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.’
‘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–
Aesthetics Beckett LITERATURE writing Anxiety Arnold Geulincx egon schiele fear Gabriel D’Aubarède ibi nihil velis Murphy ubi nihil vales