Samuel Beckett’s letters are full of the literary names he encountered through his work: authors he wrote about (Proust), poets he translated (Apollinaire), peers he monitored (Ionesco), and predecessors he admired (Joyce). But, in his non-professional life, Beckett was also an avid reader, discussing his favorite reads (and not-so-favorite) with many of his correspondents.
What did Beckett read in his spare time? These mentions from The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Volume 2 (published today!) shed some light on what was on the writer’s nightstand during the period from 1941 to 1956.
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne: “It is lively stuff.”
The Castle by Franz Kafka: “I felt at home, too much so – perhaps that is what stopped me from reading on. Case closed there and then.”
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: “I liked it very much indeed, more than anything for a long time.”
Crooked House by Agatha Christie: “very tired Christie”
Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane: “I read it for the fourth time the other day with the same old tears in the same old places.”
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Lautreamont and Sade by Maurice Blanchot: “Some excellent ideas, or rather starting-points for ideas, and a fair bit of verbiage, to be read quickly, not as a translator does. What emerges from it though is a truly gigantic Sade, jealous of Satan and of his eternal torments, and confronting nature more than with humankind.”
Man’s Fate by Andre Malraux
Mosquitoes by William Faulkner: “with a preface by Queneau that would make an ostrich puke”
Repeat Performance by William O’Farrell: “Excellent, once past the beginning.”
The Stranger by Albert Camus: “Try and read it, I think it is important.”
The Temptation to Exist by Emil Cioran: “Great stuff here and there. Must reread his first.”
The 628-E8 by Octave Mirbeau: “Damned good piece of work.”