This article discusses Sisyphus as a recurrent (philosophical) image in Samuel Beckett’s work. Starting from his prewar reading notes, it moves on to the 1940s and the radio play All That Fall (1956), which is studied in light of Albert Camus’s essays Le Mythe de Sisyphe (1942) and L’ Homme révolté (1951). By focussing on how the radio play deals with the absurd, revolt, suicide and murder, the article reads All That Fall as one of Beckett’s most critical but overlooked engagements with Camus, merging classical and modern versions of the character Sisyphus.
This article analyzes Beckett’s radio plays Embers and Words and Music in the context of the BBC Third Programme and its cultural politics, to argue that they engage with the censorship of his work, especially when it comes to sexual matters, in hitherto unexplored ways. While Embers both challenges and eludes censorship by means of ambiguous or abstract phrasing, Words and Music builds on this strategy and thematizes self-censorship through music. This connects Beckett’s radio plays from the 1950s and 1960s to earlier works from the 1930s like Murphy and Dream of Fair to Middling Women, widening the censorship debate.
Despite Beckett’s claim of having a “bee in [his] bonnet” about “mixing media,” intermediality and transmedial adaptation were important sources of innovation for his writing, especially from the 1950s onwards. The present article analyses Play (1964) as a good example of this dynamic by demonstrating (1) how its genesis was influenced by Beckett’s experience with radio, and (2) how its own transmedial history proves that rather than rejecting “mixing media” in principle, Beckett’s ostensible insistence on “keeping our genres distinct” turns out to be an appeal to fully exploit the medium-specific properties of radio, theatre, film and television.
In the 1950s, Samuel Beckett worked together with a number of writer-translators on English, French and German versions of his novels and plays. This article studies the material traces of these collaborations to analyse the collaborations as a crucial phase in a 4-step process toward a poetics of bilingualism, consisting of (1) writing in another language, (2) collaborating on the translations, (3) eventually giving preference to self-translation, and (4) finally presenting his work as a bilingual oeuvre. Beckett also appears to have played a greater part in his German translations than hitherto assumed, which calls for a reassessment of Beckett’s “trilingual” engagement with his work in the development of a “bilingual” poetics.