speak for themselves, and when they do they’re often quite cheerful. The sufferers of DSM-5, meanwhile, have no voice; they’re only interrogated by a pitiless system of categorizations with no ability to speak back. As you read, you slowly grow aware that the book’s real object of fascination isn’t the various sicknesses described in its pages, but the sickness inherent in their arrangement.”
Samuel Beckett, Ohio Impromptu, Staged at the Magic Theater, 1986
A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine.
To one on his back in the dark. This he can tell by the pressure on his hind parts and by how the dark changes when he shuts his eyes and again when he opens them again. Only a small part of what is said can be verified. As for example when he hears, You are on your back in the dark. Then he must acknowledge the truth of what is said. But by far the greater part of what is said cannot be verified. As for example when he hears, You first saw the light on such and such a day. Sometimes the two are combined as for example, You first saw the light on such and such a day and now you are on your back in the dark. A device perhaps from the incontrovertibility of the one to win credence for the other. That then is the proposition. To one on his back in the dark a voice tells of a past. With occasional allusion to a present and more rarely to a future as for example, You will end as you now are. And in another dark or in the same another devising it all for company. Quick leave him.
Use of the second person marks the voice. That of the third that cankerous other. Could he speak to and of whom the voice speaks there would be a first. But he cannot. He shall not. You cannot. You shall not.
Apart from the voice and the faint sound of his breath there is no sound. None at least that he can hear. This he can tell by the faint sound of his breath.”Samuel Beckett, Company
"Waiting for Godot" by Samuel Beckett - Act 1 Lucky’s Scene
Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua outside time without extension who from the heights of divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown but time will tell and suffers like the divine Miranda with those who for reasons unknown but time will tell are plunged in torment plunged in fire whose fire flames if that continues and who can doubt it will fire the firmament that is to say blast heaven to hell so blue still and calm so calm with a calm which even though intermittent is better than nothing but not so fast and considering what is more that as a result of the labours left unfinished crowned by the Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry of Essy-in-Possy of Testew and Cunard it is established beyond all doubt all other doubt than that which clings to the labours of men that as a result of the labours unfinished of Testew and Cunard it is established as hereinafter but not so fast for reasons unknown that as a result of the public works of Puncher and Wattmann it is established beyond all doubt that in view of the labours of Fartov and Belcher left unfinished for reasons unknown of Testew and Cunard left unfinished it is established what many deny that man in Possy of Testew and Cunard that man in Essy that man in short that man in brief in spite of the strides of alimentation and defecation is seen to waste and pine waste and pine and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the strides of physical culture the practice of sports such as tennis football running cycling swimming flying floating riding gliding conating camogie skating tennis of all kinds dying flying sports of all sorts autumn summer winter winter tennis of all kinds hockey of all sorts penicilline and succedanea in a word I resume and concurrently simultaneously for reasons unknown to shrink and dwindle in spite of the tennis I resume flying gliding golf over nine and eighteen holes tennis of all sorts in a word for reasons unknown in Feckham Peckham Fulham Clapham namely concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown but time will tell to shrink and dwindle I resume Fulham Clapham in a word the dead loss per caput since the death of Bishop Berkeley being to the tune of one inch four ounce per caput approximately by and large more or less to the nearest decimal good measure round figures stark naked in the stockinged feet in Connemara in a word for reasons unknown no matter what matter the facts are there and considering what is more much more grave that in the light of the labours lost of Steinweg and Peterman it appears what is more much more grave that in the light the light the light of the labours lost of Steinweg and Peterman that in the plains in the mountains by the seas by the rivers running water running fire the air is the same and than the earth namely the air and then the earth in the great cold the great dark the air and the earth abode of stones in the great cold alas alas in the year of their Lord six hundred and something the air the earth the sea the earth abode of stones in the great deeps the great cold an sea on land and in the air I resume for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis the facts are there but time will tell I resume alas alas on on in short in fine on on abode of stones who can doubt it I resume but not so fast I resume the skull to shrink and waste and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis on on the beard the flames the tears the stones so blue so calm alas alas on on the skull the skull the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the labours abandoned left unfinished graver still abode of stones in a word I resume alas alas abandoned unfinished the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the skull alas the stones Cunard (mêlée, final vociferations) tennis… the stones… so calm… Cunard… unfinished…
I am alone.
In the present as were I still.
It is winter.
That is all.
Make sense who may.
I switch off.