Waiting for Cleggot: Clegg and Beckett

Academic Peter Boxall draws comparisons between the Liberal Democrat politician and the late Irish dramatist
Samuel Beckett, Nobel Prize for Literature 1969

Peter Boxall ponders the comforts that Beckett might bring to Nick Clegg, current Deputy Prime Minister in the UK's coalition government:
Beckett is not simply a harbinger of humanity's meaninglessness. He is also a lively satirist, with a keen eye on the perils and pleasures of political pragmatism.

Many of Beckett's narrators, for example, are proud of their lack of political commitment, their capacity to fit what they say to the demands of their audience.

Beckett's Malone, in the novel Malone Dies, confides that "what I like about me" is that "I can say, Up the Republic!, for example, or Sweetheart! For example, without having to wonder whether I should not rather have cut out my tongue, or said something else".

Mr Clegg might find some solace in this cheerful adaptability, as he sits at the cabinet table.

Much of Beckett's comedy comes from this depiction of the malleability of words, their refusal to mean just what they say, or to behave exactly as they should.

In Beckett's work we are often a mystery to each other and to ourselves, and our attempts to communicate only deepen the mystery.

Moran ponders, for example, on his relations with his son. "Did he love me", he wonders, "as much as I loved him? You could never be sure with that little hypocrite".

Such a distrust of the words and attitudes of others will, I imagine, stand Mr Clegg in good stead in the coalition government to come. [Read the article]

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