Samuel Beckett lectured on modern French literature at his old university, Trinity College, in 1930 – 1931 but those lectures are not widely known and have rarely been studied. This is one of the least known periods of Beckett’s life. He had just returned from Paris where he had met James Joyce and had started his literary career but had not yet written his first novel.
In 1930 Rachel Burrows studied French at Trinity College and her notes of Beckett’s lectures have recently been found in the archives of Trinity College. Brigitte Le Juez is the first writer to fully study these lectures, the most complete record of Beckett the young intellectual, and a valuable guide to the inspirations behind his work and concept of literature.
They answer many of the questions about Beckett’s work. How did he define the modern novel of his day? What should literature strive to achieve, or more properly, what should it not be? They reveal the writers he studied and was influenced by and the notebooks demonstrate that Racine is the writer most frequently praised by Beckett while Balzac is the target of his fiercest criticism. Other writers studied by Beckett include Proust, Flaubert and Stendhal, Dostoyevsky and Andre Gide.
Beckett before Beckett reveals Beckett’s own history of French literature and his understanding of the origins of the modern literature of his time.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to Brigitte Le Juez for revealing this previously unknown dimension to one of the giants of 20th-century literature.”
“The young Samuel Beckett’s lectures on literature offer a perspective on 19th century writing that remains fresh – and shows the roots of his own art… At last we can see the genesis of what would turn out to be one of the most extraordinary literary expressions of the 20th century.”
“Like a literary detective novel… Tells us a lot about the key French influences on him and his later literary development.”
‘Camden New Journal’