‘“Irish realist”: Anthony Cronin’s “Beckett man” and the “non-novel” in Ireland’

Brian Fox

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper will discuss Anthony Cronin’s writings regarding Samuel Beckett, focusing on precisely where and how Cronin identifies Beckett as a distinctively Irish writer. The argument will be two-fold; first, it will present the anti-heroic protagonist of Cronin’s 1964 comic novel The Life of Riley as largely modelled on what Cronin later describes in his biography of Beckett, The Last Modernist, as ‘the Beckett man’ (for whom ‘enthusiasm [is] the chief enemy’), drawing on suitably Beckettian resources to reflect amid ‘vast superstructures of idleness’ on post-war Ireland; second, it will situate The Life of Riley within Cronin’s critical writings on Beckett – including A Question of Modernity: Essays on Writing with Special Reference to James Joyce and Samuel Beckett (1966), Heritage Now: Irish Literature in the English Language (1982), and his Beckett biography (1996) – in order to explore Cronin’s wider argument, stated explicitly in the preface to his biography of Flann O’Brien, No Laughing Matter (1989), that Beckett, O’Brien and James Joyce have ‘confirmed the existence of a specifically Irish kind of novel, or non-novel’. Here, Cronin identifies Beckett as an ‘Irish realist, not an Irish romantic’, and the substantive reality of Beckett’s non-novels, as such, is rooted in Ireland. The lines of connection between Beckett, The Life of Riley and Cronin’s critical writings index precisely the arguments over Beckett’s relationship with Ireland. Cronin’s appropriation of and reflection on the ‘Beckett man’ makes an implicit claim for a closer relationship to Ireland for Beckett’s writings, which he later develops in the critical writings more explicitly. This paper, then, is concerned with determining the exact nature of this claim and the historical circumstances surrounding it.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013
EventSamuel Beckett and the ‘State’ of Ireland III - University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 1 Aug 20133 Aug 2013


ConferenceSamuel Beckett and the ‘State’ of Ireland III

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