The University of Reading launched the Samuel Beckett Research Centre on Wednesday 3 May, 2017.
This new interdisciplinary Centre will act as a hub for international research on Beckett's work, focussed on the world-leading archive of Beckett materials held in Special Collections at the University. This special launch evening is the first in a new programme of public events presented by the Beckett Research Centre. These will focus on an annual theme or topic that foregrounds Beckett's importance in contemporary debates.
The Samuel Beckett Centre is establishing conversations around the legacy of Beckett’s work with creative artists across all genres and media. We're pursuing ways of re-conceiving his writing in the 21st century by using the University's extensive archival materials on Beckett as inspiration for the creation of new drama, prose fiction, music, and visual art. As part of this vision, the Centre will host a series of Creative Fellowships, enabling leading writers, performers, artists, and musicians to develop new projects and insights through unique engagement with the archival materials.
As part of our emphasis on Beckett's living legacies within the creative arts, we were thrilled to welcome award-winning Scottish writer, James Kelman, to the launch event, who talked about the importance of Samuel Beckett's work for him.
The Booker Prize winning author of nine novels, as well as short stories and plays, adopts a similarly radical view to Beckett’s about the writer’s need to challenge linguistic and social convention, reconsider the writer’s relation to nationhood, and use fiction to explore philosophical and political ideas. His novel, A Disaffection (Secker and Warburg, 1989), was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 1989. He later went on to win the 1994 Booker Prize for How Late It Was, How Late (Vintage, 1994), and several of his subsequent novels, including Kieron Smith, Boy (Penguin, 2008), have also been nominated for the Prize. Author of several collections of stories and a volume of essays entitled, And the Judges Said (Vintage, 2002), James Kelman's most recent work is Dirt Road (Canongate, 2016), a novel that explores 'the brevity of life, the agonising demands of love, [...] the lure of the open road', and 'the power of music and all that it can offer'.
Kelman reflected on the origin of his own awareness of Beckett’s work, on what he sees as the strengths and weaknesses of Beckett’s writing, and the lessons that might be learnt by contemporary writers from Beckett.
The whole launch event can be viewed below, with Kelman's talk starting at 13'42".