This classic study of the novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett has never been surpassed. Written by an outstanding scholar and critic who was one of the first to recognise Beckett’s genius, it was originally published in 1977, and was praised for its refreshingly personal approach and its many new insights. Here was a writer who not only understood Beckett from the shared knowledge of a similar background, but who was not afraid to temper admiration with criticism.
Thirteen years younger than Beckett and like him of Anglo-Irish ancestry, Vivian Mercier attended the same school and university, and first became aware of him in 1934. From then on he followed his progress with keen interest, and his analysis of the many contrasts and contradictions in Beckett’s work is constantly enlivened by his appreciation of Beckett the man.
This personal approach is blended skilfully with a persuasive dialectical discussion of the complex paradoxes in Beckett’s writings – gentleman.tramp, intellect/emotion, Ireland/the World, eye/ear, artist/philosopher, man/woman. No other critic has so lucidly described the many facets of Beckett’s learning – his use of mathematics, his debt to Racine in the classical shaping of his plays, his views on painting and music. He also presents a lively, almost irreverent study of the women in Beckett’s work.
Samuel Beckett has too often been put on a pedestal as a writer beyond criticism and, for many, beyond true understanding. This book, with its wealth of knowledge lightly dispensed, not only gives us a fresh appreciation of the man and his work, but also entices us to read and re-read with enlightened eyes.
“Vivian Mercier’s qualifications for writing a book about Beckett are numerous and impressive… A valuable addition to the published material on Beckett.”
‘Times Literary Supplement’
“This highly personal book remains one of the key books on Beckett – and one of the most readable… The book has been written in such a lively fashion that it is difficult to put down.”
‘Camden New Journal’