The titles of Samuel Beckett’s two early novels show a taste for salaciousness and provocation that did not disappear in later years, and led to his being expelled from the family home and censored in Ireland. If obscenity became more subdued afterwards, and if sexuality tended to disappear from an increasingly abstract universe, sex, of an often crude kind, is a recurring feature of the Beckettian text. As for sexuality, in its normative version, it is systematically thwarted by the powerlessness and horror of procreation displayed by Beckett’s male characters, whose sexual behaviour “deviates” from the heterosexual paradigm (anality, onanism).
Sex questions the relationship to the other, as a sexual partner and in its gendered dimension. But this relationship is not a straightforward one in Beckett. Before the trilogy, female characters are essentially derealized (either through idealization or belittling, see Mercier, Bryden, Ben-Zvi, McMullan), while male characters are devirilized (Bjørnerud). Moreover, the question of connection and autonomy, central to the fiction and even more to the theatre, is experienced in sexual encounters with particular acuteness. The promise of a union, or even of fusion with the other, stumbles against an impossibility that feeds the melancholy of many characters. Considering that the sexual act is both material and spiritual, it can be traumatic but is also a source of humour and comedy.
We announce the upcoming Samuel Beckett Society conference, to be held in Spain from 9-11 May 2019; Catherine Fahy contributes an essay/review of György Kurtág’s operatic adaptation of Endgame; James Brophy reviews the recent Beckett and the Nonhuman/Beckett et le Non-Humain conference in Brussels, while Eleanor Green reflects on the most recent Samuel Beckett Society annual conference. José Francisco Fernández reviews Anthony Cordingly’s recent volume, Samuel Beckett’s How It Is: Philosophy in Translation; Amanda Dennis takes a look at Jean-Michel Rabaté’s Think Pig!; and Michael Coffey assesses James McNaughton’s recent monograph, Samuel Beckett and the Politics of Aftermath.
There are tributes to George Craig, who died in March of this year. His colleagues on the editorial team of The Letters of Samuel Beckett reflect on the loss of a dear friend and colleague, while Gabriel Josipovici shares the eulogy that was delivered at Craig’s funeral service.
Finally, this issue shares a rich number of theatre reviews from across the world.
An announcement from the University of Reading: “We are delighted to announce the Mary Bryden Studentship in Beckett Studies at the University of Reading. Supported by an endowment from our colleague Professor Mary Bryden’s Estate, the Ph. D. studentship offers an annual subsistence stipend of £10,000 for 3 years full-time study, or part-time equivalent. The scholarship will also cover full UK/EU tutorial fees, or will make a contribution to overseas fees.”
The Samuel Beckett Society seeks panelists engaging with these three different aspects of the question of ‘being human’ in Beckett: 1) The politics of humanism; 2) The human and technology; and 3) The human and the non-human.
Authorised Beckett biographer James Knowlson shares a previously unpublished interview with John Beckett; Feargal Whelan talks to writer, director and translator Marek Kedzierski about the beckett@111 festival; and much, much more.
The Samuel Beckett Society is soliciting nominations for two new Executive Board Members.
Any member in good standing will be able to provide ONE nomination: the SIX most popular nominations will go out for ballot two weeks ca. after the nominations.
Two members will be elected to start office in January 2019. The member with the majority of votes will be Vice-President for two years and then succeed to the Presidency. Duties of the newly elected Executive Board Members will entail: communicating with members and managing the membership list, collaborating with other members of the Executive Board, contributing to the organization of the annual conference and the MLA sessions, and collaborating with editor of the Beckett Circle.
Board members serve a period of a four year term. All members are eligible to stand election.
To nominate yourself or someone else, please send along the name and email of the nominee.
Nominations should be sent by 15 December 2018. Elections will be held shortly thereafter.
“The Samuel Beckett Society conference which is taking place in Mexico City next week is providing the inspiration for various initiatives to promote the study and appreciation of the author in the region. Among the most important, and potentially most influential, is the creation of a non-profit organization to coordinate all things Beckett within the country. Conference organizer Luz María Sánchez Cardona explains the idea behind the initiative: ‘It will be called Beckett.Mexico and it will draw in information on all performances, seminars and activities throughout the country.’ She explained that the organization would not be based in any one institution but would operate as a general hub for all those interested in maintaining a connection with the author, both inside and outside the academy. While the specific details of the organization are to be announced during the conference and formalized in its wake, Luz was keen to advertise a particular component of the project and make a direct appeal to attendees next week. ‘One big problem we have is access to books.’ For many reasons, academic texts relating to Beckett’s work are thin on the ground. ‘Whenever I’m abroad in Great Britain, or Denmark say, I always try and bring new texts back with me’, she adds. ‘We want to build a resource of as many books as possible which can allow access to all of those attached to the non-profit organization.’ With this in mind she is appealing to conference attendees to bring a book and donate to the project. Initially, books which would be donated would be housed on permanent loan to a dedicated area in the library of the Universidad Autónoma Metripolitana, Lerma until a suitable space is acquired for the Beckett.Mexico project.
The aims of the Samuel Beckett Society include the promotion of scholarship and understanding of the works as widely as possible. A project which helps scholars in any way, particularly in new places of interest, must be a good thing. We urge all those attending to think about supporting the cause by finding room in their luggage for an extra book if at all possible.”
The Samuel Beckett Society is sad to learn of the death of French literary critic Pascale Casanova, familiar to many Beckett scholars as the author of Samuel Beckett: Anatomy of a Literary Revolution. Our thoughts are with her family during this difficult period.