Miserere

The only Miserere Beckett has ever uttered is for those burdened with the compulsion to write, the only liberation he is interested in is from the oppression of language.

A. Alvarez, Beckett

Upon finishing (for the second time in a decade, i.e. since my BA dissertation) Alvarez’s little tome on Beckett, here a few (barely) summarising thoughts I seem to have somehow scribbled down while reading:

In Beckett’s world, what the mind seems to want is to immobilise (as much as possible) the body in a state of quiet despair, removing from the human duet the corporeal voice, so as to focus entirely on the mind’s voice, for whom there is no greater spur to keep talking than to hear itself speak.

Thus, with a defunct body finally retired from the attempt to make itself heard, one is locked inside purgatory with that which, unlike the body, will never die, not, at least, of its own accord: the endlessly, vigorously chattering mind. The mind who whips up the past again and again, adding to it only more and more frantic strokes, muddling and tangling its concerns.

The body’s quest, if it is allowed to have one, is easily vanquished, extinguished by its own fruitlessness.

The mind’s quest is indefatigable; because the mind does not lie outside itself, will not allow itself to believe itself bound to the corporeal, it is stuck and rewarded with permanence at the same time. Its quest is nothing but to simply keep going, keep talking, fulfilling itself as it formulates itself.

Who knows if this is true, but it seems that Beckett constantly renews an attempt at vanquishing this need (which is abstract, born from the psyche) by destroying the form, or the container (the form of the novel, for instance), reducing it to the bare necessities before crippling it further with more and more intense constraints, like those he imposes upon the bodies of his heroes, legless, kneeless, incapable of forward/upward movement, buried in bins and heaps of sand.

The need to go on does nothing but go on and on.

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Sudden and Two-Dimensional

Everything makes sense yet is beyond reason. He once remarked to an interviewer:

The dream is pure drama. In a dream, one is always in mid-situation … I think that the dream is a lucid thought, more lucid than any one has when awake, a thought expressed in images, and that at the same time its form is always dramatic.

At his best, Ionesco has been true to his dreams. He almost never creates characters of any depth or substance, the people in his plays are sudden and two-dimensional, like the figures in a dream. And, as in a dream, the complexity is all in their immediate situation. He has put his nightmares on stage, unadulterated and with an uncanny sense of what works in that tight space framed by the proscenium arch. The result is pure nihilism. After all, what can survive when the placid façade of middle-class life splits open and the submerged fantasies come pulsing through?

A. Alvarez, Beckett, p. 14

Said about A.  Brings to mind B.

 

Quadrat 1 and 2 (Beckett)

Another old favourite, rediscovered this morning.

[“Description: Cloaked, cowled figures wander in patterns to rhythm instruments.” *as well as the rhythmic shuffling of their own feet*]

This piece, more pared down, dare I say, than most of Beckett’s other stage work, opens up [in my mind] an enormous amount of space for reflection on a) choreography b) rhythm c) geometry d) the progressive disappearance of those others we connect to [co-trot with] – and as they one by one walk off stage are we then condemned to persist in our patterns as if the others were still with us rubbing the stage floor with their feet?

[Then, I think about beehives, and about six corners instead of four.]

Be all that as it may. Aside from the existential, it is mainly choreography this piece has made me think about, and I’m someone rapidly made to feel at odds with the unspoken choreography of busy public spaces.