Reader’s Corner: Beckett and Terror

With his bleak sketch fictions and disembodied existential plays, Samuel Beckett feels about as removed from the muck and mire of daily human life as you could get. That’s why it’s fascinating to read this opening to Fintan O’Toole’s piece in the New York Review of Books about Beckett’s political conscience:

In April 1962, Samuel Beckett sent a clipping from the French press to his lover Barbara Bray: a report of the arrest in Paris of a member of the Organisation armée secrète. The OAS was a far-right terror gang whose members were drawn largely from within the French military. It had carried out bombings, assassinations, and bank robberies with the aim of overthrowing the government of Charles de Gaulle and stopping the concession of independence to Algeria. Among its targets had been Beckett’s publisher and friend Jérôme Lindon, whose apartment and office were both bombed by the OAS.

Then there’s the punch line:

The press clipping detailed the capture of an army lieutenant who would be charged with leading an OAS attack on an arms depot outside Paris and a raid on a bank in the city. His name was Lieutenant Daniel Godot.

Always good for a laugh, that Beckett.

Writer’s Desk: Write to Write

In 1953, writer Aidan Higgins sent Samuel Beckett one of his short stories, hoping for some feedback. Beckett sent a long, constructive, and very generous critique.

As part of his response, Beckett included this aside:

Work, work, writing for nothing and yourself, don’t make the silly mistake we all make of publishing too soon.

Publishing too soon might seem like a small price to pay for getting one’s work out there—what struggling writer would complain? But Beckett’s advice is solid, nonetheless: Best to first be satisfied with what you’ve written before you send it out into the world.

Readers’ Corner: Samuel Beckett’s Boat

beckett1Well, not literally. A cursory glance at Samuel Beckett’s biography does not indicate any particular love for sea or boats, though there is an annual Beckett festival in Enniskillen where at least one performance can only be reached by boat.

But never mind, because even though Beckett was no great joiner or lover of institutions, the Irish government has gone ahead and named a warship (OPV, or offshore patrol vessel, technically) after the author of Waiting for Godot.

According to the Irish Times, the LE Samuel Beckett was completed in April and was commissioned at a special ceremony in Dublin in May. It will eventually be joined by a second patrol vessel, the LE James Joyce. Hopefully the two can prowl the Irish Sea together in elegant futility, crews pensively pondering the waves and composing quatrains in dead languages…