Authorised Beckett biographer James Knowlson shares previously unpublished insights into Beckett’s most famous play; Michael Coffey reviews two distinctive Beckett productions in New York City; Gabriel Quigley sits down with the artistic director of Company SJ, Sarah Jane Scaife; Rhys Tranter asks Beckett scholar Paul Stewart about his decision to appear in a production of Krapp’s Last Tape; and much more
April 13th marks 112 years since the birth of Irish writer, playwright, and Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett. To celebrate, we at the Samuel Beckett Society have assembled a collection of links to celebrate his life, work, and legacy. Enjoy!
University of Reading: “Public events, new creative works, and funded fellowships around the work of Samuel Beckett will all be products of a new research centre dedicated to the Irish novelist, story writer, and playwright.
The Beckett Research Centre brings together academics at the University of Reading to promote world-leading research, teaching and creative projects based around the University’s internationally-recognised Beckett Archive.”
The London Beckett Seminar at the Institute of English Studies will bring together national and international scholars, researchers and postgraduates to discuss issues arising from the prose, theatre and poetry of Samuel Beckett that pertain to aspects of literary, philosophical and historical analysis with particular attention to translation studies, performance and practice, digital humanities and visual cultures. Inherently interdisciplinary in approach, the seminar will establish a vibrant research network for postgraduate students, early-career researchers, and established academics on a national and international level.
“On a website ‘filled with the detritus and ephemera of great artists’ (the kind of place you can’t quite summon how you found afterwards and have trouble locating again, as though you dreamt it) there’s a wonderful hunk of little-heard pieces for radio, written by Samuel Beckett. Among them is a 1957 BBC recording of From An Abandoned Work – a monologue (that started in 1954 as a bit of prose) delivered by an old man remembering his youth. It’s unbelievably well acted, by the Armagh-born Patrick Magee, a presence so full of strangeness and charisma and difference and power, the whole thing made me feel like I’d been blindfolded.”
In an interview published by Frieze, Judith Wilkinson talks to the acclaimed polymath, artist, and author who is celebrating his 90th year. Wilkinson’s forthcoming book, Samuel Beckett: Contemporary Artist (Bloomsbury 2018) examines Beckett as a practicing artist working in sound, moving-image, performance and installation art. The interview touches upon the correspondence and influence between O’Doherty and Beckett.
Beckett Chamber Music Series explores the connection between words and music – thematically, expressively, temporally and spatially. The Series is inspired by Samuel Beckett’s reduction of artistic expression into a medium which blurs the line between words and music.
The 2018 Series brings together Ireland’s finest musicians, collaborating with renowned Beckett actors Barry McGovern and Stephen Brennan, for intensive artistic discovery, to be shared with audiences in three themed concerts in the dramatic yet intimate Boys School at Smock Alley Theatre on the quays in Dublin city centre between 24 and 30 June.
The Series culminates in a concert performance of Samuel Beckett’s radio play Words and Music with Morton Feldman’s 1987 score. The performance features Barry McGovern as Words/Joe, Stephen Brennan as Croak and Beckett Chamber Music Series musicians in the role on Music/Bob. The performance is directed by Everett Frost, who produced and directed the award-winning American national broadcast premieres of Beckett’s five completed radio plays. Preceding Beckett’s radio play are performances of Edgard Varèse Density 21.5 for solo flute and chamber works by Morton Feldman including Vertical Thoughts II and Four Instruments. When discussing the play with academic, Katherine Worth, Beckett made the perhaps surprising comment, “Music always wins”.
“Samuel Beckett’s How It Is: Philosophy in Translation maps out the novel’s complex network of intertexts, sources and echoes, interprets its highly experimental writing and explains the work’s great significance for twentieth-century literature. It offers a clear pathway into this remarkable bilingual novel, identifying Beckett’s use of previously unknown sources in the history of Western philosophy, from the ancient and modern periods, and challenging critical orthodoxies. Through careful archival scholarship and attention to the dynamics of self-translation, the book traces Beckett’s transformation of his narrator’s ‘ancient voice’, his intellectual heritage, into a mode of aesthetic representation that offers the means to think beyond intractable paradoxes of philosophy. This shift in the work’s relation to tradition marks a hiatus in literary modernism, a watershed moment whose deep and enduring significance may now be appreciated.”
“Samuel Beckett and the Visual Arts is the first book to comprehensively assess Beckett’s knowledge of art, art history and art criticism. In his lifetime Beckett thought deeply about visual culture from ancient Egyptian statuary to Dutch realism, from Quattrocento painting to the modernists and after. Drawing on a wide range of published and unpublished sources, this book traces in forensic detail the development of Beckett’s understanding of painting in particular, as that understanding developed from the late 1920s to the 1970s. In doing so it demonstrates that Beckett’s thinking about art and aesthetics radically changes in the course of his life, often directly responding to the intellectual and historical contexts in which he found himself. Moving fluently between art history, philosophy, literary analysis and historical context, Samuel Beckett and the Visual Arts rethinks the trajectory of Beckett’s career, and reorients his relationship to modernism, late modernism and the avant-gardes.”
Upon being nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969, Samuel Beckett agreed to be filmed – albeit briefly – after multiple media requests. The later colour footage was recorded while Beckett was supervising BBC productions of his work in 1982.
This month marks the publication of the twenty-seventh volume of the Journal of Beckett Studies. To access the journal, or find out more about its contents, visit the official website at Edinburgh University Press.
“In the summer of 1935, Samuel Beckett and his widowed mother, May, took a three-week road trip together in England. It is not clear whose idea it was, but Beckett, who was living in an almost destitute state in London at the time, seems to have gone along with the plan willingly enough. With his mother paying all expenses, he hired a small car and took her on what he called a “lightning tour” of English market towns and cathedral cities including St Albans, Canterbury, Winchester, Bath and Wells. They covered hundreds of miles, driving as far as the West Country and spending almost three weeks together.
Beckett described their trip together in letters to his friend Tom MacGreevy, later the director of the National Gallery of Ireland. After they reached the West Country, he told MacGreevy, their hired car struggled with the “demented gradients, 1 in 4 a commonplace” around hilly Porlock and Lynton. They decided not to spend a night in the seaside resort of Minehead: one look at it was enough. Instead, they spent almost a week in a comfortable hotel in Lynmouth, close to where Shelley was said to have stayed. From there they went on day excursions around the coast and toured the literary locations of North Devon, including the Exmoor of Lorna Doone and the bathing place of Westward Ho! on Bideford Bay, named after Charles Kingsley’s famous book.”
Samuel Beckett first published novel, Murphy, is a comic romp around 1930s London and through the ‘little world’ of the human mind. Beckett weaves together reflections on madness, spirituality, and ginger biscuits with a Swiftian satirical fervour. In a day school at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education, attendees will explore how Beckett’s own life and interests shaped the novel by reading his letters and notebooks alongside the text itself. The course takes place on 21 April 2018, and is hosted by Beckett scholar Andy Wimbush. Visit the University of Cambridge website for more information.