Writer and academic John Samuel Bolin on Samuel Beckett

“I first encountered Beckett through two novels that are not widely read, even in the university: Watt and Molloy. Simply put, these books forced me to reconsider what serious writing might look like. (I was then completing an M.Phil. thesis on T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and wisdom literature.) Beckett and the Modern Novel was written out of a desire to come to terms, if I can put it that way, with what was happening in those books.

You know that Beckett reluctantly gave a series of lectures in 1930 to students at Trinity College, Dublin, and that two main sets of notes taken by Beckett’s students survive. Re-reading Beckett’s early fiction, guided by cues drawn from the lecture notes, I demonstrated that his take on what he called ‘The Modern Novel’ was largely cribbed from a pre-existing body of theory, French in origin, and in particular from work by an unacknowledged influence: André Gide. Further, Beckett then began to deploy and extend such theory in his early novels, which generated the fragmented form and ‘tripartite’ characters that have often puzzled commentators. From the beginning then, Beckett’s thought should be read alongside a body of Continental experimental writing of the pre-war period; and it was from this context that he also drew key paradoxes culminating in his mature theory of an art of ‘failure’. It seemed to me that Gide would be the last major influence on Beckett’s novelistic theory and practice that we would likely discover (so far I have been proven correct).

The monograph also allowed me to spend time with some of Beckett’s fictional interlocutors and inheritors, particularly in the French context: Sade, Bataille, Robbe-Grillet, and others.” — John Samuel Bolin

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Samuel Beckett and the Politics of Aftermath

“[James McNaughton’s] Samuel Beckett and the Politics of Aftermath explores Beckett’s literary responses to the political maelstroms of his formative and middle years: the Irish civil war and the crisis of commitment in 1930s Europe, the rise of fascism and the atrocities of World War II. Archive yields a Beckett who monitored propaganda in speeches and newspapers, and whose creative work engages with specific political strategies, rhetoric, and events. Finally, Beckett’s political aesthetic sharpens into focus.

Deep within form, Beckett models ominous historical developments as surely as he satirizes artistic and philosophical interpretations that overlook them. He burdens aesthetic production with guilt: imagination and language, theater and narrative, all parallel political techniques. Beckett comically embodies conservative religious and political doctrines; he plays Irish colonial history against contemporary European horrors; he examines aesthetic complicity in effecting atrocity and covering it up. This book offers insightful, original, and vivid readings of Beckett’s work up to Three Novels and Endgame.”

— Oxford University Press

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Samuel Beckett and the Politics of Aftermath

Oxford University Press: “[James McNaughton’s] Samuel Beckett and the Politics of Aftermath explores Beckett’s creative responses to the Irish civil war and the crisis of commitment in 1930s Europe, to the rise of fascism, and the atrocities of World War II. Grounded in archival material, the volume reads in Beckett’s letters and German Diaries his personal response to propaganda he saw leading to war, and illustrates his creative work’s intimate engagement with specific political strategies, rhetoric, and events.

Deep into literary form, syntax, and language, Beckett reflects ominous political and historical changes, and satirizes aesthetic and philosophical interpretations that overlook them. He burdens aesthetic production with guilt for how imagination and language, theatre, and narrative parallel political techniques, the aspiration to both effect atrocity and cover it up. This book develops new readings of Beckett’s early and middle work up toThree Novels and Endgame.”

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Gare St. Lazare Ireland Perform The Beckett Trilogy

Samuel Beckett’s towering novels Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable cycle between comic storytelling by a philosophical vagrant, an elderly man lost to memory and fantasy, and a paralyzed protagonist. In this evening-length theatrical rendition featuring excerpts from these novels, preeminent Beckett interpreters Conor Lovett and Judy Hegarty Lovett offer an embodiment of this existential trinity in a profound solo performance exploring the precision of language and Beckett’s remarkably uplifting worldview.

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Conor Lovett to perform Beckett Trilogy at White Light Festival

Samuel Beckett’s towering novels Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable cycle between comic storytelling by a philosophical vagrant, an elderly man lost to memory and fantasy, and a paralyzed protagonist. In this evening-length theatrical rendition featuring excerpts from these novels, preeminent Beckett interpreters Conor Lovett and Judy Hegarty Lovett offer an embodiment of this existential trinity in a profound solo performance exploring the precision of language and Beckett’s remarkably uplifting worldview.

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