“I was so marked by Beckett’s sentences, I found them to be so powerfully rendered with a rigor and honesty that he was always going for…You want to hold it up as a model.”
It was during the years of the war, when Beckett worked as a courier as part of the resistance, that he was writing the novel Watt, as McGovern suggested, “to keep himself sane.” Auster called it “one of the funniest novels in the English language.”Lamenting that Watt is no longer read (while urging the audience to pick it up), McGovern suggested that this is the novel that changed everything for Beckett, in the way the war did. McGovern chose a passage from the character Arsene’s 30-page monologue that comes at the end of the first section, where Watt has just arrived to replace Arsene as manservant to Mr. Knott. The character is not happy about it, telling the reader:
“not a smile, not a tear, not a hope, not a fear, not a name, not a face, no time, no place, that I do not regret exceedingly.”
The sadness of the words in throughout this passage were balanced by the playfulness of the tone. Professional that he is, the cadence of Beckett’s work came naturally to McGovern, and the joy with which the audience responded to his gorgeous reading was the highlight of an inspiring evening.
Through the short chat between these two men, the personal letters and the reading of his prose, Beckett became immediately more accessible, as a person and as a writer, for, as Auster reminded the audience, “how can you divide the work from the life?”
8 – 13 NOVEMBER 2011