Of all I’ve read in my life, and all that’s yet to come, what’s going to count? How much of it has changed me? How much has even marked me? How much has done both but I don’t know it yet? Readers get to make these discoveries in the privacy of their own heads. Writers must make them in public and then wear them in their back catalogues for as long as they have a readership who cares.
The other week I sat reading a draft of one of Beckett’s earliest attempts at drama ‘Human Wishes’ about the relationship between Samuel Johnson and Hester Thrale. It’s hard to believe it’s by the same writer who would one day come up with Godot or Mouth or Krapp. It’s similarly intriguing to see how apparent ‘Dubliners’ is in ‘More Pricks than Kicks’ while Beckett’s own Malone is still nowhere to be seen. By the time he gets to ‘The Unnamable’ Beckett seems to me to have reached the distillation of his own voice and yet, in later years, he claimed to be unable to recognise himself as its author anymore. Happily, for the reader, that’s neither here nor there. As a writer though, and one with the opportunity to look at how much work went in to everything Beckett set himself to, that’s quite depressing.
Multi-award-winning author Eimeer McBride is Reading’s first Beckett Creative Fellow, and has been given unique access to our internationally important Beckett Archive – the largest collection of publicly accessible Samuel Beckett materials in the world. This is her latest monthly journal entry about her experiences of working with the materials.