French Beckett and French Literary Politics 1945-52

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This essay is an initial attempt to consider Beckett’s place in the general context of the complex field of French literary politics in the years immediately after the war, in other words, the early years of the Fourth Republic The period defines itself, firstly, by the fact that, by the end of 1951, Beckett has completed L’Innommable, En attendant Godot and Textes pour rien; secondly, in that, as Margaret Atack suggests, the early 1950s may be regarded `as something of a watershed’ in French literary history, `marking the turning away from “committed literature”’; and thirdly by Simone de Beauvoir’s observation, in 1952, that `[t]he postwar period has finally finished ending’. The conviction that underlies this essay is that, other than superficially, the work that emerged from Beckett’s famous `siege in the room’ was not an expression of a humanist universalism. Nor, in the first instance at least, was it necessarily primarily an indirect rendering of Anglophone preoccupations displaced into another language, whatever the psychic necessities. Some of the concerns that powered it were immediately contemporary and French, and, though I shall not focus on linguistic detail here, its language seethes with them. Beckett’s work of the forties partly articulates a literary-political position, however subtle, ironical, piecemeal and even abstruse that position may be.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Edinburgh Companion to Samuel Beckett and the Arts
EditorsS.E. Gontarski
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780748675708 , 9780748675692
ISBN (Print)9780748675685
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014

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