a blogsite of Samuel Beckett facts by
Links are shown in the chronological order of their creation.
“I”, “me”, etc., outside of quote marks are self references by Mr. Puthwuth.
1-5. Beckett facts. To mark Samuel Beckett's centenary in 2006, I ("Percy Puthwuth") thought I'd do a hundred Beckettian facts. Here are the first five.
6. Knife Fight. The first English translation [of Eleutheria] by Michael Brodsky contains a number of amusing howlers, of which my favourite involves a knife-wielding boatman. Note similarities to boating episodes in Krapp's Last Tape and That Time...
7. Headhack. [Beckett] saw The Decollation (beheading) of St. John in Valletta Cathedral while on holiday in Malta in 1971 and he wrote Not I shortly afterwards. Not I was obviously Beckett's ‘what I did on my holidays’ play.
The figure of the hooded Auditor in that play was inspired by the sight of djellaba-clad women on another holiday, in Morocco. Here's a somewhat surprising photo of Sam in Morocco in 1978.
8. Psitaccine Kane. In Waiting for Godot Estragon begins to tell a joke about an Englishman in a brothel, but fails to reach the punchline. So here it is now...
9. East India Rubber Duck. But what I really wanted to say was that, along with a shedload of typos, one big difference between this Watt and later editions is the inclusion in Arsene's monologue of a song to his East India Rubber Duck.
10. Satchmo. In Malone Dies the eponymous narrator gives a racial tinge to his paranoid abjection when he speaks of seeking a 'kindred spirit among the inferior races, red, yellow, chocoloate, and so on'. An interesting aspect of Beckett's race politics was his involvement, as translator, in Nancy Cunard's 1934 Negro Anthology.
11. Something Wrong There. 'Something wrong there', Beckett writes repeatedly in How It Is, and in many of his texts there is indeed something wrong.
12. Clever Hans. This is Clever Hans, a German horse and a dab hand (hoof) at sums. When asked a question he would tap out the answer with his hoof... I mention this because in Watt, Ernest Louit returns to Trinity College, Dublin, in the company of one Mr Nackybal... Mr Nackybal possesses the ability to 'add, subtract, multiply or divide the smallest whole number to, from, by or into another', as Louit proceeds to demonstrate Clever Hans-style to the college's research committee [who] can't have been very impressed, as Louit moves on from mathetmatics to the much more adrenalin-charged world of trafficking 'Bando' (condoms, apparently).
13. Meteorism. Here's what Molloy says about farting: 'I can't help it, gas escapes from my fundament on the least pretext, it's hard not to mention it now and then, however my great distaste.'
14. Fundamentalism (cont'd. from some other non-Beckett facts) Beckett reminds us how misconceived the war between fundamentalism and modernity is, since only reactionaries are always truly up-to-date.
15. Obscure Stuff. Ten obscure Beckett texts.
16. Yesterday's Paper. Four comedy acts that influenced Beckett.
17. Whiplash. The gnostic influence on Beckett.
18. Why Bother. It's never the same pus from one second to the next, as Estragon says in Godot.
In Arsene's poem about his East India Rubber Duck [in Watt] he refers to the minor Old Testament prophet Habbakuk:
Oh high white brightly burning duck,
C ush's stones are crying yet
Forth from the wall to Habbakuk
20. Lager. In Molloy, the hero consumes a bottle of Wallenstein lager when Gaber drops in on him, then worries about Father Ambrose smelling it on his breath and using it as an excuse to palm him off with an unconsecrated communion wafer. There's no such lager as Wallenstein, but there is a play called Wallensteins Lager by Schiller.
21. Look Away Now. Sébastien-Roch Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) was an aristocratic cynic and tosser-off of maxim-sized 'black diamonds of pessimism', to borrow a phrase from Dream of Fair to Middling Women. Here's one: ‘Life is a disease from which sleep gives us relief every sixteen hours. Sleep is a palliative, death is a remedy.’ Beckett translated some diamonds in 'Long After Chamfort'. Go to Fact no. 88 to read a few and, while you're there, maybe contemplate swallowing (or licking) a more lovable toad than the one at this fact.
22. Numerology. This is less a fact than unsupported hearsay: Beckett's last prose text, Stirrings Still, has 1906 words. I started counting them but lost my place and gave up. Help anyone?
23. It's Stalin! It's God! It's My Dead Twin! Facts about Kazakhstan, Elvis's twin brother Jesse, the face of Stalin, God, Carl Jung and the inspiration for Maddy Rooney's speech in All That Fall about the girl who had 'never really been born'.
