Dire Comments on comment dire
Of course we do not know, any more than you, what exactly it is we are after, what sign or set of words.
-- Rough for Radio II
"Call it Dichtungen," Beckett told his German publisher, Siegfried Unseld, who was planning a new edition of his collected works. "No other language has such a word." 1 Firm, reliable, intricate, and watertight, the suprageneric title condenses into one German word the complete range of "poeticizations" that might be crafted into any manner of artistic writing. "The forms are many," Malone noted long ago, "in which the unchanging seeks relief from its formlessness." In the actual Dichtungen, however, Beckett was rarely so lucky as to have "Got it in one!" 2 Though there is no use "indicting" words per se (they are, as Malone says, "no shoddier than what they peddle"), some of the adjectives used to describe them in Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable might be cause for considerable alarm, if not downright contempt: "wheedling," "little," "furious," "monotonous," "mad," "hasty," "indifferent," or -- worse still "in a word" -- "blank." 3 Even the stirring words in a late trilogy like Stirrings Still might, in retrospect, stand in need of a complete overhaul when the purely imagined is revisited by the real. How vainly words themselves amaze: despite their vigor and athleticism -- "those sounds slake my thirst for labials" -- even the haunting "strokes" of a clock are as nothing compared to the hell of the ultimate soubresaut, that spasm that is "over and yet it goes on, and is there any tense for that?" Words are killers: they speak in "an ancient voice in me not mine," always "a lingering dissolution." Making a career out of facilitating nothing when they should in fact be concerned with the one thing -- the end -- the faint "jostle of words" always constructs its own unenviable "folly." And yet their "dust," as Maddy Rooney says, "will not settle in our time." Calling attention to its own vibrato, this "labouring whirl" -- "I give you my word" -- is the