Becketts Dying Words: The Clarendon Lectures 1990

Paperback | February 1, 1995

byChristopher Ricks

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Most people most of the time want to live for ever. But there is another truth; the longing for oblivion. With pain, wit, and humour, the art of Samuel Beckett variously embodies this truth, this ancient enduring belief that it is better to be dead than alive, best of all never to have beenborn. Beckett is the supreme writer of an age which has created new possiblities and impossibilities even in the matter of death and its definition, an age of transplants and life-support. But how does a writer give life to dismay at life itself, to the not-simply-unwelcome encroachments of death? After all, it is for the life, the vitality, of their language that we value writers. As a young man, Beckett himself praised Joyce's words. `They are alive.' Beckett became himself as a writer when he realized in his very words a principle of death. In cliches, which are dead but won't lie down. In a dead language and its memento mori. In words which mean their own opposites, cleaving and cleaving. In the self-stultifying or suicidal turn, dubbed theIrish bull. In what Beckett called a syntax of weakness. This book explores the relation between deep convictions about life or death and the incarnations which these take in the exact turns of a great writer - the realizations of an Irishman who wrote in English and in French, two languages with different apprehensions of life and of death.

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From Our Editors

This book explores the relation between deep convictions about life or death and the incarnations which these take in the exact turns of a great writer-the realizations of an Irishman who wrote in English and in French, two languages with different apprehensions of life and of death.

From the Publisher

Most people most of the time want to live for ever. But there is another truth; the longing for oblivion. With pain, wit, and humour, the art of Samuel Beckett variously embodies this truth, this ancient enduring belief that it is better to be dead than alive, best of all never to have beenborn. Beckett is the supreme writer of an age ...

From the Jacket

This book explores the relation between deep convictions about life or death and the incarnations which these take in the exact turns of a great writer-the realizations of an Irishman who wrote in English and in French, two languages with different apprehensions of life and of death.

Christopher Ricks, one of the world's foremost literary critics, is Professor of English at Boston University.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 7.72 × 5.08 × 0.67 inPublished:February 1, 1995Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0192824074

ISBN - 13:9780192824073

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Table of Contents

1. DeathThe wish to dieDeath as easePositive annihilationNever dyingCertified death2. Words That Went DeadAbstracted to deathClichesResurrectionThe obituary3. Languages, Both Dead and LivingMemento moriGaelicDe rigueurArchaism and the moribundThe antithetical senseThe counter-poison4. The Irish bullDefinitionsThe bull and blasphemyThe bull and deathThe bull, identity, and posterityColeridge and the bullSydney Smith and the IrishSome bulls from BeckettThe bull and power5. Postscript: December 1989

From Our Editors

This book explores the relation between deep convictions about life or death and the incarnations which these take in the exact turns of a great writer-the realizations of an Irishman who wrote in English and in French, two languages with different apprehensions of life and of death.

Editorial Reviews

'Ricks gives Beckett's passionate hang-dog mind and his morbid pleasure in the contrariness of words their full due in this immensely enjoyable study.'Robin Blake, Independent on Sunday