Thursday 11 June 2020

Favourite Books #14

File this one under ‘inevitable’ too, along with Ulysses. Having done a Master’s degree at one point in what is quaintly termed ‘Anglo-Irish’ Literature, I made it my business to read pretty much everything Beckett ever wrote, and kept a journal about my reading. Although I am fond of some of the more arcane corners of Beckett’s prose (Watt is an insane, singular masterpiece, and Company is oddly affecting), there is really no other choice than the Trilogy to represent Beckett. Of course, everything by Beckett is ‘singular’. Richard Ellman called his work ‘sui generis’. The marvel for me is how adventurous, and written without any fear of consequence, and certainly not written in expectation of any commercial success, so much of 20th century modernist and postmodernist fiction was. Today, visual artists, and even musicians, seem to have a much greater freedom which is not extended to prose writers, to be ‘experimental’. It is difficult to conceive that novels such as Beckett wrote, or any of the nouveau roman writers (consult John Calder’s back catalogue), would see the light of day today, unless it was independently. We have gone backwards into the future.

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