Misery Loves Company: The Philosophy Of Samuel Beckett

…what the artist really needs is only occasional relief from the necessary loneliness of his creative situation.

I have, for a long time, been moving slowly through an old book, THE PHILOSOPHY OF SAMUEL BECKETT by John Calder. It is hard going in places, and demanding, with, naturally enough, dated language.  But, looking back today, I find I have highlighted a lot of sentences and passages.

He saw art as an encumbrance, a deflection from a will that should be concentrated entirely on hating God.

I mean, if you have no great interest in Beckett, it’s unlikely to be for you, unless philosophy is really your thing.  It does, however, get into his method from time to time:

Above all he weeded out, in the later work, any superfluous implantations, thereby achieving a prose of maximum economy where adjectives were sparingly used and anything in the present time of the speaker that was not within eyeshot or hearing would not be present, except as memory.

And this, which I found fascinating, as a devotee of the plays:

Beckett’s rehearsal notebooks, which have been preserved at Reading University, contain the author’s drawings of the Godot stage movements in the productions he directed: cruciform designs abound, both in the walks of the characters and the crossed heaps of bodies when Pozzo falls in the second act and is unable to rise. Besides crosses, there are many circles to describe how the characters should move around the stage, and the origin of these is Dante’s concentric circles of hell. So the visual language and the spoken combine to create a new dramatic vocabulary, in its way as stylized as Chinese opera, every gesture having significance. The audience should find its initial fascination with this new non-naturalistic, sometimes balletic and mimetic, drama gradually turning into curiosity and the desire to know more, as it begins to realize the symbolical quality of the play.

Hard going, occasionally somewhat asking to be put in a corner to think about what it just said, but rewarding.

THE PHILOSOPHY OF SAMUEL BECKETT, John Calder (UK) (US)