53. Who are you, Mr. Beckett?

In a 1964 response to an inquiry from his Hungarian publisher, Europa Konyvkiado, Samuel Beckett gives a handy thumbnail sketch not only of his career but of his character:

“As a writer I have no feeling of any national attachment. I am an Irishman (Irish passport) living in France for the past 27 years who has written part of his work in English and part in French. The following plays were written in French:

  • ‘En attendant Godot’
  • ‘Fin de Partie’
  • ‘Actes Sans Paroles I & II’

and the following in English

  • ‘Cascando’
  • ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’
  • ‘All That Fall’
  • ‘Embers’
  • ‘Words & Music’
  • ‘Happy Days’
  • ‘Play’

“If you should see fit to include one of the latter in your British anthology and one of the former in your French I should be pleased. If this is not possible and a choice must be made, I should prefer to figure in your French anthology.”

While this isn’t quite so pithy as Beckett’s retort to a French journalist on the question of his being English (“Au contraire”), it does nonetheless give the gist of his contrarian, and often contradictory, personality. / Paul Muldoon, New York Times 14.12.

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