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The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume 2, 1941-1956

by Samuel Beckett

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The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Volume II: 1941–1956 is, like its predecessor, a model of editorial diligence and inspiration. The scholarly apparatus is impeccable. The range of citations of sources boggles the mind—is there anything these Four Masters have not followed up and tracked to its lair? And what a marvel the translator, George Craig, has wrought. Even a glance at a page of one of the letters to Duthuit brings on dizziness—Beckett’s handwriting more and more aspired to the condition of the straight line—but Craig makes his way every time from end to end of the high wire with deceptive ease and aplomb. As he tells us elsewhere, he is Irish, “and familiar with Beckett’s world, above all with the paths by which his linguistic idiom, in both English and French, had evolved.” No author, no letter-writer, could have been better served.
 
This second of four volumes, annotated with generous and attentive scholarship, is markedly different in tone from the first, which included letters written between 1929, when Beckett was 23, and 1940...

The first years covered in the volume are ones of serious poverty and remarkable creativity. During the war, half of it confined to a village in Unoccupied France, Beckett writes Watt, in some ways the most extraordinary of his novels and the last to be written in English.
 
For Letters 1941–1956 the editors have selected only 40 per cent of the total available – though it contains more letters than the earlier volume, to a greater number of people. The fact is that Beckett wrote more letters and, the editors point out, “had more correspondents in the post-War period, and more of his letters were kept”. This time, we are told, selection was more straightforward, as “there is much more work produced in these years, and Beckett is concerned in his letters with little else . . . . There remain only a very few letters which the editors would have included but which were not approved”. For readers, what matters is the way in which a given letter has bearing on the work, or what kind of bearing it has.
 
The heartwarming quality of these letters, and not just those to Duthuit, is Beckett’s trust in his own experience. The more he drove himself to theoretical exactitudes, the more he acknowledged the claim of his own verities.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0521867940, Hardcover)

This second volume of The Letters of Samuel Beckett opens with the War years, when it was often impossible or too dangerous to correspond. The surge of letters beginning in 1945, and their variety, are matched by the outpouring and the range of Beckett's published work. Primarily written in French and later translated by the author, the work includes stories, a series of novels (Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable), essays and plays - most notably Waiting for Godot. The letters chronicle a passionately committed but little known writer evolving into a figure of international reputation, and his response to such fame. The volume provides detailed introductions which discuss Beckett's situation during the War and his crucial move into the French language, as well as translations of the letters, explanatory notes, year-by-year chronologies, profiles of correspondents and other contextual information.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:10 -0400)

This second volume of The Letters of Samuel Beckett opens with the War years, when it was often impossible or too dangerous to correspond. The surge of letters beginning in 1945, and their variety, are matched by the outpouring and the range of Beckett's published work. Primarily written in French and later translated by the author, the work includes stories, a series of novels (Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable), essays and plays - most notably Waiting for Godot. The letters chronicle a passionately committed but little known writer evolving into a figure of international reputation, and his response to such fame. The volume provides detailed introductions which discuss Beckett's situation during the War and his crucial move into the French language, as well as translations of the letters, explanatory notes, year-by-year chronologies, profiles of correspondents and other contextual information.… (more)

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