Frescoes of the Skull: The Later Prose and Drama of Samuel Beckett



Almost all great writers have had to suffer neglect at certain moments in their careers, usually at the outset (when their language is condemned as either too outré or too derivative) and again when they have moved beyond the work or works that have made them famous, and entered upon a 'late' period, characterized by an extremely personal and idiosyncratic use of language, 'to set', in T.S. Eliot's words, 'the crown upon a lifetime's effort'. In the case of Samuel Beckett this paradigm is partially confirmed and partially negated, for whilst Beckett has only gradually (and in some cases grudgingly) been accorded classic status, there has recently been considerable critical activity, on both sides of the Atlantic, devoted to demonstrating that in this case, despite the inherent difficulty of his work, the artist has not escaped the critics in pursuit of him. There is no doubt an element of compensation here, designed in some way to make up for the years of penury and disfavour that came before the fame and fortune. But there is also an eminently natural desire to explicate what are, at any rate superficially, forbiddingly inaccessible texts which may never be fully explained to everyone's satisfaction. It may be that, with works of such density and uniqueness, there is a need to develop a correspondingly original kind of criticism, which will not depart so far from tradition as to become esoteric, but which will not be afraid to be unconventional when the need arises. Something of this kind is attempted here, although it will be clear that the approach is nothing like as unconventional as it might have been. The business of evolving a language more appropriate and adaptive has been considered a matter secondary to the need for a coherent and integrated account of

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • London
Publication year:
  • 1979


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