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  • Beckett's Non-Anthropomorphic Anthropology
  • Dirk Van Hulle
Beckett after Wittgenstein. Andre Furlani. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2015. Pp. xii + 248. $99.95 (cloth); $34.95 (paper).
Creative Involution: Bergson, Beckett, Deleuze. S. E. Gontarski. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015. Pp. xii + 196. $120.00 (cloth).
Think, Pig! Beckett at the Limit of the Human. Jean-Michel Rabaté. New York: Fordham University Press, 2016. Pp. vi + 240. $95.00 (cloth); $32.00 (paper).
Deleuze and Beckett. Edited by S. E. Wilmer and Audronė Žukauskaitė. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. Pp. xii + 253. $90.00 (cloth).

What explains the apparent connection between Samuel Beckett and philosophy? Bruno Clément tried to formulate a reply to this question, arguing that "there is a 'philosophical' discourse already in Beckett's texts … so strongly giving rise to confusion that one might speak about a 'philosophy' of Beckett, through which one believes that the influence of such and such a philosopher, such and such a philosophy might be detected in his novels, plays, and even in his poems."1 Nonetheless, Beckett was very explicit when, in an interview with Tom Driver, he stated emphatically that he was not a philosopher. The other statement that is often quoted in connection with the question of Beckett's relation to philosophy is that he would not have had any reason to write his novels if he could have expressed their topic in philosophical terms.2 Especially the second statement does indicate that Beckett acknowledged a connection with philosophy, but that the difference is a matter of language. That the enigmatic connection remains a hot topic in Beckett [End Page 391] studies is evidenced by the four books under discussion: S. E. Gontarski places Beckett between Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze; S. E. Wilmer and Audronė Žukauskaitė indicate in the title that their collection of essays is not so much about Beckett and Deleuze but about Deleuze and Beckett; Andre Furlani discusses a Beckett "after Wittgenstein"; and Jean-Michel Rabaté discusses Beckett's works in interaction with a variety of philosophers, ranging from pre-Beckett philosophers such as René Descartes, Arnold Geulincx, and Immanuel Kant to post-Beckett thinkers such as Theodor Adorno, Alain Badiou, and Roland Barthes.

The quotation that constitutes the striking title of Rabaté's book Think, Pig!, referring to Lucky's "tirade" in Waiting for Godot, applies to all the books under discussion, and perhaps to all Beckett criticism in general. Reading Beckett involves many things, but it always entails the imperative to think. Beckett himself turned the imperative into a noun when he referred to Lucky's speech as the "think" in the notebook to his 1975 West Berlin production of Warten auf Godot (Furlani, Beckett After, 53).

"Thinking" is also the term with which one of Beckett's translators characterized his works. On 19 January 1954, after having translated Molloy (1951) into German, Erich Franzen told Beckett that he would not be able to translate the next two novels, Malone meurt (1951) and L'Innommable (1953). Beckett replied that he was disappointed to hear Franzen would not be taking on the other two books and asked him: "Is it reluctance to tarry in such a world? I can well understand that."3 Franzen told Beckett that he simply felt unqualified and that he would have to meet Beckett in person more frequently than his translator's fee would allow him. His decision had nothing to do with his appreciation of Beckett's work, which remained undiminished. The way he describes Beckett's work in his letter dated February 10, 1954 is remarkable as he characterizes it as "thinking" and as a radically different sort of "anthropology":

I greatly admire the daring and power of your thinking which does not shy from confronting the ultimate consequences of your approach. And I feel deeply touched by your determined pursuit of an "anthropology" far more deserving this name than anything of the sort taught either in the departments of "humanities" or by modern philosophers—not to mention story-tellers (with the possible exception of Faulkner when he is not rhapsodic). (emphasis added)


Franzen's attempt to define Beckett's "thinking" by what it is...


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