Saturday, June 27, 2020

Tackling biography …

… The Hard Life. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The experience of writing Beckett’s life, before and after publication, left Deirdre Bair battle-scarred and weary, but she recalls some bright moments. After seven years of work, just before her book went to press, she was told that she had to obtain Beckett’s permission for every individual quotation from his letters and unpublished manuscripts. Distressed, she wrote to him to explain the situation, and asked him to place his initials beside every quotation that she planned to use, a total of twenty-three single-spaced pages. A week later she had his reply. He had initialled every single quotation except the poem he wrote as a twelve-year-old schoolboy at the Portora Royal School, wryly explaining that “it shows better your diligence as a researcher than my development as a writer”. Bair was deeply moved that after all the obstacles and hostile responses that she had encountered along the way, Beckett himself was as good as his word. “I have met many honorable persons throughout my long professional life,” she writes, “but there was never one whose integrity equaled Samuel Beckett’s. His word was indeed his bond.”

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