23 juillet 2007

I didn't know our cows too could be so inhuman.

"Beckett’s poetic war fictions fuse a curious literalism with the Mallarmean principle that to name is to destroy. To use words like war, Vichy, Resistance, Auschwitz, and atom bomb would inevitably be to short-circuit the complexity of the experiences in question. Not for a moment does Beckett engage in the usual clichés about the horrors of war; not for a moment does he assume moral superiority or the knowingness (“I” or “we” versus “them”) that makes so much war writing problematic. To analyze how such a war could ever have occurred is not, in any case, the poet’s purpose. In actual life, Beckett went to work for the Resistance on ethical instinct rather than dogma, so in his fictions he takes his responsibility to be that of showing rather than the making of ideological points. Hence the extreme ellipsis, indirection and indeterminacy of the tales—an indeterminacy that allows the reader a good deal of space."

Essential criticism is the kind that opens up new worlds in a work, that shows you things you didn't see before. Marjorie Perloff's "In Love with Hiding": Samuel Beckett's War situates an ostensibly abstract series of works -- Waiting for Godot, "The Expelled," "The Calmative," and "The End" -- in a web of direct political contexts and meanings that opens up the significances of Beckett's ellipses and silences. "Essential" is not high enough praise for this essay. For anyone who's read, or heard of, Samuel Beckett or Waiting for Godot.

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