24. Pestilential Hamlet. This is the former barracks, later borstal and now reconciliation centre in the 'pestilential hamlet' of Glencree, as so described in Mercier and Camier.
25. Ego Smith. Asked by Mary Manning to help out with her play Youth's the Season at Dublin's Gate Theatre in 1935, Beckett contributed a character called Ego Smith... When Ego Smith failed to go down well with the producers, Beckett suggested an offstage character who would spend the play repeatedly flushing a toilet.
26. Ratty. In Watt, Dum Spiro, editor of the popular Catholic monthly Crux, reads a letter aloud from Martin Ignatius MacKenzie addressing the problem of host-ingestion by rodents:
A rat, or other small animal, eats of a consecrated wafer.
1. Does he ingest the Real Body, or does he not?
2. If he does not, what has become of it?
3. If he does, what is to be done with him?
27. Cheesy. [Beckett's] original title for the play [Cascando] had been Calando, until French radio producers pointed out to him that calendos is a slang word for cheese.
28. The Dog's Moments. 'I met her on a bench, on the bank of the canal, one of the canals, for our town boasts two, though I never knew which was which', the narrator of First Love says of his first tryst with Lulu/Anna. It's the Grand. The other, of Brendan Behan Old Triangle fame, is the Royal.
29. Miss Beamish. I ask you, does this man look like he's in need of a bicycle? A thousand-year Reich and the extermination of the inferior races perhaps, but a bicycle, no. Yet when Moran chastises his absent-minded son in Molloy, he asks 'Who is this bicycle for, I said, Goering?'
30. Anile. (rather than anal). In a poem I mentioned earlier (in #19), 'Dortmunder', the poet and a lady of the night conduct their business with inexplicably fatal side-effects for the author of Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung:
Schopenhauer is dead, the bawd
puts her lute away.
31. Togo One Mark Carmine. 'I put down the tray and looked for a few stamps at random. The Togo one mark carmine with the pretty boat, the Nyassa 1901 ten reis, and several others. I was very fond of the Nyassa. It was green and showed a giraffe grazing at the top of a palm-tree.' (Molloy)
32. Knock Knock. 'You complain that this stuff is not written in English. It is not written at all. It's not to be read -- or rather it is not only to be read. It is to be looked at and listened to. His writing is not about something; it is that something itself.' Thus the Beckett of Work in Progress in 1929.
33. Dee Dyan. 'Not a Pic-Pic, Gorman, not a Pic-Pic, a Dee Dyan Button.' So Mr Cream reminds Mr Gorman of the first car they saw in The Old Tune, Beckett's translation of Robert Pinget's La manivelle.
34. Matrix of Surds. 'peekaboo here I come again, just when most needed, like the square root of minus one' (Texts for Nothing). Yeats calls Pythagoras 'golden-thighed'. He was also known to abominate beans. But not quite as much as he abominated irrational numbers.
35. Porcine. In the mood for a little company, the Unnamable pines for 'a face, how encouraging that would be. Worth ten of Saint Anthony's pig's arse.'
36. That They May Be Damned. Do women have souls?, Jacques Moran asks himself. Yes, he decides, 'that they may be damned.'
37. Don't Tell Me! In Waiting for Godot Estragon tries to tell Vladimir his dream and Vladimir refuses to listen, eventually shouting 'DON'T TELL ME!'
38. Wit and Wisden. Despite cricket nut Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize, Beckett remains the only Stockholm laureate to have found his way into the cricketer's bible Wisden.
39. Buster Keaton. Some of Beckett's thoughts on working with him on Film.
40. Arsy-Versy. Ten Dante references in Beckett.
41. Tal Coat. An image each, for the three painters Beckett discusses with Georges Duthuit in their Transition dialogues.
42. Pale for Weariness. 'Pale for weariness', Estragon says of the moon, remembering Shelley.
43. Up and Away. Sam at age 30, expressing his desire to become a pilot in a 1936 letter to Thomas MacGreevey: ‘I hope I am not too old to take it up seriously nor too stupid about machines to qualify as a commercial pilot. I do not feel like spending the rest of my life writing books that no one will read.’
44. De Nobis Ipsis Silemus. In 1755 a massive earthquake destroyed Lisbon... In his Murphy notebook, Beckett quotes extensively from Fielding's Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon.
45. fleuves et océans. Beckett outside the house he bought in Ussy in 1953.
46. Doomed, Doomed. (untuned pianos)
47. Nihil in Intellectu. 'A parrot, that's what they're up against, a parrot', says the Unnamable.
48 Abort Abort. 'Abort abort and they'll blush like new', the narrator of First Love says of his pregnant lady-friend's aureolae.
