The dramatic and noble presence of the Noh performers ideally marked the conclusion of the three exciting, stimulating, and fruitful days of the Symposium. In conclusion, we would like to thank the participants in the Sym- posium and the contributors to this volume for their stimulating presen- tations and contributions. We also wish to extend our appreciation to the organizing committee members of the Borderless Beckett Sympo- sium: Without their support, assis- tance, and encouragement, this volume would not have been realized.
Tokyo, September One. In his writings, Samuel Beckett is a philosophical dualist. Specifically, he writes as if he believes that we are made up of, that we are, a body plus a mind. Even more specifically, he seems to believe that the con- nection between mind and body is mysterious, or at least unexplained. At the same time he - that is to say, his mind - finds the dualistic ac- count of the self ludicrous.
This split attitude is the source of much of his comedy. In the standard account, Beckett believes that our constitution is dual, and that our dual constitution is the fans et origo of our unease in the world. He also believes there is nothing we can do to change our consti- tution, least of all by philosophical introspection. This plight renders us absurd. But what is it exactly that is absurd: What is it that gives rise to Beckett's laughter and Beckett's tears, which are sometimes hard to tell apart: Beckett the philosophical satirist attacks and destroys the dualist ac- count again and again.
Each time the dualist account resurrects itself and re-confronts him. Why does he find it so hard to walk away from the struggle? Why does he persist in his split attitude toward the split self of dualism? Why does he not take refuge in its most appealing al- ternative, philosophical monism? I presume that the answer to the last question, why Beckett is not a monist, is that he is too deeply convinced he is a body plus a mind.
I presume that, however much he might like to find relief in monism, his everyday experience is that he is a being that thinks, linked somehow to an insentient carcass that it must carry around with it and be carried around in; and that this experience is not only an everyday, once-a-day experience but an experience experienced at every waking instant of every day.
In other words, the unremitting undertone of consciousness is consciousness of non-physical being. So monism does not offer Beckett salvation because monism is not true. Beckett cannot believe the monist story and cannot make himself believe the monist story. He cannot make himself believe the monist story not because he cannot tell himself a lie but because at the moment when the dualist story is abandoned and the monist story is inhabited instead, the monist story becomes the content of a disembodied dualist consciousness.
An alternative and more effective way of answering the question of why Beckett is not a monist is simply to look at propaganda for a mo- nist theory of mind. Here is William James in confident mood, ex- pounding the advantages of having a soul that is at home in the world: The great fault of the older rational psychology was to set up the soul as an absolute spiritual being with certain faculties of its own by which the several activities of remembering, imagining, reason- ing, and willing etc. But the richer insight of modern days perceives that our inner faculties are adapted in ad- vance to the features of the world in which we dwell, adapted, I mean, so as to secure our safety and prosperity in its midst.
Psychology [Briefer Course] Three. There have been plenty of people who have themselves experienced Beckett's plight, which can be roughly expressed as the plight of exis- tential homelessness, and have felt it to be a tragic plight or an absurd plight or a plight both tragic and absurd at the same time. In the latter half of the nineteenth century there were many people who, pace Wil- Eight Ways of Looking at Samuel Beckett 21 liam James, suspected either that the high civilization of the West had taken an evolutionary turn that was leading it to a dead end, or that the future belonged not to the reflective, hyperconscious, alienated 'mod- ern' type of human being but to the unreflective, active type, or both.
Cultural pessimism of this kind was still very much alive as Beckett grew up. Fascism, whose apogee he was fated to live through and suffer under, glorified the instinctive, unreflective, active type and stamped its heel on sickly, reflective types like him. What had arrived to concentrate the minds of Zola and Hardy and Huysmans and people like them was the theory of biological evolution, which by the end of the century had been taken in and absorbed by most people who liked to think of themselves as modern.
There was a continuum of life forms that linked bacteria at the one end to homo sapiens at the other. But there were also phyla that terminated, became extinct, because over-adapted. Could it be that the huge brain of homo sapiens, developed to bear the weight of so much consciousness, was an overadaptation, that mankind was doomed to go the way of the dino- saurs, or if not mankind in toto then at least the hyperreflective Western bourgeois male?
What is missing from Beckett's account of life? Many things, of which the biggest is the whale. I joined this ship to hunt whales, he says, not to pursue vengeance - "vengeance on a dumb brute [ To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous. Coetzee doubted deed - there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask.
If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me" Moby Dick, ch. Are our lives directed by an intelligence, malign or benign; or on the contrary is what we go through just stuff happening?
Are we part of an experiment on so grand a scale that we cannot descry even its outlines, or on the contrary is there no scheme at all of which we form a part? This is the question I presume to lie at the heart of Moby Dick as a phi- losophical drama, and it is not dissimilar to the question at the heart of Beckett's oeuvre.
Melville presents the question not in abstract form but in images, in representations. He can do it no other way, since the question offers itself to him in a singular image, the image of blankness, of no-image. Whiteness, says Ishmael the narrator, in a chapter entitled "The White- ness of the Whale," is "the intensifying agent in things the most appall- ing to mankind"; his mind throws up a picture of an all-white landscape of snow, of "dumb blankness, full of meaning" ch.
The question offers itself in images. Through images, even blank im- ages, stream torrents of meaning that is the nature of images. If the harpoon is cast, if the harpoon tears through the wall, into what does it tear? In the world of , the white whale is the last creature on earth on God's earth? A whale is a whale is a whale.
