The Drama in the Text: Beckett's Late Fiction

By Enoch Brater | Go to book overview

4
The Performative Voice

In Lessness1 Beckett's words would will themselves into being, if they only could find the right sound. Here a replication hysteria, if not a replication catastrophe, is aggressive and systemic, like some deft computer virus suddenly gone mad. Phrases like "I wrote that story" and "I read that book" don't quite sum up the writer-reader relationship so persuasively set in motion. Based on a fidelity to the processive nature of sound and mood and language, "something" is indeed "taking its course." 2 Things are simultaneously "over" and "unover" (as in Ping), yet hey repeat themselves over and over like letters in a genetic alphabet. Spare but eloquent, neither vague nor overdetermined, sentences are focused and rich in implications. Words hurtle past one another, collide, or try to avoid collision, gently, firmly, warily, or confidently. And consistent with this work's deliberate ambiguity, each confrontation between language and sound resembles a struggle with some unknown force.

Lessness features the many lives of a sentence, an image, a word, and a sound. As in Krapp's Last Tape, where the playback rebroadcasts and recontextualizes the rending passages we have heard only moments before, language in this case revisits its own integrative elements, each one rethought and retooled. Every sound has sounded before; every sound will sound again; every echo seeks its double. Every listener hears it differently every time around. "We know it by heart," sighs a sentimental Stenographer in Rough for Radio II, "and yet the pang is ever new." 3 There are the -less words, the -ness words, and the -lessness words, but "true refuge" remains always "issueless." Defying explication but not categorization, such language resembles a system of musical notation much more than what we have conventionally thought of as prose fiction; music is so deeply ingrained within this verbal process that it acquires a passionate inevitability of its own:

Ruins true refuge long last towards which so many false time out of mind. All sides endlessness earth sky as one no sound no stir. Grey face

-90-

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The Drama in the Text: Beckett's Late Fiction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface ix
  • Contents *
  • 1 - Still Beckett 3
  • 2 - Acts of Enunciation 14
  • 3 - The Play of Language 58
  • 4 - The Performative Voice 90
  • 5 - Trios and Trilogies 106
  • 6 - Posthumous Voices and More Stirrings Still 145
  • 7 - Dire Comments on Comment Dire 164
  • Notes 175
  • Selected Bibliography 209
  • Index 219
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