Samuel Beckett: Notes
The Trilogy - plot summaries
(1955): Molloy is in his mothers room, not knowing how he got there, writing a statement in instalments which are collected each week; recalls watching two men from hill outside town, moving in opposite directions; he questions his memory and the number of occasions involved; recounts setting out to see mother on a bicycle; gives description of methods of propulsion; runs over small dog, gets arrested, and is rescued by Miss Lousse and coddled by her; escapes from her house on crutches; recalls a previous affair; finds himself beside the sea making a store of sucking stones; reflects on possible rotation of suckings stones from pocket(s) to mouth; is reduced to crawling; crawls on back [plunging my crutches wildly [
] I was on my way to my mother]; crawls through forest, ends in ditch; seemingly kills a charcoal burner. Moran, a detective, instructed by Gaber who is subordinate in turn to Youdi; gives accounts of his house, his garden and a son, whom he bullies and mistreats in various ways; also Martha, maid and cook; mentions his church and priest; heading for Bally in townland of Ballyba with his sick son; sleeps out; suffers pain in knee; sends son to town for bicycle; a man with a pale and noble face asks him for bread; suspects it could be Molloy; puts bread in different pockets; kills another man who turns up, without disclosing how; reaches Ballyba district; his son deserts him with the bicycle; Gaber turns up and orders him home; spends a whole winter on the journey; finds his bees and hens dead, and Martha gone; Then I went back into the house and wrote. It is midnight. The rain is beating on the windows. It was not midnight, It was not raining [End].
Malone Dies (1956), An old man near death, in apartment block, is writing in an exercise book; he relates stories and makes an inventory of his possessions; expresses contempt for story-telling and its tedium; introduces Sapo, the son of the Sapsocats, whose impecunious father continually thinks of getting a job; quiet boy with streak of indiscipline; throws the masters cane through window at school; mysteriously not expelled (suggesting that Malone is inventing these details); contradictions mount; Sapo has no friends but also on good terms with his little friends; he loves nature; meets the Lamberts on walk, a squalid family; Big Lambert, a pig bleeder and disjointer; the pigs are blind and feeble; Lamberts bury a dead mule clumsily; Sapo becomes Macmann, and is found again (according to Malone, who wonders how he could stick the name of Sapo for so long; Macmann becomes a vagrant; ends up in the House of St John of God, asylum for alcoholics, where he is looked after by Moll who sports with crucifixes for earrings and a carved crucifix on single tooth [cf. Golgotha]; towards the close of their idyll, Macmann writes poems about love as lethal glue; one Lemuel then tells Macmann that Moll is dead; Malones visitor gives him a blow on the head, whistling on the stairs after; Lemuel takes Macmann and others to see druid remains on an island; he kills and maims them there; the story ends with Malones implied death.
The Unnamable (1958): Where now? Who now? When now? (opening sentence); the speaker cannot be silent; he speaks out of nothing, and speaks of Malone his mortal likeness; Malone has gone past, so he is at the centre, or may be in motion instead; hears sounds; remembers visitors, though how can be be visited, being nowhere himself?; a visitor called Basil has imposed on him; Murphy, Molloy, Malone are all tracings; nothing to be said of that; the narrator is like a talking ball; believes silence would be better; Basil returns as Mahood; Mahood invents stories stories of narrators childhood, falsifying details; the narrator is a trunk ot jar near shambles opposite a steak-house, which is emptied weekly by proprietoress, using his filth on lettuces; possible identity of Mahood and Unnamable discussed; emergence of Worm, possibly a stage of development towards Unnamable; threatens (hopes) to go silent; fears to be punished; fixates on a small voice; desires to be punished; imagines he will recover senses (sight, hearing, &c; reduce to pure narrative, variable and speculative fictions (Im still in it, I left myself behind in it, Im waiting for me there, [
] perhaps its a dream [
], a dream of silence, full of murmurs); feels abandoned; feels himself carried to the threshold of his story amid self and silence, distant cries and the threatening nameless other; can he go on?: I cant go on, you must go on, Ill go on ... you must go on, I cant go on, Ill go on [End].