49. A Pint of Plain is Your Only Man. Ten Beckettian tipples and tipplers.
50. Bone to Pick. ‘Personally I have no bone to pick with graveyards…’ Ten Beckett graveyards.
51. Toussaint l'Ouverture (1743-1803) led the slaves' revolt in Haiti. Beckett's translations of Jenner Bastien's 'Summary of the History of Hayti' and Ludovic Morin Lacombe's 'Note on Haytian Cultures' can be found in The Negro Anthology.
52. The Dog's Moments. Ten dogs in Beckett. Here's one:
53. The Geography I Had. So one Inuit says to the other Let's go to Nova Zembla this summer and the other says I'm having Nunavut. Ten Beckett tourist destinations.
54. Something Wrong There. Fat cheque? Fat-check? Fact-check? Beckett (non-)fact(s).
55. It's a Carrot. Let's have some Beckettian fruit and veg (ten, of course).
56. The Whole Misery. 'the whole misery, diagnosed undiagnosed misdiagnosed', is what Beckett calls the panoply of human suffering in the poem 'Ooftish'. Ten diseases in Beckett.
57. Monsters of the Solitudes. 'I am a monster of the solitudes', the narrator of How It Is observes in a zoomorphic mood. We've had parrots and dogs before, so here are some more (ten) Beckettian beasties.
58. Chasisme. Jean du Chas, that is. From Wikipedia: “In 1930, Beckett returned to Trinity College as a lecturer. He soon became disillusioned with his chosen academic vocation, however, and he expressed his aversion by playing a trick on the Modern Language Society of Dublin, reading a learned paper in French on a Toulouse author named Jean du Chas, founder of a movement called Concentrism. Chas and Concentrism, however, were pure fiction, having been invented by Beckett to mock pedantry.” Click on the link for the Puthwuth spin, and/or read Concentrism in either English or French.
59. Henry J. Watt. Cases of mistaken identity, or just little Beckettian jokes.
60. Potwallopers. müüüüüüüde now potwalloping through the promenaders ('Sanies I')
Speaking of swans as I was doing a post or two back, even dead ones, I'm reminded of the 'sad swans' of Turvey House [that] Beckett notes in the early poem 'Sanies I', set on Dublin's Northside.
61. One-Line Poem is made from recycled Soviet tanks. It comes from a country that no longer exists.
62. Bail Bail. Two line poem.
63. Beckett at 100. An extended (and interesting) Tour de Beckett.
64. Manstuprations. 10 examples of Beckett's "strangely spermatic imagination".
64½. Suddenly Vehement Jobbernowlish Urinator. Definitions from Dr. [Samuel] Johnson's dictionary.
65. André the Giant. André the Giant acknowledges the cheers of the crowd for his celebrated post-bout rendition of Lucky's speech.
66. STOP STOP. Punctuation marks.
67. A painting by Pietro Perugino.
68. The Name Without Delay. ‘Water first... then floods of liquor’, said Mr Conaire. (Mercier and Camier).
“Perugino had very little religion...and openly doubted the immortality of the soul. The figure at the centre of his Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, a favourite of the young Beckett's at the National Gallery in Dublin, looks like he could do a good job of sleeping through his own resurrection.”
That's Percy's gentle drollery. To read what amused Sam the most about the painting, click on the link.
69. Pernod Hour. Ten streets, addresses and landmarks in Beckett.
70. Henri Michaux. Two Beckettian orphans found while trawling around on the Editions de Minuit website.
71. Sloths, Again. Sloths in Beckett: they appear in the early French poem bois seul.
72. Potopompos Scroton Evohe. Ten classical references in Beckett
73. Craze for Explicitation. Ten misteaks in Beckett.
73½. Beckett on Céline's Mort à Crédit.
74. Wounded Wistiti. Ten unusual animal cameos in Beckett.
• Beckett's animals. More mostly free range animals rounded up by another Beckettian, Steven Connor.
75. The Silk of the Seas and the Arctic Flowers. Ten French poets in Beckett.
76. Saperlipopette. 'Joyous' to 'gallous' to 'gallows'.
77. Equine. Ten horses or other vaguely equine quadrupeds in Beckett.
78. Black Diamond of Pessimism. In Dream of Fair to Middling Women, Belacqua savours the phrase ‘black diamond of pessimism’ as an example of the ‘little sparkle hid in ashes, the precious margaret and hid from many.’ Beckett's Dream Notebook shows what a hoarder of such sparkles in the ashes he was.
