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Samuel Beckett: the last modernist by…

Samuel Beckett: the last modernist (1996)

by Anthony Cronin

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Following close on the heels of James Knowlson's tremendous recent biography of Beckett, Damned to Fame, Irish poet and broadcaster Cronin's opus is an altogether different effort. While both start and end at the same place and are similarly lengthy, Cronin's work arrives at the writing of Waiting for Godot (1948) almost two-thirds of the way into his work, concentrating on Beckett's early "modernist" years, with excellent coverage of Vichy France; in contrast, Knowlson offers intensive focus on the writing and production of Beckett's plays. Cronin is a fluid, witty writer who does not refrain from inserting his own editorial comments into Beckett's story; nor does he idolize his subject. Beckett's liaison with Barbara Bray, who is Cronin's friend, is fully fleshed here, to the exclusion of other romances, the details of which Knowlson has reliably supplied. While Knowlson cracked every safe to fill in his portrait, Cronin conjures the spirit of the man.
2 vote antimuzak | Aug 11, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0306808986, Paperback)

Samuel Beckett has always been something of an enigma. Born and raised in Ireland, he moved to France as a young man and remained there, risking his life during the war in his work with the French Resistance. Kind, generous, and often funny in real life, his plays and novels are implacably dark, filled with despair, need, and isolation. In Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist, biographer Anthony Cronin limns a deft portrait of the great writer using Beckett's letters, early fiction, and Cronin's own acquaintance with both his subject and several of Beckett's friends in Dublin. Taken together, these sources reveal a multifaceted man.

Beckett passed through many phases on his way to greatness: a French teacher at Dublin College, a member of the Paris circle that formed around James Joyce in the late 1920s, and later an active participant in the French Resistance. The years following World War II proved a fertile time in Beckett's creative life, encompassing his transition from the autobiographical to the modernist impersonal--perhaps his greatest works. Anthony Cronin admirably balances his portrayal of the man and the artist, rendering the details of Beckett's uneventful life and his rich imagination in a way that fleshes out the man even as it celebrates the genius.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:42 -0400)

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