Samuel Beckett

I don’t suppose Samuel Beckett counts as an under-read writer these days, but he may well count as a poorly understood one, and is seldom read as a poet, perhaps because much of his poetry is in French. Here is one of his own translations back into English which has always haunted me from the moment I read it many years ago. Like Shakespeare, it seems somehow “intrinsic”, essential, so elemental as to have always existed, like stones or the
sea. Surely not a word could ever be removed or added to such a summary of the limits of our condition, its despairs and its consolations?


what would I do without this world faceless incurious
where to be lasts but an instant where every instant
spills in the void the ignorance of having been
without this wave where in the end
body and shadow together are engulfed
what would I do without this silence where the murmurs die
the pantings the frenzies towards succour towards love
without this sky that soars
above its ballast dust

what would I do what I did yesterday and the day before
peering out of my deadlight looking for another
wandering like me eddying far from all the living
in a convulsive space
among the voices voiceless
that throng my hiddenness

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