Literature and Psychoanalysis

By Edith Kurzweil; William Phillips | Go to book overview

the "dissimilar," the strange, foreigners, and exiles. On the other hand, those who refuse consciously to acknowledge their debt to the third person will listen to Not I and its portrayal of senseless, radiant death in the face of a fleeing God with a feeling of terror and lack of understanding. Beckett's lesson is thus one in morality, one of rigor and ironic seriousness.

Yet, at a glance and despite Not I, the community that Beckett so challenges quickly notices that the writer's work does leave something untouched: the jubilant serenity of the unapproached, avoided mother. So beyond the debris of the desacralized sacred that Beckett calls upon us to experience, if only as lucid and enlightened observers, does there not persist an other -- untouched and fully seductive? The true guarantee of the last myth of modern times, the myth of the feminine -- hardly the third person any longer, but, both beyond and within, more and less than meaning: rhythm, tone, color, and joy, within, through, and across the Word?

Therein lie both the strength and the limitations of Beckett's fiction, at least within Christianity's closed world.

And that will have to do until someone else comes in a burst of song, color, and laughter to conquer the last refuge of the sacred, still inaccessibly hidden in Bellini's remote Madonnas. To give them back to us transformed, secular, and corporeal, more full of language and imagination. Just as Beckett restored, above and beyond his mockery and for a humanity searching for a solitary community, the trivial rigor of paternal Death -- for every speaking being, a disillusioned and hardly bearable, but permanent support of Meaning.


Note
1.
The references to Racine, Baudelaire, and Dante exist only in the French version of First Love ( Premier Amour [ Paris: Minuit, 1970]). The French equivalent of "chamber pot" is pot de chambre, but Beckett used the more "elegant" version, vase de nuit, which, if the denotation is put aside, could indeed have various poetic connotations. Quotations are from First Love and Other Shorts ( New York: Grove Press, 1974) -- Editor Roudiez.

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