A whale is not an idea. A white whale is not a white wall. If you prick a whale, does he not bleed? Indeed he does, and by the barrelful, as we read in chapter His blood cannot be escaped. His blood bubbles and seethes for furlongs behind him, till the rays of the sun, reflected from it, redden the faces of his killers. It Eight Ways of Looking at Samuel Beckett 23 turns the sea into a crimson pond; it doth the multitudinous seas incar- nadine. In their white cells, Beckett's selves, his intelligences, his creatures, whatever one prefers to call them, wait and watch and observe and no- tate.
All white in the whiteness the rotunda [ Diameter three feet, three feet from ground to summit [ Lying on the ground two white bodies [ White too the vault and the round wall [ Imagination Dead Imagine All known all white bare white body fixed one yard legs joined like sewn. Light heat white floor one square yard never seen.
White walls one yard by two white ceiling [ Ping Why do these creatures not grasp their harpoon and hurl it through the white wall? Because they are impotent, invalid, crippled, bed- ridden. Because they are brains imprisoned in pots without arms or legs. Because they are worms. Because they do not have harpoons, only pencils at most.
Why are they cripples or invalids or worms or disem- bodied brains armed at most with pencils? Because they and the intelli- gence behind them believe that the only tool that can pierce the white wall is the tool of pure thought. Despite the evidence of their eyes that the tool of pure thought fails again and again and again.
You must go on. I can't go on. To Melville the one-legged man who trusts himself to the harpoon- thrust, though the harpoon fails him too to the harpoon is knotted the rope that drags him to his death , is a figure of tragic folly and maybe tragic grandeur, a la Macbeth. To Beckett, the legless scribbler who believes in pure thought is a figure of comedy, or at least of that brand of anguished, teeth-gnashing, solipsistic intellectual comedy, with inti- mations of damnation behind it, that Beckett made his own, and that even became a bit of a reflex with him until the late dawning he under- went in the s.
Coetzee But what if Beckett had had the imaginative courage to dream up the whale, the great flat white featureless front front, from Latin frons, forehead pressed up against the fragile bark in which you venture upon the deep; and behind that front, the great, scheming animal brain, the brain that comes from another universe of discourse, thinking thoughts according to its own nature, beyond malign, beyond benign, thoughts inconceivable, incommensurate with human thought?
A being, a creature, a consciousness wakes call it that into a situation which is ineluctable and inexplicable. In fact, the very notion of understanding a situation becomes more and more opaque. We make a leap. Leave it to some other occasion to reflect on what this leap consisted in. It seems to be part of something purposive; but what? Before its eyes are three black plastic tubes a metre long and nineteen millimetres in diameter.
Below each of the tubes is a small wooden box with an open top and a door that is closed but can be opened. A nut is dropped we pause to note this "is dropped," which seems to have no subject, no agent - how can that be? If the being, the creature, the ape, It, wants the nut always, in these stories of bizarre situations to which you awake, it comes down to something edible , It must open the Eight Ways of Looking at Samuel Beckett 25 correct box, where the correct box is defined as the box containing the nut.
The nut is dropped into the third tube. It chooses a box to open. It opens the third box, and lo and behold, there is the nut. Greedily It eats the nut what else is there to do with it, and besides, It is starving. Again the nut is dropped into the third tube.
Again It opens the third box. Again the box contains a nut. The nut is dropped into the second tube. Has It been lulled by habit into thinking the third box is always the lucky box, the full box? It opens the second box, the box directly beneath the second tube. There is a nut in it. The nut is dropped into the first tube. It opens the first box. The nut is in it. So tube one leads to box one, tube two to box two, tube three to box three. All is well so far. This may be an absurdly complicated way of feeding a being, an appetite, a subject, but such appears to be the way things work in the present universe, the white universe in which It finds itself.
If you want a nut, you must take care to watch into which tube it is dropped, and then open the box below. The universe is not as it may appear to be. In fact - and this is the key point, the philosophical lesson - the universe is never as it appears to be. A screen is introduced: It can still see the top ends of the tubes, and the bottom ends, but not the middles. Some shuffling takes place. The shuf- fling comes to an end, and everything is at it was before, or at least seems to be as it was before. A nut is dropped into the third tube. It, the creature, opens the third box.
The third box is empty. Again a nut is dropped into the third tube. Again it is empty. Coetzee Within It, within Its mind or Its intelligence or perhaps even just Its brain, something is set in motion that will take many pages, many vol- umes to unravel, something that may involve hunger or despair or boredom or all of these, to say nothing of the deductive and inductive faculties. Instead of these pages and volumes, let us just say there is a hiatus.
It, the creature opens, the second box. It contains a nut. It makes no sense that it should be there, but there it is: It eats the nut. It opens the third box. It opens the second box. The universe has changed. Not tube three and box three but tube three and box two. You think this is not life, someone says? You think this is merely some thought-experiment? There are creatures to whom this is not just life but the whole of life.
This white space is what they were born into. It is what their parents were born into. It is what their grandparents were born into. It is all they know. This is the niche in the universe in which they are evolved to fit. In some cases, this is the niche in which they have been genetically modified to fit. These are laboratory animals, says this someone, by which is meant animals who know no life outside the white laboratory, animals incapable of living outside the laboratory, animals to whom the laboratory, while it may look to us like white hell, is the only world they know.
