Think, Pig! Beckett at the Limit of the Human

Think, Pig! Beckett at the Limit of the Human

Think, Pig! Beckett at the Limit of the Human

Think, Pig! Beckett at the Limit of the Human

Synopsis

This book examines Samuel Beckett's unique lesson in courage in the wake of humanism's postwar crisis--the courage to go on living even after experiencing life as a series of catastrophes.

Rabaté, a former president of the Samuel Beckett Society and a leading scholar of modernism, explores the whole range of Beckett's plays, novels, and essays. He places Beckett in a vital philosophical conversation that runs from Bataille to Adorno, from Kant and Sade to Badiou. At the same time, he stresses Beckett's inimitable sense of metaphysical comedy.

Foregrounding Beckett's decision to write in French, Rabaté inscribes him in a continental context marked by a "writing degree zero" while showing the prescience and ethical import of Beckett's tendency to subvert the "human" through the theme of the animal. Beckett's "declaration of inhuman rights," he argues, offers the funniest mode of expression available to us today.

Excerpt

Although Samuel Beckett was the only writer I was eager to meet when I was a student in Paris, I never dared approach him, so great was the awe he inspired. In the late sixties, the École Normale Supérieure had not yet memorialized his passage in the institution. No hall had been named after him yet. The students were not even sure in which room he had spent two crucial years on the premises. When I edited a collection of essays about his early work with the École Normale Supérieure press, the board felt that it was its duty to pay Beckett an homage that had been long overdue. I mailed a copy of the book to Beckett, who immediately wrote back to thank me. He inserted in his kind note, as a little joke, an “a” to the title that, out of modesty, he had abbreviated: Beckett avant Beckett had become “BABa.” This book could only be a “B. A., BA,” as the French say, meaning a basic primer. Ironically self-deflating and deflating us, Beckett showed to our group of contributors that we should not take ourselves too seriously when discussing his work. He was also warning us about the danger of “explaining,” that is, of reducing his work to formulas.

Despite the promptings of an Irish friend who saw Beckett regularly for late-night chats accompanied by a lot of whiskey, I never found the courage . . .

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