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This report is taken from PN Review 73, Volume 16 Number 5, May - June 1990.

Samuel Beckett (1906 - 1989) John Pilling
'Getting known', says Beckett's Krapp with the bitter irony appropriately reserved for 'seventeen copies sold, of which eleven at trade price to free circulating libraries beyond the seas', a phrase which makes them sound as insubstantial as the winds. But as Beckett himself was getting known in the late 1950s - after some twenty years of being largely disregarded - it was not just the copies sold that prompted a revaluation of the evidence. A sub-genre of more or less authentic interviews, accounts of meetings with him, newspaper columns generating rumours and speculation, and other memorabilia of a biographical character, gradually accumulated, a reflection of the public's need to attach a personality to writings with an indelible signature, but of no obvious provenance. It soon became apparent that the more recessed Beckett chose, or seemed, to be, the more the demands of publicity would have to be satisfied. In no time Beckett became the best-known 'recluse' of the age, a process which reached its culminating point when, in his early seventies, a 736-page biography of him featured as an 'alternate choice' of the Book-of-the-Month Club. As interested parties marvelled at the sheer sangfroid of the enterprise, and everyone took stock of the fact that Beckett was not only still alive but had lived (and what a life!), it was impossible not to project forward to an unknown date (now known to have been just before last Christmas) when there would indeed be incontrovertible proof that he was not some figment of ...


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