Again there is an episode of something being shuffled behind the screen, which It is not allowed to watch. It, the creature, opens the second box. The creature opens the first box. That seems to be the rule. Three and three, then shuffling, then three and two, then shuffling, then three and one, then shuffling, then three and - what? It, the creature, is doing its best to understand how the universe works, the universe of nuts and how you lay your hands your paws on them.
That is what is going on, before our eyes. But is that truly what is going on? Something opens and then almost immediately closes again. In that split second a revelation takes place. It is trying to be understood lan- guage creaks under the strain how the universe works, what the laws are. Someone is dropping nuts into tubes, and doing so not idly not like a bored god but with a goal in mind: Can I link one with one, two with two, three with three? If I can, can I link three with two, two with one, one with three? If I can, how long before I can learn instead to link three with two, two with two, one with two?
And how long thereafter before the penny drops and I link each episode of invisible shuffling of tubes with a revolution in the laws by which the universe works? This is not a meaningless universe, that is, it is not a universe without rules. But getting to understand the rules of the universe counts for nothing, in the end. The universe is interested not in what you can un- derstand but at what point you cease to understand. Three with three and two with two and one with two, for instance: Coetzee Let us call him God or Godot, the little God.
How much can this God, with his nuts and tubes and boxes, find out about me, and what if any- thing will be left that he cannot know? The answer to the first question may not be knowable, though it does seem to depend on how tireless his interest in me may be, on whether he may not have better things to do with his time. The answer to the second question is clearer: God thinks I spend my time waiting for him to arrive with his apparatus for testing my limits.
In a sense he is right: I am in the cage in which, as far as I know, I was born. I cannot leave, there is nothing for me to do but wait. But I am not seriously waiting for God. Rather I am occupy- ing time while I wait for him. What God does not understand is this "not seriously" with which I wait for him, this "not seriously" which looks like a mere adverbial, like 'patiently' or 'idly' - I am patiently waiting for God, I am idly waiting for God - not a major part of the sentence, not the subject or the predicate, just something that has casu- ally attached itself to the sentence, like fluff.
God believes I am a body and a mind, miraculously conjoined. With my body I eat the nut. Something happens, and the nut, either the idea of the nut or the fact of the nut in the stomach, triggers a thought: Understand one-two-three, get more nut. It amuses God to think that is what happens, to think that the miracle that is to say the trick of conjunction allows him to use a nut get the mind to work. God reflects in passing that conjoining a body with a mind was one of his more inspired ideas, his more inspired and funniest.
But God is the only one who finds it funny. The creature, It, I, the laboratory animal, does not find it funny, except in a grim Beckettian way, be- cause the creature, It, I, does not know it is a body and a mind con- joined. Applicants should hold at least an honours degree in Italian, said the advertisement. The successful Eight Ways of Looking at Samuel Beckett 29 candidate would spend most of his time teaching Italian for beginners.
Perks would include six months of sabbatical leave every three years, and a contribution toward the expense of travel, by ocean liner, to and from the old country. The advertisement appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, where it was seen by T. Rudmose-Brown promptly contacted one of the better students to have graduated from his department and sug- gested that he apply. The student in question, S.
Beckett, by then thirty-one years old, followed Rudmose-Brown' s suggestion and sent in an application. Whether the application was seriously intended we do not know. We know that at the time S. Beckett had ambitions to be a writer, not a language teacher. On the other hand, what writing he did brought in no money; he was living off handouts from his brother. So it is not incon- ceivable that penury might have forced his hand.
It is not inconceivable that, if offered the job, he might have knuckled down and made the journey to the southernmost tip of Africa, there to instruct the daughters of the merchant class in the rudiments of the Tuscan tongue and, in his spare time, loll on the beaches. And who is to say that among those daughters there might not have been some sweet-breathed, bronze- limbed Calypso capable of seducing an indolent Irish castaway who found it hard to say no into the colonial version of wedded bliss?
And if, furthermore, the passage of the years had found the erstwhile lecturer in Italian language advanced to a professorship in Italian, perhaps even a professorship in Romance Languages why not? The laconic letter of application S. Beckett wrote in has sur- vived in the University of Cape Town archives, together with the letter Rudmose-Brown addressed to the selection committee in support of his candidacy, and an attested copy of the testimonial he had written when Beckett graduated from Trinity College in In his letter Beckett names three referees: He lists three publications: Coetzee Rudmose-Brown's testimonial could not be more enthusiastic.
He calls Beckett the best student of his year in both French and Italian. Tate, adds his support. The lectureship went to a rival whose research interest was the dialect of Sardinia. Because Kafka does not fit, we say. True, artists do not easily fit or fit in, and, when they are fitted in, fit uncomfortably. Such a short word, 'fit,' three letters, one syllable, yet with such unexpected reaches. But Kafka, we feel, exhibits misfit of a higher order than other artists. Kafka is the misfit artist himself, the angel Misfit. He would fit no bet- ter behind a lectern than behind the counter of a butcher shop, or punching tickets on a tram.
And what would Professor Kafka teach, anyway? How not to fit in? How to make a living as a specialist in not fitting in, as one can make a living as a specialist in not eating? Yet the fact is that Kafka was a perfectly competent insurance adjuster, respected by his colleagues at the Workmen's Accident Insurance Company, 7 Pofic St, Prague, where he was employed for many years. Do we perhaps underestimate Kafka - underestimate his competence, his versatility, his ability to fit it?