79. Ass and Cart. Beckett's poem 'Antipepsis', when it was written and why there is a revision of line eight of the poem, altering 'The ass was the more intelligent' to 'The cart was the more intelligent'. Click on the picture to expand the horrendous view of “The Capital of the Ruins”, St. Lô, June 1944.
80. Pronounced as Spelt. Arnold Geulincx's Ethica with Beckett's notes.
80½. The Mystery of the Pitilessness of Eavan Boland. Scroll down to near the bottom to read ‘Another and another and another’ by James Henry (1798-1876), a dead ringer intertext for Arsene's speech in Watt.
81. Positive Annihilation. Stop me if you've heard this one before. The linguist in the lecture hall says that in some languages a double negative intensifies the negative (No tengo nada) but in no language does a double positive add up to a negative, to which a voice from the back of the hall retorts, “yeah yeah”. Two famous Samuels' (Beckett and Johnson) use of contradictory positives.
82. Not So Recent Irish Poetry. Ten Irish poets in pre-1935 Beckett. References to “AE” (or more properly “Æ”), in Poets 1 and 10 are to George William Russell, whose stunning visage appears on this fact page (but must be viewed enlarged to do him justice).
83. Inexorable Purposefulness. The Beckett-Emil Cioran nexus nailed down, finally, into a fact. Some memorable intriguing remarks by Cioran about Sam and his work.
84. Outer Mongolia. Ten stage venues that have accomodated Beckett performances. Four are: Miami, San Quentin (Prison), Sarajevo and Outer Mongolia.
85. Autospectroscopy. It's just what it sounds like: literally peering inside yourself (or trying to) through one's own anus, for example, without the aid of a reflector. A mysterious blog involving a mysterious Quin.
86. Beckett Does the Mau Mau Sketch. 6000 words or so illustrating the distinctly Beckettian nexus of interruption, humour, scatology and sadism. Making cameo appearances are Lucky, Winnie, Krapp, Nell, Nagg, Hamm, The Victim (in As the Story Was Told), Arsene, Molloy, Slavoj Žižek, the Mau Mau joke (near the end) and more. A Beckett Tour de Farce.
87. What a Tourist I Must Have Been. A brief grand tour of Beckett's European associations. Ten countries, including Ukraine, Romania, Portugal and... Greenland? Well, Denmark is still alleged to own and operate it.
88. Hell Reek Like Home. Mr. Puthuth's own pseudo-Beckettian versions of some [Nicolas] Chamfort aphorisms. (See Fact no. 21).
89. Slippery Sam and Tomtinker Tim. An in depth analysis of Beckett's poetry vs. that of Thomas MacGreevy, two Irish writers immortalized as Slippery Sam and Tomtinker Tim in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. “The two men enjoyed a warm friendship, and [Sam's] letters to MacGreevy remain the single most revealing, if tantalizingly unpublished, point of entry into the young Beckett's thought processes.”
90. Engaging Moral Agon. agon \AH-gahn; ah-GOHN\, noun: A struggle or contest; conflict; especially between the protagonist and antagonist in a literary work. How the genteelly residual colonial atmosphere of Trinity College Dublin just after Irish independence, as reflected in the pages of the periodical TCD: A College Miscellany, shaped Beckett's writing. Here's the Swastika Laundry story.
91. The Light of the World. Ten Spanish and Hispanic Connections in Beckett. Salvador Dali, Jorge Luis Borges, El Greco, et al.
92. What a Hoot. Ten Birds in Beckett. Includes 15 YouTube owl videos.
93. Breasts and Pimples. Ten references in Beckett to Percy's own dear County Wicklow, Ireland.
94. Opening for Smart Youth. Ten newspapers and magazines in Beckett, perhaps even eleven, Mr. Puthwuth says, if you include this picture on the cover of Beckett and Poststructuralism by Anthony Uhlmann of Sam without his eyeglasses reading/pretending to be reading Le Monde.
95. The Postman Cometh. Percy joins the thundering herd of journalists announcing/reviewing The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Volume One and he promises to “launch into the book” but doesn't do so here. Hopefully he eventually will, in one (or more) of the remaining five Facts. In the meantime, he proffers ten post-related Beckett texts.
96. Lyle Donaghy and Samuel Beckett. The first new fact in two years. Text of a short talk by Percy.
97. Ethna MacCarthy, Poet. A footnote to the previous fact. Ethna was a partial inspiration for Krapp's Last Tape, a fact which has "long been known".
98. Beckett, Scotus Eriugena, Augustine, Mauthner: Getting It Wrong. Somewhat inscrutable, especially the Irish £5 note, but what about Beckett isn't?