The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume 3, 1957-1965by Samuel Beckett, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Lois More Overbeck
This third volume of The Letters of Samuel Beckett focuses on the years when Beckett is striving to find a balance between the demands put upon him by his growing international fame, and his need for the peace and silence from which new writing might emerge. This is the period in which Beckett launches into work for radio, film and, later, into television. It also
This third volume of The Letters of Samuel Beckett focuses on the years when Beckett is striving to find a balance between the demands put upon him by his growing international fame, and his need for the peace and silence from which new writing might emerge. This is the period in which Beckett launches into work for radio, film and, later, into television. It also marks his return to writing fiction, with his first major piece for a decade, Comment c'est (How It Is). Where hitherto he has been reticent about the writing process, now he devotes letter after letter to describing and explaining his work in progress. For the first time Beckett has a woman as his major correspondent: a relationship shown in his intense and abundant letters to Barbara Bray. The volume also provides critical introductions, chronologies, explanatory notes and profiles of Beckett's main correspondents.
In the third volume of this landmark project, the editors offer an expertly assembled selection of Beckett’s letters written between 1957 and 1965, ably supported by copious footnotes and explanatory text. Many are presented first in the original French and then in English, into which they have been translated for the first time. The sheer volume of letters collected here testifies to Beckett’s deep engagement with the theatrical world and his need to thrive “on the intensity and multiplicity of his connections.” The Beckett who is revealed is the opposite of a recluse—he is always meeting friends, attending arts festivals or theater productions, or traveling back and forth between his homes in Paris and Ussy-sur-Marne. He is most relaxed with longtime mistress Barbara Bray, to whom he wrote revealing, intimate, and touching letters. Yet it is his work that dominates his time and correspondence. Endgame premiered in 1957, Krapp’s Last Tape the following year, and all the while productions of Waiting for Godot and other plays were spanning the globe. At one point Beckett writes of a recent memoir, “I dislike all this personal stuff,” but readers will find much to like when allowed into Beckett’s personal life. (Oct.)
Erica Mihalycsa, Babes-Bolyai University
"In the third volume of this landmark project, the editors offer an expertly assembled selection of Beckett's letters written between 1957 and 1965."
"Superb ... as with earlier volumes the editorial work on display here is of a very high order."
"Readers get an extraordinary insight into the mind of arguably this country's best playwright."
"The third volume is as impeccably and as lovingly edited as its predecessors ... As always, George Craig's translation of the letters in French is clear, elegant and always inventive - particularly felicitous, for instance, is his rendering of the French slang term mézigue as 'My Nibs'. Beckett would have loved it."
"The volume like its earlier companions is a work of meticulous scholarship and has to be counted a major achievement by Cambridge University Press."
"Among all the tawdry showbiz memoirs now crowding the shops, here is greatness, words to take to heart, the book of the year."
"A beautifully wrought publication and thanks to its four editors it has an artistry all of its own."
"... magnificent and accessible, this collection will be cherished by scholars, but lovers of theater will appreciate it, too."
"The first two volumes have been critically acclaimed, and this one is a breathtaking feat, providing new insight into Beckett's personal life and working process."
The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Wonderfully unbuttoned and, in places, intimate and endearing."
"The most significant literary correspondence of its time."
"The best letter anthology this year and by quite a margin ... This is not only thanks to Beckett's mesmerising writing and wonderful turn of phrase but also because the book has been meticulously and perfectly edited."
Shaun Usher, The Big Issue
"Beckett's Letters are a joy to read."
The London Magazine
"George Craig's essay on translating Beckett and his translation of the letters Beckett wrote in French are a wonder of tact and ingenuity. In addition, Dan Gunn provides a thoughtful overview. ... I am sure that what is to come will be as good as what we have here, for it is now clear that Beckett is never going to dry up and, indeed, that he is that rare sort of writer who grows younger as he ages."
The Times Literary Supplement
These letters—edited by Craig (Honorary Research Fellow, Univ. of Sussex), Martha Dow Fehsenfeld (coauthor, Beckett in the Theatre), Dan Gunn (comparative literature and English, American Univ. of Paris), and Lois More Overbeck (research associate, Emory Univ.)—written in the bloom of Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett's (1906–89) success as an author, are as much of a treasure as the man who wrote them. By 1957, Beckett's play Waiting for Godot was an international success and his Fin de Partie (Endgame) was published later that year. The letters reveal that with success Beckett's life changed. Want it or not, he was a celebrity involved in the publication and production of his works. Two strains appear in the missives contained in this volume. One is chit-chat; the writer connecting with friends, praising colleagues, and encouraging young authors. He comes across as vivacious, chatty at times, and generous to a fault. The other strain is his obsession with his writing, which never ceased. Beckett was never satisfied, not even with success. VERDICT Magnificent and accessible, this collection will be cherished by scholars, but lovers of theater will appreciate it, too.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Meet the Author
George Craig, Editor and French Translator, is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Sussex.
Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Founding Editor, was authorized by Samuel Beckett to edit his correspondence in 1985.
Dan Gunn, Editor, is Professor of Comparative Literature and English at The American University of Paris.
Lois More Overbeck, General Editor, is a Research Associate of the Laney Graduate School, Emory University.
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