I ended my last post by claiming that the nothingness of anxiety echoes the nothingness at the center of Beckett’s writing – but (how) can nothing function as a source, as the origin of creative production?

Beckett offers two different ‘nothings’ as interpretative keys to his writing: If I were in the unenviable position of having to study my work my points of departure would be the “Naught is more real . . .” and the “Ubi nihil vales . . .” both statements can be found already in Murphy (1938).
ubi nihil vales, ibi nihil velis = where you are worth nothing, there you will wish for nothing. From the writings of the Flemish philosopher Arnold Geulincx; also quoted by Samuel Beckett in his first published novel, Murphy.
It has been established that Beckett cited Geulincx as a key influence and interlocutor because of Geulincx’s emphasis on the powerlessness and ignorance of the human condition.
But Beckett, as he sees himself, is no philosopher:
‘I never read philosophers.’
‘Why not?’
‘I never understand anything they write.’
‘All the same, people have wondered if the existentialists’ problem of being may afford a key to your works.’
‘There’s no key or problem. I wouldn’t have had any reason to write my novels if I could have expressed their subject in philosophical terms.’
‘What was your reason then?’
‘I haven’t the slightest idea. I’m no intellectual. All I am is feeling.“Molloy” and the others came to me the day I became aware of my own folly. Only then did I begin to write the things I feel.’

All I am is feeling (?!)–raw feelings into action, it seems, if one tries to find an answer as to how nothing can lead to something


–to be continued–


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Harold Rhenisch says:

    Do you read that as Beckett saying that he is writing not from “nothingness” in an existential sense but from “a place without intellect or the observation that could declare something to be ‘nothing’ or ‘something'”? That latter seems likely. This is a very interesting discussion. Thanks for laying it out.

  2. That stunning work by Schiele! I have never seen it before. Wow.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Yes it is! I believe the Herbstbaum could have found a “natural” place among de Waal’s chosen works.

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