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Whoroscope: The Notebook held in the Reading Archives incl. notations of the physics of motion from various philosophers and physicists, as well as citations from Dante: My master leads me by another road / out of that serenity to the roar / and trembling air of Hell. (Cited by Thomas Cousineau, in Beckett and Beyond, 1991; q.p.)
Disjecta (1983), incls. letters to Thomas MacGreevy, George Reavey and Sigle Kennedy dealing with the plot and construction of Murphy (1938). Writing to MacGreevy, he speaks of the character of Murphy as involving a mixture of compassion, patience, mockery [
] with the sympathy going so far and no farther. (p.102.) Writing to Reavey of the chess game with Endon, he says: And I refuse to touch the game of chess [
] Do they understand that if the book is slightly obscure it is because it is a compression and that to compress it further can only result in making it more obscure? (p.103; both quoted in David Hollywood, UG Essay, UUC 2003.) See table of contents under Works - supra. [See extract from letter to Sighle Kennedy under Quotations, supra.]
All that Fall: Commonly given as commissioned by the BBC in 1955 and produced on 12 Jan. 1957. But see Harry Ransom Library note: On 4 July 1956 Beckett wrote to Nancy Cunard that BBC television had expressed interest in a mime [Act Without Words] and a radio play. Confessing that he had never thought about the radio play technique before, Beckett nevertheless "got a nice gruesome idea full of cartwheels and dragging feet and puffing and panting" which became his first radio play, All That Fall. It was broadcast in the BBC Third Programme on 13 January 1957, produced by Donald McWhinnie. The cast included two of Becketts favorite actors-Patrick Magee as Mr. Clocum and Jack MacGowran as Tommy The note goes ont to say - inaccurately: Two events serve as touchstones: the childhood death of the Rooneys own daughter and the death of a young girl and fellow passenger of Mr. Rooneys who either threw herself from the train or was thrown from the train, delaying its arrival. [Go online].
Echo's Bones was written in 1933 as the final story for More Pricks than Kicks (1934) at the request of the publisher Charles Prentice at Chatto & Windus, seeking to bulk the book - and then rejected by him, not to appear in print for 80 years thence. Prentice - who continued to support Beckett's writings in spite of insignificant sales - wrote to the author: It is a nightmare [...] People will shudder and be puzzled and confused; and they won't be keen on analysing the shudder. [See review by Nicholas Lezard, in Guardian, 9 May 2014 - as infra.)
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James Joyce (parodied): the rain fell in a uniform untroubled manner. It fell upon the bay, the littoral, the mountains and the plains, and notably upon the Central Bog it fell with a rather desolate uniformity. (More Pricks than Kicks, 83 [edn. supra.]; quoted in John Harrington, The Irish Beckett, 1991, p.66; cf. last sentenceof The Dead in Dubliners.) According to Harrington, Becketts story A Case in a Thousand printed in The Bookman [Irish Number] (1934), and never republished, was modelled on Joyces Mr Duffy in Dubliners.
Tom MacGreevy, friend and correspondent, appears to have supplied the inspiration for Becketts line, I wish that my love were dead ... [&c.], in his own earlier lines: I knew if you had died that I should grieve / Yet I found my heart wishing you were dead. / We loved excessively. ... (Exile, in Poems, 1934).
T. B. Rudmose-Brown: Rudmose-Brown, Becketts head of subject in French at TCD, contributed to A. J. Leventhals single-issue literary magazine of Winter 1923-24 as Sechilienne.
Brendan Behan: When Samuel Beckett was in Trinity College listening to lectures, I was in the Queens Theatre, my uncles music hall. That is why my plays are music hall and his are university lectures. [q. source.] Note that Alec Reid tells a story of Beckett bailing Behan out in prison, lecturing him on the evils of drinking, giving him a double brandy, and a hundred francs. (See All I Could Manage, More than I Could.)
Jerôme Lindon, founder of Le Nouveau Roman [the New Novel]; Grand, mince, distingué, discret, fougueux et opiniâtre; died 2001, of cancer, aged 75.
