The Drama in the Text: Beckett's Late Fiction

By Enoch Brater | Go to book overview

Preface

The Drama in the Text is a book about the principal role of sound in Beckett's late fiction. In completing this study I have become increasingly aware of the subjective nature of the enterprise. In spite of this -- and perhaps because of it -- I have decided to forge ahead, inspired, no doubt, by the same author's "No try no fail."

Difficult to read in any conventional sense of the term, Beckett's post-trilogy fiction becomes, for this reader at least, surprisingly accessible when recited aloud. That virtue of the stubborn and enigmatic text that lies before us as if etched in stone has been a continual temptation to a growing number of theater practitioners who have transformed these hard and precise pieces into the more flexible reality of a live stage presentation. I say "text" here with some trepidation, for the more accurate term in the case of Beckett's writing is likely to be "script." The former sounds ominously monumental, even finished, while the latter makes its appeal to a theatrical sense of potential, something imminent, performable, something always on the verge of becoming each time we take words -- Beckett's words -- in hand. "On." "Nohow on." Anyhow, on.

This study represents an attempt to clarify the chameleonlike quality of Beckett's strange journey from the body of words to a voice's embodiment in words. Reader now turns Listener as the tension between text and script, the vocable and the verbal, is always in the process of writing itself down.

Beckett's fascination with the art of radio serves as a remarkable gateway to his fictional exploration of the question of voice, sound and, above all, tonality. In this mechanical medium, dedicated to the art of embodying rather than analyzing, the musicality that has always been inherent in his "text" achieves a rare spontaneity in what he once called the "rhythm of a labouring heart." Such evocative acts of enunciation transcribe words from page to electronic recording tape, then back from tape to page again, constructing a complete inventory of aural effects that

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