Are we misled, perhaps, by the fa- mous photographs of the man, with the brilliant, dark eyes that seem to Eight Ways of Looking at Samuel Beckett 31 bespeak piercing insight into realms invisible and to hint that their owner does not belong in this world, not wholly? It helps to be lean, and Beckett was as lean as Kafka. It helps to have a piercing gaze, and Beckett had his own variety of piercing gaze. Like photographs of Kafka, photographs of Beckett show a man whose inner being shines like a cold star through the fleshly envelope.
But soul can shine through flesh only if soul and flesh are one. If soul and flesh be- long to distinct realms, and their conjunction is an everlasting mystery, then no photograph will ever tell the truth. Beckett's Radical Finitude Steven Connor Beckett has been made the centrepiece of what might be called a contemporary aesthetics of the inexhaustible, which assumes the sovereign value of endless propagation and maintains a horror of any kind of limit. Having perhaps helped in some of my previous work to recruit Beckett to this aesthetic, I argue in this paper that Beckett is in fact a writer who is governed by the principles of limit and finitude, principles that are in fact both philosophically more pro- vocative and politically more responsible than the cult of endless exceeding that has attached itself to Beckett.
They told me I was everything. King Lear Modern philosophy has become at once violently allergic and pathol- ogically addicted to the question of limits in general and its own limits in particular. One might say that the exercise of modern philosophy, like the conduct of modern scientific enquiry, has been preeminently the overcoming of limits - limits of ignorance, confusion, incapacity. Since Nietzsche, philosophy has been a matter of strenuous exceeding and overgoing.
In contemporary philosophy, nothing succeeds like excess. The only way to do philosophy, especially if, as some, in apoca- lyptic mood, have wondered, philosophy may be near to being over, is to overdo it. A philosophy of limit never quite arrives: This idea is implicit in the very word 'limit,' which 36 Steven Connor derives from Latin limen, 'threshold,' which implies that to go to the edge may always promise the possibility of going beyond - otherwise how would one know it was the edge?
And yet, the 'liminology,' the fact that, as David Wood has said, "philosophy has an essential relation to the question of limits, and its own limits" xv , includes the queasy awareness that the desire of triumphantly overcoming limits is itself a cramping ambition, one that must therefore in its turn be overcome undercome, one might impossibly have to say.
Two Finitudes What is meant by finitude? Finitude first names that which is destined to end, rather than to endure - or rather it names the attempt to accom- modate oneself to that necessity. The principal and overwhelming form of finitude for Heidegger, from which many philosophical considera- tions of finitude take their point of departure, is the condition of zum Tode sein or 'being-towards-death' that is a distinguishing feature of Dasein and imparts its tension and tincture to the whole of life.
There are subsidiary forms of finitude, or being-towards-ending. As is well-known, or at least unignorable, which is not quite the same thing, Beckett is drawn to the endingness of things in general. Where an ordinary reader might wonder 'what happens next?
The finitude of mortality seems like an arbitrary, incomprehensi- ble violence to the cheerful ego that means to live forever and goes on living as though it thinks it will. But the finitude of death also offers an abatement of empty time, the possibility of the sense of an ending in a world in which nothing otherwise can ever finish becoming.
The one kind of finitude presents itself as a scandal and a disaster, the cankering of all human projects; the other may present a tantalising prospect of consummation. Beckett's work compounds these two aspects of fini- tude in the use of interruption. Beckett's finite world is always subject to interruption, which can, of course, thwart the movement towards completion.
But Beckett will sometimes borrow the force of interrup- tion, seeking to synchronise with it, for example, with his fondness for unexpected, or apparently arbitrary, forms of breaking off: Beckett's Radical Finitude 37 A recurrent quibble in Beckett concerns the question of how com- plete any apparent ending can be. That finitude does not always coin- cide straightforwardly with mortality is made clear by the fact that death itself is so indefinite in Beckett's work - one can suffer from being dead, but not necessarily "enough to bury" , 7.
One might recall, too, the little moment of perplexity that furrows Molloy's account of his difficulty in getting his mother to understand the meaning of the four knocks he imparts to her skull: She seemed to have lost, if not absolutely all notion of mensura- tion, at least the capacity of counting beyond two. It was too far for her. By the time she came to the fourth knock she imagined she was only at the second, the first two having been erased from her memory as completely as if they had never been felt, though I don't quite see how something never felt can be erased from the memory, and yet it is a common occurrence.
This is a worry that ending may itself be limited, that it may not be definitive enough to cancel out the blot of having been, which may persist, unexpunged, unretractable and, perhaps worst of all, revivable. So much, roughly speaking, for the finitude of mortality. This gets me into the vicinity of another idiom of finitude, which will, in fact, be the one on which I will be concentrating. This finitude means the ines- capability of limit or restriction.
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The emphasis here is not on coming to an end, but on falling short, on deficiency rather than mortality. Fini- tude signifies a kind of privation in the heart of being, an awareness of the ever-present possibility of loss, and the looming necessity of death, which means that one is never "quite there," as Beckett said of M in Footfalls, and prevents one living wholly in the here and now.
This aspect of finitude makes it hard to distinguish absolutely from indefi- niteness. Finitude comes up short of the definite. This mode of finitude overlaps with that of temporal finitude, since, after all, death is often experienced, or represented, as just such a limit or arbitrary curtailing. Finitude here means not the certainty of coming to an end, but the cer- tainty of ending unfinished, dying, as we all must, before our time.