George Duhuit, the second party in Becketts dialogues - vide Proust and Three Dialogues with George Duthuit  - was an art expert and the son-in-law of Henri Matisse whom Beckett met through transition and with whom he corresponded extensively.
Jean Martin, the last survivor of the four leads in the original cast of the first production of Samuel Becketts En attendant Godot (Waiting for Godot) premiered at the 230-seat Théâtre de Babylone on the Left Bank in Paris in January 1953 died in Feb. 2009 [aetat. 86.] Guardian obit. writes:
[...] The tall and cadaverous-looking Martin, in a grey fright wig, played Lucky as a shocking image of human misery, trembling from head to foot throughout his long monologue and dripping saliva. His disturbing interpretation was inspired by watching patients with severe cases of Parkinsons disease at the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris. When he explained to Beckett that he was playing Lucky as if he were suffering from Parkinsons, Beckett mentioned that his mother had had the disease. The large, battered suitcase Lucky carried had been found in a dustbin a few days before./ The success of the play, in which "nothing happens, twice", according to the critic Vivian Mercier in the Irish Times, gathered momentum during its first run, not least because of the controversy it created. One night, the curtain had to be brought down after Luckys monologue because a group of well-dressed spectators were whistling and hooting derisively. Roger Blin, who directed the play and portrayed Pozzo, Luckys slave-driving master, teasingly described Lucky as a one-line part, albeit 700 words long, but it became Martins signature role, staying with him for the rest of his life. / Martin was born in the Berry region in central France but grew up in Biarritz, where his father worked for a chic furrier. At the start of the second world war, he went into hiding to avoid being sent to do manual labour in Germany. He later joined the resistance, as did Beckett. After the war, he got involved in the avant garde, appearing in plays by Arthur Adamov and Eugène Ionesco. / In 1960 [...] Martin was one of the signatories of the Manifesto of the 121, which called on the government to recognise the war as a legitimate struggle for independence [and] had his contract annulled [at at the state-funded Théâtre National Populaire] Went on to play Colonel Mathieu in Gillo Pontecorvos The Battle of Algiers (1966) and later appeared with Henry Fonda in the spaghetti Western My Name is Nobody (1973). He was writing a book on Beckett when he died of cancer. (See Ronald Bergan, in The Guardian, 12 Jan. 2009 - online; accessed 29.06.2014.)
John Calder, letter to the Times Literary Supplement (23 April 1964), writes: Since although the present editions of Becketts play Play state repeat play exactly your readers might be interested to hear that during the London rehearsals Beckett made a number of changes in the order of the cues so that although each actor has his lines in the same order as the light interrogates him, the light interrogates in a different order. This makes it impossible for the actors to take cues from each other but only from the light and lets us assume that on a third round many things might be different. (Cited in Stan E. Gontarski , A Hat Is Not a Shoe: The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett and Postmodern Theories of Texts and Textuality, in Beyond Beckett [Princess Grace Irish Library], Gerrards Cross:
Colin Smythe 1999.)
Mrs. Calder: John Calders wife, Bettina Jonic, has written a memoir of Beckett, giving an account of Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil (Becketts wife from 1961) and Barbara Bray (his mistress at that time), as well as covering her own affair with him. On one occasion, Calder invited Beckett and Bray to luncheon during which the two guests remained mute. Jonic opines that Beckett never annointed Bray with place or dignity. (See J.C., Beckett and blip [NB column], in Times Literary Supplement, 9 July 2010, p.32.)
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Linda Ben-Zvi, the author of Feminine Focus in Beckett, a lecture and essay noticed dismissively by NB in The Times Literary Supplement (22 Oct. 1993), was the recipient of Becketts rejoinder on the impossibility of women acting Godot: Women dont have prostates. Nevertheless, she find him feminine in his subversion of hierarchy [&c.]. The essay in question is taken seriously by Mary Bryden, who answers back: There is no reason for this malfunction alone to dictate casting (Women in Beckett, Performance and Critical Perspectives, Illinois UP 1990).
