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Monday, 3 January 2011

Samuel Beckett: An Odd Bird ("What ruined me at bottom was the athletics")


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File:Haematopus fuliginosus Bruny.jpg

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosis), Bruny Island, Tasmania: photo by Noodle snacks, 2010



It was five or six years since anyone had seen me, to begin with myself. I mean the face I had pored over so, all down the years. Now I would resume that inspection, that it may be a lesson to me, in my mirrors and looking-glasses so long put away. I'll let myself be seen before I'm done. I'll call out, if there is a knock, Come in! But I speak now of five or six years ago. These allusions to now, to before and after, and all such yet to come, that we may feel ourselves in time. I had more trouble with the body proper. I masked it as best I could, but when I got out of bed it was sure to show. For I was now beginning, then if you prefer, to get out of bed again. Then there is the matter of its injuries. But the body was of less consequence. Whereas the face, no, not at any price.



File:Thinornis rubricollis Bruny Island.jpg

Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis), Bruny Island, Tasmania: photo by Noodle snacks, 2009



For I have taken to getting up again. I thought I had made my last journey, the one I must now try once more to elucidate, that it may be a lesson to me, the one from which it were better I had never returned. But the feeling gains on me that I must undertake another. So I have taken to getting up again and taking a few steps in the room, holding on to the bars of the bed.



File:UplandSandpiperOntarioCropped.jpg

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicaudia) perched on fence post, Carden Alvar region, near Kirkfield, Ontario, Canada: photo by Johnath, 2010



What ruined me at bottom was the athletics. With all that jumping and running when I was young, and long after in the case of certain events, I wore out the machine before its time. My fortieth year had come and gone and I still throwing the javelin.





Athlete, University of Nebraska, Lincoln: photo by John Vachon, 1942 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)

Samuel Beckett: edited excerpt from Fizzle 2 (translated from the French by the author), in Fizzles, 1976

6 comments:

TC said...

For those who may be interested, a little Beckett inventory:


Samuel Beckett: A Jar of One's Own

Samuel Beckett: A Love Story

Samuel Beckett: An Odd Bird ("What ruined me at bottom was the athletics")

Samuel Beckett: Apodosis

Samuel Beckett: Aporia

Samuel Beckett: Nothing

Samuel Beckett: Watt / Andreas Gursky (Tiny Details of the Big Picture)

Samuel Beckett: Worstward Ho

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Yes to Sooty Oysterccatcher, Hooded Plover, Upland Sandpiper, and Beckett, speaking of "these allusions to now, to before and after, and all such yet to come" . . . .

1.3

light coming into sky above still black
ridge, silver of planet beside branches
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

future not yet, the past is
speaking so that time

might likewise be, “either-
or,” like every other

grey-white clouds reflected in channel,
whiteness of gull gliding across ridge

TC said...

Steve,

Yes the before and the after, each its own area of problem, with this farcical broke-down state in between: the region of Beckett's beautifully brave, bleak, divinely human comedy,

future not yet, the past is
speaking

(of what is yet to come?)

curtisroberts said...

I love that this is called An Odd Bird. Based on how I am feeling at the moment, I can really identify with this, but what strikes me most is how the language reminds me of the sort of sentences one actually thinks (I suppose Beckett's sentences come out better than most people's, however). The birds look as though they're thinking these sentences. Of course, the Sooty Oystercatcher may ponder a lot how he got his name and who named him.

TC said...

Curtis,

Yes, know what you mean, no one but Beckett ever made that kind of it-hurts-even-to-laugh sentence (which of course then makes one laugh).

"So I have taken to getting up again and taking a few steps in the room, holding on to the bars of the bed."

Obviously having skinny legs and all (as Joe Tex once put it) is alright... if you're a bird.

(But of course, "Then there is the matter of its injuries.")

The Sooty Oystercatcher, if it were to be given veto rights on its name, might just have a laugh: and then say, well, fair is fair, after all I AM a bit sooty-looking (though in my world soot is considered a very fine colour indeed), and well, I DO like an oyster, now and again.

TC said...

"I love it when Beckett turns into a big beefy topless javelin thrower," says a certain Odd Bird who shall remain Anon.

(I love it too, O.B.)