"Grammar and Style!" Beckett in Translation


beckett-letters-thWriting for Harper’s Magazine, critic Wyatt Mason examines Samuel Beckett in translation, musing over several bits, including one of Beckett’s letters, translated from German and featured in The Letters of Samuel Beckett. This letter seems to catch the eye of every reviewer that reads it, and it’s easy to see why.

“It is indeed getting more and more difficult, even pointless, for me to write in formal English. And more and more my language appears to me like a veil which one has to tear apart in order to get to those things (or the nothingness) lying behind it. Grammar and style! To me they seem to have become as irrelevant as a Biedermeier bathing suit or the imperturbability of a gentleman. A mask. It is to be hoped the time will come, thank God, in some circles it already has, when language is best used when most efficiently abused. Since we cannot dismiss it all at once, at least we do not want to leave anything undone that may contribute to its disrepute. To drill one hole after another into it until that which lurks behind, be it something or nothing, starts seeping though–I cannot imagine a higher goal for today’s writer.”

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