Lorna Reynolds [in Galway], writes of the launch of the unpublished poems of Samuel Beckett never seen before and now published in collaboration between Kennys and John Calder on 12th April 2002, and quotes epigraphically: Go where never before / No sooner there than there always / No matter where never before / No sooner there than there always. Further quotes Brief Dream with permission of Calder publications: go end there / one fine day / where never till then / till as much as to say / no matter where / no matter when (The Irish Times [Weekend] 13 April 2002.)
Stella Steyn (1907-1987), the Dublin-born painter, ed. Dublin Metropolitan College of Art, was sent to Paris by Patrick Touhy, and there met Joyce and Beckett, with whom she had an affair. She was also invited by Joyce to draw a series of ills. for Finnegans Wake, two of which are included in the permanent exhibition at the James Joyce Tower, Sandycove. In 1929 she participated in the first Irish exhibition of contemporary art in New York. In 1931 she joined the Bauhaus school at Dessau but stopped painting in the 1930s after her marriage to the English academic David Ros and settled in London. (See John Armstrong, Forgotten artist was modernist pioneer, inThe Irish Times, 19 Nov. 2005, Fine Arts & Antiques [sect.]; p.24.)
James Knowlson: Knowlson, the authorised biographer, is Professor of French [Emeritus] at Reading University and author of Universal language Schemes in England and France, 1600-1800. (Toronto UP 1975). Apart from editorial work in the Beckett Theatrical Notebooks series (1992-93) he edited several exhibitions at the Reading Beckett Centre and supplied the text for a collection of theatrical photographs by John Haynes (Cambridge 2003).
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Susan Howe, the American Pulizer Prize winnner, for some time believed herself to be the child of Samuel Beckett as a result of his relationshipship with her mother in the summer of 1936, but found otherwise after DNA testing, circa 2008. Beckett is elsewhere described as her childhood friend (vide John Palattella, review of Howe, The Midnight, in Boston Review: A Political and Literary Forum, 36, 6 [q.d., online - accessed 10.12.2011.) A paper by Nicky Marsh offers a comparative examination of the work of Howe and Beckett (in Samuel Beckett: Today/Aujourdhui, ed. Mathijs Engelberts, pp.239-54).
Charles Macklin: According to Stan Gontarski, the first-mooted name for Becketts novel Murphy in the earliest sketches towards it was The True-born Jackeen - a title based on that of the play by Macklin [q.v.] called The True-born Irishman.
Norman Mailer: Mailer once wrote a review of Waiting for Godot in The Village Voice, condemning it as a poem of impotence [which] appealed precisely to those who were most impotent - but without having actually seen it, according to David Mamet - and later bought a page in the paper to print a copious retraction when he had actually seen it and realised his mistake. (See Mamet, Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal, in The Village Voice (11 March 2008; available online; accessed 12.03.2015.)
See also Mailer, A Public Notice on Waiting for Godot, rep. in Advertisements for Myself, Harvard UP [1959; rep. edn.] 1992), pp.319-25:
Most of the present admirers of Godot [sic] are, I believe, snobs, intellectual snobs of undue ambition and impotent imagination, the worst sort of literary type, invariably more interested in being part of some intellectual elite than in the creative act itself. (p.321.)
[...] I assumed in advance that Godot was essentially and deeply anti-sexual, and I was wrong. It has almost no sexual hope within it, but that is its lament, that is Becketts grief, and the comic tenderness of the story comes from the resignation of that grief. So far as it is a story, it is a sad little story, but told purely. (p.322.)
—Available online at Google Books - as pdf
Peggy Guggenheim: The American heiress met her future husband Laurence Vail, as well as Helen Fleischmann who later married Giorgio Joyce, while working for a time at the Sunwise Turn bookshop in New York. After she move to Paris in 1920 she became friendly with the Joyce family and dined with them on at Foquet's in the Champs Elysee as guests of Joyce on 26 December 1937 - when she met Samuel Beckett with whom she passed the following day in bed; afterwards they went to Giorgio and Helen’s flat for drinks. Beckett, who offered to escort Guggenheim homespent the whole of the following day in bed with her, living off champagne. (See On This Day, at the James Joyce Centre website - online; accessed 19.06.2015.)
