Such Rare Citings: The Prose Poem in English Literature

By N. Santilli | Go to book overview

6
Beckett's Late Prose

FOR BECKETT'S CHARACTERS, WHO ARE OFTEN WAITING FOR DEATH, the question "what next?" is a pressing one. Even the anticipated moment, the only apparent certainty of death itself, is an unknown matter. In the last chapter we concluded that furtherance—in the form of stylistic expression—is an inherent aspect of the Beckettian model. Here, I will look a little more closely at the structural mechanism of this organic continuance as it develops in the prose poetic texts of Beckett's "late" work. If furtherance is central to the novels, then ensuring the next step is not only a narrative dilemma but also a contributing factor to their consistent contraction into fragmentlike pieces.

Beckett's prose fiction can be characterized as having visible and persistent foreshortening. The early novels give way to short stories and, latterly, brief prose pieces. This textual reduction is generally taken to be symptomatic of Beckett's conviction in the inevitable, indeed, hoped-for, failure of the artwork: a set of variations on the theme of an impasse, first struck with L'Innomable in 1952.1 At the same time, it has been noted that Beckett's latter concern is "with situations, not with the problems and resolutions that constitute plot. As a result his fictions have come to resemble prose poems, and his plays approach tableaux vivants."2 This is a little misleading. The prose poetic pieces such as Imagination Dead Imagine, the Fizzles and the "Still" trilogy are not as static as their lack of plot may suggest. However, it is true to say that verbal economy is accompanied by the loss of successive "problems and resolutions that constitute plot." This is due to the fact that the first dimension that is lost to a narrative account when severe textual perimeters are erected is the causal process or fictional plot. Thus, the epic journeys of Mercier and Camier, Molloy and Moran are replaced by the pseudo-journey of repeated events in How It Is and finally by the protagonist in "Sounds"

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Such Rare Citings: The Prose Poem in English Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • Acknowledgments 11
  • Introduction 13
  • Abbreviations 27
  • 1: The Prose Poem and the Romantic Fragment 31
  • 2: De Quincey and Baudelaire 71
  • 3: Contexts I 98
  • 4: Contexts II: Mercian Hymns 118
  • 5: Parallelism 137
  • 6: Beckett's Late Prose 161
  • 7: The Prose Poem and the City 181
  • Notes 207
  • Works Cited 259
  • Index 277
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