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This article is taken from PN Review 238, Volume 44 Number 2, November - December 2017.

Who Dares Wins Gabriel Josipovici
Reflections on Translation: a lecture given at a gathering of translators

BECKETT WROTE Krapp’s Last Tape very quickly in February 1958. At its centre is the reprise of the revelation that he’d had on his visit to Dublin to see his dying mother at the end of the war, though here he deliberately exaggerates its romantic aspects:

Spiritually a year of profound gloom and indigence until that memorable night in March, at the end of the jetty, in the howling wind, never to be forgotten, when suddenly I saw the whole thing… What I suddenly saw was this, that the belief I had been going on all my life… that the dark I have always struggled to keep under is in reality my most –

The stage direction here reads: ‘Krapp curses, switches off’, but it is not difficult to fill in the remainder: the dark he has struggled to keep under all his life, he suddenly understands in this moment of extreme crisis, is in fact his most precious possession and his true subject matter. It becomes the subject he is to pursue for the rest of his life. Perhaps because in the play he found a way of both speaking this and deflating its Christian and Romantic tone, he was particularly fond of it: ‘I feel as clucky and beady and one-legged and bare-footed about this little text as an old hen with her last chick,’ he wrote to his friend and American publisher, Barney Rosset, and to Jacoba ...

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