TLS on Conversations with Beckett and van Velde

Ian Pindar reviews a new translation
Bram van Velde

Ian Pindar reviews Conversations with Samuel Beckett and Bram van Velde in last week's TLS:
In 1973 Beckett muses on the “ontological indecency” that prevented his books from being published for so long, and he also amusingly dismisses all the essays and theses on his work as “a useless form of vivisection . . . academic dementia”. Earlier, in 1968, he tells Juliet of a moment of “sudden revelation” at the end of a jetty (as recalled in Krapp’s Last Tape), yet Beckett gave strict instructions to his biographer James Knowlson to kill this canard once and for all. (“All the jetty and howling wind are imaginary,” Beckett told Richard Ellmann.) If Juliet’s interview is accurate, it would appear to be a myth of Beckett’s own making.

This is a powerful record of two isolated, intense presences. Juliet’s conversations with Beckett take up only a third of the book, and the Irishman comes across as mildly manipulative and passively domineering. Van Velde is more nervous and mentally fragile, and in terms of sheer oddness the book belongs to him. “Life is such a horror that one feels that anything can happen,” he tells Juliet. “If someone came around to shoot me tomorrow, I wouldn’t even be surprised.” [Read more]

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