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Saturday, 20 November 2010

Samuel Beckett: A Jar of One's Own


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File:CanopicJarsOfNeskhons-BritishMuseum-August21-08.jpg

Canopic tomb burial jars containing the organs of Neskhons, wife of Pinedjem II; calcite, with painted wooden heads, from Deir el-Behri royal cache, c. 990-969 BC: image by Captmondo, 2008 (British Museum)


More resolutions, while we're at it. (That's right: resolutely, more resolutions.) Make abundant use of the principle of parsimony, as if it were familiar to me (it is not too late). Assume notably henceforward that the thing said and the thing heard have a common source (resisting for this purpose the temptation to call in question the possibility of assuming anything whatever). Situate this source in me (without specifying where exactly, no finicking): anything is preferable to the consciousness of third parties and (more generally speaking) of an outer world. Carry if necessary this process of compression to the point of abandoning all other postulates than that of a deaf half-wit, hearing nothing of what he says and understanding even less. Evoke at painful junctures (when discouragement threatens to raise its head) the image of a vast cretinous mouth (red, blubber and slobbering) in solitary confinement, extruding indefatigably (with a noise of wet kisses and washing in a tub) the words that obstruct it. Set aside once and for all (at the same time as the analogy with orthodox damnation) all idea of beginning and end. Overcome (that goes without saying) the fatal leaning towards expressiveness. Equate me (without pity or scruple) with him who exists (somehow, no matter how, no finicking), with him whose story this story had the brief ambition to be. Better: ascribe to me a body. Better still: arrogate to me a mind. Speak of a world of my own (sometimes referred to as the inner) without choking. Doubt no more. Seek no more. Take advantage of the brand-new soul and substantiality to abandon, with the only possible abandon, deep down within. And finally (these and other decisions having been taken) carry on cheerfully as before.

Something has changed nevertheless. Not a word about Mahood, or Worm, for the past..... Ah yes, I nearly forgot: speak of time, without flinching. And what is more, it just occurs to me (by a natural association of ideas), treat of space with the same easy grace. As if it were not bunged up on all sides, a few inches away. After all that's something - a few inches - to be thankful for. It gives one air: room for the tongue to loll, to have lolled, to loll on.



Samuel Beckett: from The Unnamable (1959)

5 comments:

curtisroberts said...

The Beckett excerpt is remarkable. It began to read itself aloud to me in my mind in the way a player piano seems to just start up and go until it’s finished with its piece. However, the playing was profound and subtly and delicately modulated; it did not feel mechanical. A Jar Of One's Own also made me reflect further on the Adorno in ways I haven't fully resolved yet. Seeing that line-up of Canopic jars just before bedtime is an image that will (and did) endure. Fortunately, I'm used to Canopic jars. Jane made a small replica of one in 5th grade art class when they were studying ancient Egypt (she gave it the head of a cockatoo) and I've come to regard it as a friend who lives on Caroline's shelf.

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Thanks for this, especially notable: "the thing said and the thing heard have a common source"; "[s]et aside . . . all thought of beginning and end"; "speak of time, without flinching" . . . .


11.21

grey whiteness of clouds above shadowed
plane of ridge, red-tailed hawk calling
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

equation formed by addition
of line, follows from

visible sequence, placement
of amount, apart from

sunlight reflected in windblown channel,
whiteness of gull flapping toward point

TC said...

Curtis, I do envy you your little jar friend who lives on a shelf.

There is something so wonderfully neat and tidy about one's principal organs being sensibly preserved in some sort of aromatic embalming fluid and kept in separate attractively painted jars... so much better than the firebox or the six feet under deal.

But I suppose one could afford the proper canopic jar burial only if one were up there with the Pharaonic .00001 percent.

(Definitely no canopic jars in the medicare formulary.)

This passage of Beckett comes from an extended section in which the narrator is speaking to us from within a jar.

I suppose some may find it bleak, I am perhaps a bit warped in finding it so brilliantly funny. But Beckett does that to me.

His refusal of expressiveness is so remarkably expressive really, just as his insistent compression becomes in the end so very expansive. An unmatchable magic, an inconceivable gift.

"Carry if necessary this process of compression to the point of abandoning all other postulates than that of a deaf half-wit, hearing nothing of what he says and understanding even less. Evoke at painful junctures (when discouragement threatens to raise its head) the image of a vast cretinous mouth (red, blubber and slobbering) in solitary confinement, extruding indefatigably (with a noise of wet kisses and washing in a tub) the words that obstruct it. Set aside once and for all (at the same time as the analogy with orthodox damnation) all idea of beginning and end. Overcome (that goes without saying) the fatal leaning towards expressiveness..."

Genius.

TC said...

Steve,

I must say, locked into the cave all weekend as the weather crashes down upon us, a serious case of urn burial blues was sweeping over me until my imagination was swept out the door and up into the elements with the flapping gull and the red-tailed hawk.

The channels as life support system?

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Thanks for all such following thoughts and yes, channel as life support system -- time to head down there soon . . . .