Finitude means embeddedness, the im- possibility of ever being otherwise than at a specific place and time, en situation, in a specific set of circumstances that cannot be discounted or set aside as merely incidental - "the life of Monday or Tuesday," in Virginia Woolf's words , which must nevertheless have been writ- ten on one day of the week or other.
As Philip Larkin madly asks in his poem "Days": Perhaps we might say that finitude names the coiled conjuncture of these two contrasting aspects, the lack or insufficiency that haunts being at its heart, and the irreducible excess of beastly circumstance in which we are always embedded. Comedy is often implicated in this thinking of and at limits. This is nicely illustrated by Beckett's allusion to Jackson's parrot, which utters the words, "Nihil in intellectu" , , but refrains from, or stops short, before what Beckett calls "the celebrated restriction" - quod non prius in sensu.
The joke depends upon the fact that the bird seems to be saying, not that there is nothing in the mind that has not first been in the senses, but that there is nothing in the mind at all. But, since the bird is restricted, or restrains itself, from delivering the restric- tion, this leaves open the possibility that the mind might have unre- stricted access to other things, things other than those which come to it through the senses the idea of 'nothing,' for example. But Beckett's account includes, by allusion at any rate, the restriction that the bird does not allow, inviting us to see the rhyme between what the bird does and doesn't say and the fact that it is a bird saying it and so not really 'saying' it at all.
Parrots, and the philosophical popinjays who unthink- ingly parrot slogans like this, may indeed have "nihil in intellectu," nothing in their minds at all, because everything that they say will be a matter only, and exclusively, of the sensible, with nothing of the intelli- gible. Comedy often arises, or at least coincides with this ironic interfer- ence of finitude and infinitude.
This suggestion is assisted by Freud's Beckett's Radical Finitude 39 diagnosis of the economic basis of the joke, which works by first estab- lishing a restriction or inhibition, and then relaxing its pressure: So we find Beckett offering us a unique taxonomy of jokes, not in terms of their modes, objects or success, but in terms of their periods of expiry, yielding the distinction between jokes that had once been funny and jokes that had never been funny.
I am helped to my intent with regard to Beckett's finitude by Jean- Luc Nancy's characterisation of what he calls "finite thinking. Nancy calls it a "being -to itself [that] no longer be- longs to itself, no longer comes back to itself 8. So a finite thinking "is one that, on each occasion, thinks the fact that it is unable to think what comes to it" Finitude here means incapacity to achieve com- pletion, deficiency, shortfall - a singularity that refuses to be general- ised, a hie et nunc never to be promoted to an anywhere or anywhen.
There is no "consolation or compensation" in this kind of finitude, writes Nancy consolingly enough, one might feel: Going along with Nancy would give us readily enough the Beckett of intemperately renewed failure, of infinite sus- pension or deferral of finality - a Beckett who might therefore strike us as suspiciously congenial, because too readily familiar. This If finitude means having to inhabit the inhibited condition of a self that does not come back to itself, Nancy also maintains that finitude means cleaving to the hie et nunc of that which is not taken up into factitious infinitude.
A kind of its own: Only in 40 Steven Connor the actuality of the moment can the irreducible passage - the moment mined with a motion - be grasped immediately, though this is to say, never on time, always prematurely or too late. Living in the moment is supposed to give intensity, decision, or calm, depending, because it is supposed to relieve the mind of distractions - the protractions of the past and the attractions of the future. But those distractions are of course part of the finitude of living in time, part of the constitution of the fabled moment.
So living in the moment must also include the ex- perience of the nonappropriability of the moment. The only way to live in the moment is not to seek to grasp it, which is to say to miss it.
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One cannot both be and have the here and now, because of the here and now's finitude, which is actual and indefinite. Indefinite, because unfin- ished and inappropriable by itself, as seems to be demonstrated by Krapp's Last Tape, when the old man K3 listens to the ringing tones of the younger man he once was K2 affirming that he has no need of anything now but the incandescent present: Not with the fire in me now" , K2 is limited, finite, in not knowing what he will become, as we, and the later Krapp K3 will know it.
Yet nobody else can in- habit this finitude as only he can that is what finitude means , which means that nobody else can inhabit his uninhabitability of his now, precisely because his finitude is unfinished business until it is disclosed by the attention of K3 or rather his inattention, since he is listening out for something much more important in his past. This is another reason why finitude can never be definitive. If K2 could have pulled it off, he would have achieved the kind of finite thinking that Nancy describes, one that "on each occasion, thinks the fact that it is unable to think what comes to it" But he could only think this in general, in terms of an abstract preparedness for what the future may not bring, rather than any here-and-now finitude.
Beckett does not merely seek to acknowledge finitude, he sometimes seems to want to appropriate it, to take its meas- ure, to encompass it absolutely and without restriction and so: But the finitude of the here and now does not belong to it: Beckett's master and semi-begetter Joyce also had a preoccupation with the capture of the indefinite definiteness of the here and now, which he called "epiphany.
Duns Sco- tus's word for this is haecceitas, usually translated as 'thisness,' the thing that defined what something was in itself, distinct from all others. But Beckett has a different sense of the haec; indeed, the very word seems to focus and carry his finitude. The last published work that Beckett ever wrote funnels down through this word, this thisness, which is now as far away from the unstinting apparition of being cele- brated in Hopkins and Joyce as it is possible to be. And yet, precisely because the referent of 'this' is not 42 Steven Connor contained in it, nor ever can be if 'this' is to retain its power to desig- nate whatever lies to hand, to bring whatever it designates into the con- dition of the close-at-hand, 'this' will never be enough to name what it conjures.
This, this "this," the "this this here" of "What Is the Word? I and some of my kind have devoted hours of long and more-or- less honest toil to showing the ways in which Beckett's work dissolves the claims of presence. Today, I feel more inclined to protest that what characterises Beckett's work is the effort to find his way to a presence, though a presence denuded of all determinations, its traditional, infini- tive attributes - of permanence, essence, adequacy-to-self; a parched, patched, penurious presence. Difficilis facilis My work is a matter of fundamental sounds no joke intended , made as fully as possible, and I accept responsibility for nothing else.
If people want to have headaches among the overtones, let them. And provide their own aspirin. Hamm as stated, and Clov as stated, together as stated nec tecum nec sine te, in such a place, and in such a world, that's all I can manage, more than I could. This notorious statement, made in a letter to Alan Schneider of , has become a canonical nut that must ceremonially be cracked, an im- pediment ritually swerved around, like the dreaded centre of the square in Quad, if criticism of Beckett's work is to proceed, and it must, it must.
But let us take note of what Beckett seems to be saying here. The first thing to note is that the 'as such' on which Beckett insists is insuf- ficient, finite - it is "all I can manage, more than I could" and perhaps I am not alone in finding that 'could' oddly suspensive, as though it were a modal which lacked the word which would complete its sense - 'more than I could have hoped for,' 'more than I could, once'? It is sometimes assumed by the hopefully indolent that Beckett is saying that there is nothing for exegesis to do, that criticism and interpretation are useless and indulgent superfluities, adding complexity to a work that has no need of it, because it is so simple, straightforward, and thus self-interpreting.
They are, of course, given support for this by the fact that, a moment earlier in the letter, Beckett has suggested that he and Schneider "insist on the extreme simplicity of dramatic situation and Beckett's Radical Finitude 43 issue. If that's not enough for them, and it obviously isn't, or they don't see it, it's plenty for us" qtd. Even here, there is diffi- culty. To allow the extreme simplicity of the words themselves, to let them be "as stated," one would have to take care not to find anything to notice in the phrase "extreme simplicity"; why not simple simplicity, and leave it that - why the need to take simplicity to extremes, the need for simplicity to be 'plenty'?
There is no simplicity that is truly single, with no wrinkle of implication in it. And Beckett folds a bit of exegetical opportunity in what he writes. That nec tecum nec sine te, referring presumably to the impossi- bility for Hamm and Clov either of living with or living without each other, requires annotation for one not completely incurious or familiar with the epigrams of Martial: In fact, Martial may himself borrow the phrase from Ovid's "nec sine te nec tecum vivere possum" 1.
The phrase has the seesaw that Beckett liked: Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned"; "I will neither help nor hinder you". But it also names the predicament of conjoined contraries, in which opposites are inextrica- bly implicated in each other. Beckett may well have thought that exege- sis was folly, but this is not what he says here. The nec tecum nec sine te may also hint that, just as Beckett cannot work in the theatre without the help of a director, cast and crew, he cannot expect his work not to provoke exegesis, which he can therefore neither live with nor without.
What he says here is that he refuses to be involved with critical inter- pretation, and takes no responsibility for easing its passage; and says this precisely because this would loosen the lock of the predicament he is attempting to state, both with extreme simplicity and "as fully as possible. In other words, this is not an at- tack on the practice of criticism, but an attack on its linking with what- ever it is that he is doing, in forming the 'matter' of his work. For Beckett to become involved in exegesis would be for him to loosen the very tension of the non-relation that is his relation with criticism, sim- plifying the difficulty of the nec tecum nec sine te.
Beckett certainly at times nursed violent fantasies of 'giving the works' to critics and other interpreters of his work who had gone to 44 Steven Connor work on him - he wrote to Schneider a little later that he dreamed "of all German directors of plays with perhaps one exception united in one with his back to the wall and me shooting a bullet into his balls every five minutes till he loses his taste for improving authors" qtd. But I think his austere apartness preserves the possibility of a certain kind of company.
I recently heard Sophie Calle speaking about her work at the Riverside Studios. Somebody from the audience asked a long, formidably thoughtful and intelligent question about the relations that might obtain between her work and theories of mourning and melancholia. The supplicant finished his epic enquiry by asking, "so, do you think your work can be seen in these terms, or is it just me? Sophie Calle was asking her interlocutor to take respon- sibility for his interpretation, was refusing to pretend to lift herself and him out of finitude, the condition of amidness in the work she made, and whatever was to be made of it.
This is rough comfort and difficult ease indeed. The point of Beckett's finitude is to resist being drawn out the literal meaning of 'exegesis' into validation, promotion, authorisation, exculpation, ex- plication - into public relations. Hence perhaps the "incoercible ab- sence of relation" of which Beckett spoke , , his disinclina- tion to have a relation to himself or any subject other than being of or amid it - "Je ne peux pas ecrire sur" I can not write about , he wrote in to Georges Duthuit qtd.
What is important for Beckett is finding a way of interested being, be- ing inter esse, not the compound interest formed in the afterlife of ex- plication. Beckett lived in a period in which the pressures to infinitise, to lubricate the issueless predicaments of finitude, had already begun to multiply massively.
In his time, and ours, Beckett's work has been sub- ject to huge amplification and enlargement - across genres, media, languages and cultures. He has been made the centrepiece of what might be called a contemporary aesthetics of the inexhaustible, which assumes the sovereign value of endless propagation and maintains a horror of any kind of limit. Beckett found himself, as part of his own historical finitude, having to invent, always anew, ever in the middle of the way, the means of his abstention from this infinitising.
Beckett's Radical Finitude 45 The Progress of Alimentation Perhaps the most obvious embodiment of the factitious infinite is the internet, whose claims to illimitability are often based upon the multi- plicative power of its links: The internet presents a pseudo-infinity of relations, a literalisa- tion of Henry James's insight in the preface to Roderick Hudson that "really, universally, relations stop nowhere" vii.
One of the ways in which, for all his easy assimilability to the in- terests of the internet, Beckett remains jaggedly indigestible, is in the antagonism to linking. It is not too much to say that there is a horror of universal association that matches the horror of eternal life in Beckett. Perhaps the most obvious and difficult form of finitude in Beckett's work is its insistence on distinction, exception, apartness.
A convenient method of disposing of this would be to suggest that it belongs to a neurotic and dominative desire to protect essence against accidence, where essence underpins the power of ruling minorities, traditional elites. But what are we to make of a finitude that will not relinquish the essence of accidence, the irreducibility of an essence reduced to that, to this, to 'this'? Bion's essay "Attacks on Linking" has frequently been brought to bear on the work of the writer he had analysed twenty years before.
I have myself considered it in more detail than I have time or need to recapitulate here Connor Bion follows Melanie Klein in seeing in certain schizophrenic patients a reversion or fixation at the stage of projective identification, during which the young child will tend to split off good and bad objects from one another - typically, the good and bad breast.
Despite being split off, however, these fragments are still available to the subject to form a relation with, unless, as Bion believed might happen in certain psychotic conditions, that very re- maining link is itself subject to angry denial and dissolution Beckett's attacks on linking do not have the Kleinian function of keeping good and bad safely quarantined from each other.
Rather they arise from a more obscure and general horror at the collapse of defini- tions, and the prospect it seems to open of a universal equivalence that is in fact a condition of maximum entropy. The problem is that the one who pushes the attack on linking to its limit, insisting on absolute non- correlation, is liable to turn instead to a kind of atomisation which is functionally indistinguishable from a world of universal equivalence.
Maximal combina- bility is imaged in Mr Knott's stew made of all manner of good things; maximal nonrelation is signified in the emetic or anorexic relationship to food - for example in the fiercely stinking cheese favoured by Be- lacqua Shuah in More Pricks than Kicks, which seems to allow him to remain aggressively distinct from his food even as he consumes it There is no doubt that the recoil from links does at times reach phobic proportions for Beckett. But it does not necessarily preclude sociality or enjoin asocial or atomistic solitude.
For Beckett, relation is only possible with distance and differentiation, everything else threat- ening incorporation or appropriation. As Heidegger somewhat grudg- ingly acknowledges, and Hans-Georg Gadamer more fundamentally insists, a primary form of human finitude is our Mitsein, or being-with- others: The genuine meaning of our finitude or our thrownness consists in the fact that we become aware, not only of our being historically condi- tioned, but especially of our being conditioned by the other. Precisely in our ethical relation to the other, it becomes clear to us how difficult it is to do justice to the demands of the other or even simply to become aware of them.
The only way not to succumb to our finitude is to open ourselves to the other, to listen to the 'thou' who stands before us Gadamer, But this is no simple, self-evident, or merely given company. It is difficult ease: Unborderless We think that the given, limited, actual world is what presses most sti- flingly upon us, and that it requires strenuous exertion or careful vigi- lance to break the fascinating grip of facticity, in order that we can pro- ject ourselves into possibility, futurity, transcendence, infinity - or what Badiou calls "the happiness of a truthful arousal of the void" Fi- niteness, we dream, is the merely given, infinity that which is made or imagined in excess of the given.
But it is in fact the realm of the given, or the so-called self-evident, that is most intractable to human thought. We find it almost impossible to grasp or coincide with this realm of the given, the incontinently-renewable once-and-for-allness of every in- stant, the statute of limitations of every project. Our apprehension skeeters off the actual into whatever might prolong or retard it, making what shift we can, through fantasy, religion, literature, commerce, to remit its finitude.
Beckett's Radical Finitude 47 I spent the first half of my sentient life pointing to everything in Beckett that seemed to qualify, complicate, defer or infinitise - all the near-misses, failures of correspondence, 'vaguenings,' temporisings, that seem to tend towards infinity - and trying to loosen the adherence to finitude that haunts that work everywhere. My first book on Beckett attempted to negate the closure of repetition, prising open its fist to show the various forms of inexhaustibility that characterise his work. That work, though necessary, at one time, if only for me, now seems to me in the light of an evasion, an attempt to turn unwisely tail from the exacting penury of the finite in Beckett's work.
Nancy quotes a warn- ing from Heidegger against this evasion: If it is posited as finite, it is then that its absence of ground is affirmed" qtd. Among the many unique accomplishments alleged by human be- ings of themselves is their capacity to grasp the inescapability of their own deaths. On the contrary, the great human sickness is infinitude, the incapacity to seize finitude seriously and sustainedly. It is not just that we do not take seriously the 'one day' of abstract death; it is that we find it almost impossibly hard to apprehend the limited and finite nature of the lives we live every day, the fact that we can live only the life we can live, "in such a place and in such a world" qtd.
To say that Beckett's work constitutes a radical finitude is to say that it strives to permit itself the very least remission it can manage from this awareness of always having to live, move and have its being "in such a world" "on such and such a day" Beckett , 8 , never in the world in general, or 'as such.
One might add to this the lexicon of the illimitable that has flourished in philosophy and criticism. This lexicon includes, but is not restricted to, 'jouissance,' 'the semiotic,' 'difference,' 'the immaterial,' 'the differend,' 'flow,' 'the impotential,' 'desire,' and, of course, and, the original perhaps of these many assumed names, 'life. Some of the rare moments of saturated calm in Beckett's work come from this refusal of deported being, the acceptance of the only 48 Steven Connor possible towards which all things hobble: Then in that perfect dark foreknell darling sound pip for end begun.
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Grant only enough remain to devour all. Moment by glutton moment. Sky earth the whole kit and boodle. Not another crumb of carrion left. Lick chops and basta. Grace to breathe that void. Know happiness" , Alain Badiou sees rare moments like this as 'events,' that serve both to dissolve and to infinitise the subject that is otherwise pent in its finitude: The Two, which is inaugurated by the encounter and whose truth results from love, does not remain closed in upon itself.
Rather, it is a passage, a pivotal point, the first numericality. This Two con- stitutes a passage, or authorises the pass, from the One of solip- sism which is the first datum to the infinity of beings and of ex- perience. The Two of love is a hazardous and chance-laden medi- tation for alterity in general. It elicits a rupture or a severance of the cogito's One; by virtue of this very fact, however, it can hardly stand on its own, opening instead onto the limitless multiple of Being.
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The event opens on to the unde- termined nature of things, constituting a break in the chain of determi- nations. The event exposes the subject to the privation of being un- or under-determined - confronted by the il y a, with only that to go on. For Badiou and Lyotard, events are both rare and exemplary, and thus at least potentially consequential: But events in Beckett are neither rare nor consequential. Every new moment renews, without deepening, exposure to finitude.
Beckett's finitude is radical in this sense, that it casts no shadow, inaugurates no series. Fini- tude has no syntax; it is perseverance without project. This accounts for the power of repetition, the awareness of 'that again,' the epiphany that Beckett's Radical Finitude 49 shows and gives rise to nothing, and yet recurs, paratactic, a privation deprived of improvement. It is this which makes it a "finite thinking" in Nancy's sense.
SearchWorks Catalog Stanford Libraries. Catalog start Subject "French fiction. Toggle facets Refine your results. At the Library 1, Online 1, On order 1. View Normal Gallery Brief. Sort by relevance relevance new to the Libraries year new to old year old to new author title. Olivier, Georges, [Tunis? L R66 Unknown. Le jeune homme vert . Description Book — pages ; 18 cm. E J48 Unknown. Pagnard, Rose-Marie, Lausanne: Editions de l'Aire, c Description Book — p. A S26 Available. C34 R6 Available. Autour des Cent nouvelles nouvelles: Description Book — pages ; 22 cm.
C33 A98 Unknown. James Joyce and the nineteenth-century French novel . Amsterdam ; New York: Joyce and the 'pas mal de siecle' Coilin Owens: The Elliptical Adultery of Ulysses: The Opposite of Despair: Inverted Volumes and Fantastic Libraries: Ulysses and Bouvard et Pecuchet Scarlett Baron: Nielsen Book Data The essays of this volume show how Joyce's work engaged with the many upheavals and revolutions within the French nineteenth-century novel and its contexts. They delve into the complexities of this engagement, tracing its twists and turns, and reemerge with fascinating and rich discoveries.
Drawing from the wide range of Joyce's writings - Dubliners, A Portrait Nielsen Book Data The attraction of things: English Lewinter, Roger, author. Description Book — pages ; 19 cm. Summary The Attraction of Things concerns the entirety of beauty and the possibility of grace, relayed via obsessions with rare early gramophone records, the theater, translation, dying parents: E A Unknown.
The proof ; The third lie . Selections Kristof, Agota author. R55 A6 Unknown. Shipwrecked on a traffic island: English Colette, author. O28 A2 Available. We are the birds of the coming storm . English Lafon, Lola, author. Description Book — pages ; 24 cm Summary We Are the Birds of the Coming Storm is a wild novel that oscillates between fiction and reality. The story centers on two young women: Voltairine, a dancer who no longer dances but whose body is still haunted by the movement of dance, and her soulmate Emile, a young woman recovering from unexpected cardiac arrest.
The girls are inseparable, and both their lives have been shattered by the horror of rape. The opening of the dreamlike novel sets a bleak stage as Voltairine watches Emile lying in a hospital bed, her temperature dropping to dangerous levels. Voltairine is filled with sorrow and faces the blunt reality that her soulmate is going to die, chronicling each minute in her diary.
However, Emile ultimately survives the attack. Later, at the cinematheque, Voltairine and Emile meet a young girl, whom they call "the little girl at the end of the lane, " who is obsessed by the Haymarket Affair of She's an odd girl, obsessed with words, scribbling pages of notes throughout the movie screenings. She helps draw the pair out of their state of painful helplessness, and eventually the trio openly rebels against the newly elected oppressive regime of barbarian kings who rule their society. We Are the Birds of the Coming Storm explores repression, revolt, and madness, telling a story that is not only revolutionary but also cautionary-of three women who let their spirits fly like birds as the daunting storm ascends.
A36 N Unknown. San-Antonio [ - ].