Beckett's writing has not lacked commentators in recent years, and some explanation is obviously needed to justify another full-length account of his work. The first, and perhaps best, reason is that I was dissatisfied with all the other available accounts, which, however helpful they were in one area, seemed misleading, or insensitive, in others. The second, and supplementary, reason is that a full-length account of Beckett's complete work to date, based on Beckett's own aesthetic thinking, and on the intellectual, historical and literary tradition and milieu that had sustained it, seemed to offer the best opportunity of redressing the imbalances I felt to exist. The picture of Beckett which emerges is no doubt as coloured and as partial as any other, but as long as nothing written here actually prevents or inhibits a reader's enjoyment of Beckett, no damage will have been done. Hopefully the following paragraph, together with the select bibliography, will do something to mitigate the arrogance of the dissatisfaction registered above.
I have been fortunate enough to be helped, from the early days of studying Beckett, by those who have done most to make serious criticism possible: Professor John Fletcher, of the University of East Anglia; Professor Raymond Federman, of the State University of New York at Buffalo; Professor Lawrence E. Harvey, of Dartmouth College, New York; and Dr J. R. Knowlson, of the Department of French Studies in my own university. It was conversations with Professors Alice and Kenneth Hamilton, of the University of Winnipeg, which first suggested how important Gnosticism was as a background to Beckett. The kindness of Samuel Beckett himself, in answering queries by correspondence and in conversation, permitting quotation from his work, and in making available, through the Beckett Archive in the Library of the University of Reading (Archivist: Mr J. A. Edwards), material otherwise difficult or . . .