Beckett, photographed by me, Aug. 10, 2013
Resistance loves a day like this. It’s unexpectedly cold, rainy, grey, dull. I didn’t sleep well and my brain feels like mush. It’s 10am, but it feels like 8am, or maybe 8pm. There’s no appointment forcing me to get-up. I really need to do laundry. I hate searching for matching socks. My most weather-appropriate clothes are dirty. What’s worst, I don’t have a clear picture of what I need to accomplish today.
Oh, and my loving puppy, who usually forces me to start my day, crawled back in bed, under the covers, wanting to cuddle away the miserable morning.
So, what now?
But one remark from that afternoon at La Closerie des Lilas stands out from the others, and not only does it reveal much about Beckett the man, it speaks to the dilemma all writers must live with: eternal doubt, the inability to judge the worth of what one has created. During the conversation, he told me that he had just finished translating Mercier and Camier, his first French novel, which had been written in the mid-forties. I had read the book in French and had liked it very much. “A wonderful book,” I said. I was just a kid, after all, and I couldn’t suppress my enthusiasm. But Beckett shook his head and said, “Oh no, no, not very good. In fact, I’ve cut out about 25 per cent of the original. The English version is going to be quite a bit shorter than the French.” After that we started talking about other things. Then, out of the blue, five or 10 minutes later, he leant across the table and said, “You really liked it, huh? You really thought it was good?” This was Samuel Beckett, remember, and not even he had any grasp of the value of his work. No writer ever knows, not even the best ones. “Yes,” I said to him. “I really thought it was good.”