Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Samuel Beckett: An Unpublished Fragment

I can no more travel to Sligo than I can walk.

Beckett's words, yes. From where, I'll tell you later. But suppose it was typed out on a piece of paper. We didn't yet know whether a fiction or a fragment of autobiography, or a text in itself. It would be enough to permit speculation. Someone might say: Sligo, is of course Yeats country. The Beckettian creature can no more accept all that mythic Celtic landscape than he can leave the mute suffering body. Remember, this someone says, that when Beckett was asked about Yeats's influence he replied 'You mean Jack?'. 'Sligo' - a certain version of Ireland - is no longer available. The landscape may be resonant with certain dry ghosts, but it is, in Beckett, stripped of its mythic inscriptions.

In fact, then: in 1988 I attended a literary summer school in Sligo. Several of Beckett's plays were performed, and we listened to the entire radio plays, saw Film and Quad. The organizers, out of courtesy, and trying their luck, sent a letter to Beckett inviting him to attend. He replied with a postcard: 'I can no more travel to Sligo than I can walk'.

Remove this explanation, and we have an enigmatic fragment, attractively delphic, extravagant with connotation. But let this 'removal' stand as a kind of parable as to the birth of 'literary' language.

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