Nancy Cunard: See Patrick McGuinness, Their Mad Gallopade', review of Selected Poems by Nancy Cunard (Carcanet), in London Review of Books (25 Jan. 2018): In 1920, Cunard moved to Paris and quickly forged links with the artists and writers of the French avant-garde, as well as the city’s English-speaking expatriates and Francophiles. In 1928, she set up the Hours Press, which lasted for three years and published 24 volumes, including Pound A Draft of XXX Cantos, John Rodker Collected Poems and Laura Riding Twenty Poems Less. The press also produced Becketts Whoroscope, billed as Mr Samuel Becketts first separately published work. Cunard and Richard Aldington had announced a competition - with a prize of £10 and publication - for the best poem on TIME. The best poem not about time might have been more of a challenge, but the young Beckett, for once letting optimism get the better of him, entered with a hastily written 98-line poem, dropped off at Cunards office on the competitions last day. In a letter to Cunard from 1959, Beckett recalls that he wrote first half before dinner, had a guzzle of salad and Chambertin at the Cochon de Lait, went back to the Ecole and finished it about three in the morning. Then walked down to the rue Guénégaud and put it in your box. Thats how it was and them were the days. (Avilable online; accessed 30.01.2018.)
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Ne timere: Becketts father had a romance in young manhood with the mother of Doreen Hogan and daughter of William Martin Murphy which was terminated on denominational grounds by both their families; as Lady Chance, on marrying Sir Arthur, she became step-mother to seven children and adopted Noel Browne. [acc. Mary Campbell;
cf. Anthony Cronin, Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist, 1997, p.6.]
Dutch painting: James Knowlson remarks on the revelation of Becketts breadth of detailed knowledge of Dutch painting and other classic paintings in his German diary of 1936-37: The images in Becketts stage work bear extraordinary resemblances to image of the old masters, Rembrandt and Caravaggio in particular [
]. Further, Figures such as the Rembrandtesque duo in black costumes in Ohio Impromptu. The image in Not I was partly inspired by Caravaggios Beheading of St John. In the manuscript of Waiting for Godot, Beckett wrote KDF, a direct reference to the painting by Kaspar David Friedrich, Two Men Observing the Moon. / His memory of paintings was almost photographic. He was able to remember in great detail paintings he had not seen for many years. In one of the first of the formal interviews I did with him in 1989, for example, he described a figure peeing against a fence in a painting in the National Gallery of Ireland. he hadnt seen the painting in donkeys years. I realised he held in his mind a vast gallery of images which he was able to draw on at any point in his career. [
] Certain of [Jack] Yeatss images are identifiable in Becketts work. [
]. The figure in Yeatss Sleep, for example was probably inspirational of Rockaby. (See John Carey, feature-review of Knowlson, Damned to Fame, 1996, in The Sunday Times, 15 Sept. 1996.)
Spinoza: The epigraph of Chap. 6, Amor intellectualis quo Murphy se ipsum amat, is parody of Spinozas commentary on God combining Prop. XXXV and XXXVI of the Ethics (V, 35). Note also typographical errors in the 1963 and 1973 Edns. of Murphy incl. semed for seemed  and Clonmachnois with superfluous h .
Black Beckett: Beckett sent a letter to Thomas MacGreevy in which he writes of undertaking Surréalistes inédits for Nancys [Nancy Cunard] nigger book, commencing with René Crevels La Négresse du Bordel which he characterises as miserable rubbish. (See Phil Baker, Notice of Alen W. Friedman, ed., Beckett in Black and Red: The Translations for Nancy Cunards Negro, in Times Literary Supplement, 2 June 2000, p.7.)
Names & Places: JOHN HURT played Krapps Last Tape at the Gate Theatre (Dublin), in Sept. 2001. SUSAN SONTAG directed a production of Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo during the Serbo-Croat conflict in the Balkans [former Yugoslavia]; see David Bradby, Waiting for Godot (Cambridge UP q.d.) DONALD HOWARTH directed Godot using black actors for the tramps, and a white man for Pozzo.
