I am doing a deep dive into Samuel Beckett, and I feel that I must come up for air. I can’t go on, but I must go on.
I just finished reading The Unnamable, the third novel in the trilogy after Molloy, and Malone Dies. There have been about 20 years intervening between each reading and I have read a lot of other books since including other works by Beckett.
The Unnamable is the story of the self that strives for silence but is obliged to go on. It is about three things: The inability to speak, the inability to be silent, and solitude. It is full of internal contradictions, doubt, and paradoxes.
I keep coming back to Beckett because something about his work resonates. Not only that but I came across an interesting tome by Paul Foster that analyzes Beckett’s work in terms of the “dilemma” presented in his work through the lens of Zen Buddhism. Wow! That is what I said. So, I read The Unnamable in preparation for Beckett and Zen, by Paul Foster.
One of the dilemmas alluded to in Beckett and Zen is the doctrine of grace: grace given, and grace withheld. St. Augustine tells the story of the two thieves that are crucified with Christ, one is saved, and the other is damned. How can we make sense of this division Beckett wants to know? There is a scene in Waiting for Godot where this theme is played out by the characters Vladimir and Estragon.
Then there is the dilemma of human reason confronted by an outrageous relentless irrationality, a universe giving birth to the spectacle of life, of which the main feature is suffering and death.
There is the problem of time which leads to decay and into the abyss. Personal identity and isolation and need I say, alienation?
Distress is at the heart of Beckett’s work which arises from a mental and spiritual confusion resulting from the recognition of the dilemma of existence.
The problem of God. Does God exist? If He does is He an all-loving God or a monster? And what about the Silence of God? Why don’t we hear from Him?
Beckett refers to a fundamental sound resounding in the universe that can only be described as a howl of pain.
That is enough for now. I think I have caught my breath and can now emerge from this rabbit hole that I seem to have fallen into and get about my day.
Thanks for reading.