With Samuel Beckett

Introduction:

At the suggestion of loyal readers Nicolas Pineau and Gregory Seagle, I plunged headlong into this daunting assignment of tracking down and meeting with this most difficult, shy and reticent of modern literary giants. The very prospect of my speaking personally with this truly canonical Irish-born playwright, poet, French tax-payer, dramatist, biographic journalist, stamp collector and dog owner (border collie bitch) filled me simultaneously with terror and wild anticipation. I procrastinated for weeks before trying to secure an appointment in time. Finally I resolved to follow through and, after at least a thousand telephone calls (for some reason, the line was always busy) to Beckett’s modest but handsome study at 38 boulevard Saint-Jacques, a charming person claiming to be ‘Mr. Beckett’s personal assistant and invisible friend’ answered the telephone and spoke with me. It was agreed that I could indeed come to conduct the interview and that I could stay as long as I like, provided I come immediately, bring my own cigarettes and smoke them only sparingly. “Ah, que vous avez raison!”, I said to myself (unofficially) as I hung up the phone, remembering the disastrous result of my copious cigar smoking during my interview with Marcel Proust in 1922, even though I was only in my teens at the time!

At Mr. Beckett’s friend’s insistence, the agreed upon rendezvous was at a nearby cafe whose out-of-doors tables stayed Waiting for GodotGitanesopen all winter. After a quick trip to the kiosk and newly provisioned with a fresh packet of Gitanes, I went to the cafe, sat down and ordered two cups of coffee to prepare for his arrival and to bolster my courage, all the while tolerating odd stares from the proprietor. Beckett arrived only slightly later than expected, sat down and finished his coffee. We left the cafe and I followed the taciturn écrivain past the Sofitel, down the boulevard and up the oddly familiar stairs, hoping that my own effervescent personality would not overwhelm this orphic prophet of comic gloom and burlesque despair, leaving me to fill my note pages with only the dotted ellipses of silence, of unhearable laughter and weeping. Not to worry! I thought he’d never shut up! I can’t recall ever having such an agreeable subject. Page size constraints limit our publication to only fragments of our absolutely delightful banter.

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INTERVIEW:

  1. Breaking the Ice

Beckett:   Talking here.

Beckett:   Please God, not.

Beckett:   Smoking.

Beckett:   Not now, no.

Beckett:   Gitanes.

Beckett:   No, but yes.

Beckett:   I went to the kiosk for …

Beckett:   We had coffee.

Beckett:   Before the interview …

Beckett:    Interview? No, no one is interviewable. Gerard, Franz, all those puppets made me waste my time when I should have talked to myself alone. But I shall now be interviewed at last in spite of all …

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  2. Dad

Beckett:                                It was Dad!

Beckett:                               Dad!

Beckett:                                It was you!

Beckett:                               You! In Ireland, in Dublin, in Renvyle.

Beckett:                                Old times, oh, so old!

Beckett:                               Can’t remember! You?

Beckett:                                Mom? Dad? In New York, in California.

Beckett:                               Dad! 1964. He made faces, Dad. We filmed.

Beckett:                                Remember!

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  3. Krapp’s Last Fancy

Beckett:   Just been listening to that stupid bastard I took myself for thirty years ago, hard to believe I was ever as bad as that. Thank God that’s all done with anyway.

Beckett:   The eyes she had! The eyes she had! (Loreena McKennitt)

Beckett:   Everything there, everything on this old muckball, all the light and dark and famine and     feasting of … the ages! Yes! Let that go! Jesus! Take his mind off his homework! Jesus!

Beckett:   The eyes she had!

Beckett:   Ah well, maybe he was right. Pah! Nothing to say, not a squeak. What’s a year now? The sour cud and the iron stool? Reveled in the word spool. Spooool! Happiest moment of the past half million. Seventeen copies sold, of which eleven at trade price to free circulating libraries beyond the seas. Getting known. One pound six and something, eight I have little doubt.

Beckett:   The eyes she had!

Beckett:   Crawled out once or twice, before the summer was cold. Sat shivering in the park, drowned in dreams and burning to be gone. Not a soul. Last fancies. Keep ’em under!

Beckett:   The eyes she had!

Beckett:   Scalded the eyes out of me reading Effie again, a page a day, with tears again. Effie … Could have been happy with her, up there on the Baltic, and the pines, and the dunes. Could I? And she? Pah!

Beckett:   The eyes she had!

4. We’ll Move In Together, We’ll Go Dancing

Beckett:   Do you recall 1953?

Beckett:   Will you dance with me?

Beckett:   Like we danced before?

Beckett:   Whirl with me?

Beckett:   Leaves across the forest floor!

Beckett:   A love like fire!

Beckett:   But cooled by December.

Beckett:   Return, we’ll burn forever!

Beckett:   What remains? Rotting roses!

Beckett:   Dusty dreams, the bones of who we were.

Beckett:   Like the snow; where did you go?

Beckett:   I thought I’d left forever!

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  5. Needling Haystacks Calhoun

Beckett:   That wrestling match in Harrisburg.

Beckett:   Can’t go back there.

Haystacks Calhoun vs. Beckett

I must go on.

Haystacks Calhoun Sits on Beckett

I can’t go on.

Dad?

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  6. Remembering …

Albert Schweitzer at Lambarene

Beckett:   Dad?

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  7. The Parting Glass

Beckett:   Do you have any more money?

Beckett:   Not a sou!

Beckett:   Well, I suppose that’s it, then.