By Dr Vaidehi Nathan
The Letters of Samuel Beckett Volume II : 1941 – 1956, Cambridge University Press, Pp 791 (HB), £30.00
Samuel Beckett, the Irish writer, was an icon even in his lifetime. The Nobel laureate was a playwright, novelist, literateur and much more. People from world over wrote to him. Beckett, an essentially private person had a close circuit of friends with whom he communicated regularly, freely exchanging views. The collection of his letters are so volumnous that they are being published in four volumes by the Cambridge University Press. The Letters of Samuel Beckett Volume II : 1941 – 1956 has come out recently.
Betckett wrote freely in French and English. In fact several of his works were first written in French and were translated by him into English.
Beckett (1906 – 1989) received the Nobel in 1969. Greatly influenced by James Joyce, the great Irish writer, Beckett’s works were often bleak. He is decribed variously as the last of modernists and among the first post-modernists.
Whatever be his literary ‘categorisation’ he appealed to a wide section of readers and was besseched with letters. He once wrote to his friend Tom MacGreevy, “I should have written long ago. You know how it is. I am overwhelmed with silly requests and letters most of which I feel I have to answer. Till I hate the sight of pen and paper.”
Some of the best of Beckett’s letters were written to Georges Duthuit, the renowned art historian. Say the editors of the volume, “It is to Duthuit that Beckett writes letters that bring all the elements of genius as a letter-writer together…” He also wrote to Duthuit asking him to write to him. “I find your long letter which makes up for everything, or many things, inlcuding not being drunk enough to go straight to sleep.” In another letter he wrote “Write to me, dear old friend. That is the only post I have any wish for.”
Dan Gunn, an academician is the Editor of this volume. Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, an author of works on Beckett is the Founding Editor and Lois More Overbeck is the General Editor. They both were selected by Samuel Beckett to work on his letters and other works in 1985 and met and worked with him several times before his death. George Graig Honorary Research Fellow, the University of Sussex has followed the literary life of Beckett. All are eminently suited persons to work on Beckett. The letters of Beckett is a immense contribution to literature. The volume has been laid out neatly, with separate index of reciepients, their profiles, general index, abbrevations and chronological listing of major events in Beckett’s life.
(Cambridge University Press, The Edinburg Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK)