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WHAT IS THE WORD

by Samuel Beckett

for Joe Chaikin

folly –
folly for to –
for to –
what is the word –
folly from this –
all this –
folly from all this –
given –
folly given all this –
seeing –
folly seeing all this –
this –
what is the word –
this this –
this this here –
all this this here –
folly given all this –
seeing –
folly seeing all this this here –
for to –
what is the word –
see –
glimpse –
seem to glimpse –
need to seem to glimpse –
folly for to need to seem to glimpse –
what –
what is the word –
and where –
folly for to need to seem to glimpse what where –
where –
what is the word –
there –
over there –
away over there –
afar –
afar away over there –
afaint –
afaint afar away over there what –
what –
what is the word –
seeing all this –
all this this –
all this this here –
folly for to see what –
glimpse –
seem to glimpse –
need to seem to glimpse –
afaint afar away over there what –
folly for to need to seem to glimpse afaint afar away over there what –
what –
what is the word -what is the word
.

From: Grand Street, Vol. 9, No. 2, Winter 1990, pp.17-18, N.Y.

Samuel Beckett (1906-89)

Some related reads:

To liberate the modern theatre, Beckett first liberated himself from over-dependence on ordinary language, abandoning mimesis to the invention of a unique idiom, the very grammar of which is different from that of everyday speech. No-one speaks quite like Beckett’s characters do, not because the playwright has got it wrong, but because he has given up the holy grail of realism altogether.

From: Beckett and Pinter: towards a grammar of the absurd, by B.S. Hammond, Journal of Beckett Studies, No. 4, Spring, 1979.

I don’t think I am mistaken when I say that the literary work of Beckett parallels the evolution of painting of the last 70 years or so, and his own interest in painting is evinced by his profound essays on abstract expressionism and the work of Bram van Velde, Masson, Kandanski, Tal Coat, Jack Yeats, Avigdor Arikha and others, in which essays he insists on what he calls the dual confrontations of l’objet-obstacle and l’oeil-obstacle.

What he means is that the object itself prevents us from seeing it clearly, and that the eye itself is an obstacle to clear perception of the object. Beckett calls this “the agony of perceived-ness”, which he exemplified so well in the film he made appropriately called Film, starring Buster Keaton. This agony of perceived-ness brings us back to the definition Beckett gave of language: Language is what gets us where we want to go and prevents us from getting there. Language as a vehicle of communication and as an obstacle to communication.

If it is true, as I hope I have shown, that Beckett’s work parallels that of painting, one could also better appreciate the entire oeuvre of Beckett by following the evolution of music over the past 70 years, and of course the same applies to the evolution of philosophical thought and criticism during this same period. The work of Beckett can be understood in the light of Bergson’s Evolutionism, Heiddeger’s Phenomenology, Sartre’s Existentialism, Foucault/Levi-Strauss/Deleuze’s Structuralism and Derrida’s Deconstruction.

Emphasis belongs to author; adapted from original lecture by Raymond Federman for The Samuel Beckett On-Line Resources website.

Also came across a fantastic list of works and resources at A Piece of Monologue.

One thought on “Beckett’s Word

  1. Pingback: Beckett on Film. | scrapaduq

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