Friday, January 01, 2010

`The Crazy Bit Was Irish'

More than 20 years have passed since the death of Samuel Beckett on Dec. 22, 1989. “Birth was the death of him,” he’d written, and his passing coincided with the Iron Curtain’s, a convergence he might have enjoyed. Seven years earlier, Beckett had dedicated a new play, “Catastrophe,” to Václav Havel, then a political prisoner in Czechoslovakia. Roger Boylan has published a fine remembrance of the Irish writer in Boston Review and gets him better than most:

“But even in his bleakest writings, even in the daunting Trilogy, that barren Purgatorio, some passages are buboes of the craziest and most bilious humor ever created. The crazy bit was Irish, like the gibberings of Mad King Sweeney. The bilious part was French, the scathing laughter of Rabelais. God is unfair, complains the superstitious Irishman. God does not exist, declares the rational Frenchman. Beckett unites them in Endgame into Hamm’s exclamation, `The bastard! He doesn’t exist!’”

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