Hang on!: The victim of capital execution in Becketts opening story of More Pricks Than Kicks was one Henry McCabe. McCabe was hanged by Pierrepont in Dublin after conviction, on quaky evidence, for murdering the McDonnell family and afterwards setting fire to their home La Manca in Malahide, of which he was the gardener. The bodies were recovered by the fire-brigade before the house burnt down. The circumstances and outcome of this dreadful happening on the 31st March 1926 - a house in flames and six bodies lying on the lawn! - are dealt with in Kenneth Deale, Memorable Irish Trials (1960). See Brian Inglis, Downstart (Chatto & Windus 1990), pp.30-31; see also a variant account of McCabes identity and crime suggesting that the executed man was an Irish soldier convicted for the murder of his wife and hanged on 10 Dec. 1926.
Cead Amháin: In a study of the 1955 movie that Beckett produced with Buster Keaton, Katherine Waugh and Fergus Daly called Film the greatest Irish film, remarking that the work involved a revival of [Bishop] Berkeleys philosophical outlook. For Beckett, Keaton represents a character in search of non-being, in flight from extraneous perception breaking down in the inescapability of self-perception; throughout Film, Keaton (or O) is pursued by E or camera-eye. Directed by Alan Schneider under supervision of Beckett, the film was premiered at the NY Film Festival (1959), and remade [i.e., restored] for the British Film Institute in 1979. (See Katherine Waugh & Fergus Daly, Film by Samuel Beckett, in Film West, 20, Spring 1995, pp.22-24.)
Irish Soc., Ltd.: Becketts father had nervous breakdown following a disappointment in his wish to marry the dg. of William Martin Murphy, occasioned by the religious difference between their families and views held on both sides. He married a nurse whom he met while in a Protestant nursing home [mental hospital] recovering. His intended subsequently m. Sir Arthur Chance. Acc. to a personal account, she admitted having suffered a great shock when she was brutally initiated into married life by her Sir Arthur in his surgery; later in life she confided to her own dg. that she had had a reasonably happy marriage after all. Noel Browne became a protegé of the Chances after he was sent to Beaumont by a sister.
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Self-portrait: see Becketts note on himself in George Reaveys The European Caravan (1931): the most interesting of the younger Irish writers [
] adapted the Joyce method to his poetry with original results. 
Côte de chez Murphys: When in Dublin latterly, Beckett used to stay with Mrs. Caroline Murphy, his late brothers daughter - his living brother Edward Beckett being resident in London. Mrs. Murphy said: He is the most generous, unassuming and considerate person I have known. (See the announcement of Becketts Nobel Prize for Literature in The Irish Times, 24 Oct. 1969, p.5; copied in The Irish Times, Weekend Review, 10 Oct. 2009, p.15.)
Wisden Cricketers Almanack: Samuel Barclay Beckett. Left-hand opening batsman, and a useful left-arm medium-pace bowler. Two first-class games for Dublin University against Northamptonshire in 1925 and 1926, scoring 35 runs in his four innings and conceding 64 runs without taking a wicket. (Quoted in Paul Vallely, Becketts Life Story, in Belfast Telegraph, 31 March 2006) [online].
High pressure: the determining vision or darkness experienced by Beckett took place in his mothers bedroom on his return to Ireland in 1946, as revealed to James Knowlson - and hence the importance of the opening of the Trilogy: Je suis dans la chambre de ma mère (Malone Meurt). In Krapps Last Tape, however, it is retold by the title-character as having taken place at the anemometer on Dún Laoghaire pier, where it is today marked by a plaque. (See Benjamin Kunkel, Sam I Am: Becketts Private Purgatories, in The New Yorker, 7 & 14 Aug. 2006, p.87.)
Television adaptations: Beckett on film (2000), prod. by RTÉ and Gate theatre, inspired by Gate art. dir. Michael Colgan, with directors including Conor McPherson, Neil Jordan, David Mamet, Atom Egoyan, Richard Eyre, Karel Reisz, Anthony Minghella, et al - Colgan himself directing First Love, with Ralph Fiennes.
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