Saturday, May 31, 2008


Coming to the end of a biography is always a sad prospect, given that one is fairly confident of how the narrative will conclude. We each of us come into the world in much the same way, & while there are lots of different manners in which a life can conclude, conclusion itself is pretty much inevitable.

The last 20 pages or so of Anthony Cronin's Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist make melancholy reading, but Cronin does a delicate job of balancing between presenting Beckett's last days – mostly debilitated, in a spartan nursing home, most of the friends & companions of his youth & middle years dead – as the grim endgame of perhaps the majority of us in the post-industrial west – in short, a commonplace scenario, remarkable here only for the artistic identity of the protagonist – &, on the other hand, as a kind of blackly ironical playing-out of the plots of so many of Beckett's writings: Molloy, Malone Dies, the ashbin parents of Endgame, the buried Winnie of Happy Days

1 comment:

Jim Murdoch said...

Interestingly, his friend James Knowlson only devotes four pages to Beckett's last days but the key expression he uses is that the place was "not squalid". It was basic but when you look at the room in Ussy in which he wrote it was exactly the same. And there is a lot to be said for removing distractions. I saw a photo of his room in Dublin in which he worked as a young man and it was much the same, utilitarian in extremis. He was cared for as much as he wanted to be and like so many before him – Bartók jumps to mind – he kept working right up to the end. One of the most important things, which Knowlson downplays in his biography, is the amount of time he committed to his interviews with him, setting the record straight which is why I tend to use his biography as my "bible" even though I always check Bair's (despite its flaws) and Cronin's when doing research.