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By R. Federman, L. Graver

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). Irish dramatist and poet. His use of the degree and dramatic narrative and symbolism has revolutionalized drama in England.

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Even the more hospitable and perceptive reviewers were in varying degrees resistant to the harshness of Beckett’s vision and the austerity of his dramatic presentation. Writing twice in the ‘New York Times’ (18 September and 1 October 1961), Harold Taubman felt that the heroine’s sorrow and the author’s compassion gave this ‘grim threnody’ a beauty that would haunt the inner ear long after the monologue ended; but he could not help being repelled by the weariness and pessimism of Beckett’s philosophy of life.

IV In 1953, however, Beckett was still very much an Irishman writing in French whose earlier accomplishments were forgotten, minimized, or seen simply as preparations for the major work in his adopted language. More than a hundred reviews and essays had already been devoted to ‘Molloy,’ ‘Malone meurt’ and ‘En attendant Godot,’ and many of the issues raised by those radical experiments in fiction and drama, and by Beckett’s frightening vision of the world, were regularly discussed in French periodicals.

Within days after the London production, articles appeared in Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavia; and ‘Life’ magazine in New York ran a picture story about this weird ‘blend of acid hokum and dank despair’ attracting so much attention in Europe. 18 SAMUEL BECKETT: THE CRITICAL HERITAGE Like several other middle-brow periodicals, ‘Life’ sensed that Beckett was ‘news’ but with predictable coarseness patronized him as a quaint, eccentric old nay-sayer: ‘an inveterate apostle of hopelessness, author Beckett finds no answer to the riddle of human existence.

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