Poetry News

J.M. Coetzee Looks at Samuel Beckett

By Harriet Staff
J.M. Coetzee, Late Essays, cover

At Literary Hub, read an essay by J.M. Coetzee about Samuel Beckett from Coetzee's Late Essays: 2006–2017Coetzee's rumination begins with his thoughts on Beckett's relationship with philosophy: "Beckett writes as if he believes that we are made up of, that we are, a body plus a mind." From there: 

Even more specifically, he writes as if he believes that the connection between mind and body is mysterious, or at least unexplained. At the same time Beckett—that is to say, Beckett’s mind—finds the dualistic account of the self ludicrous. This split attitude is the source of much of his comedy.

According to this standard account, Beckett believes that our constitution is dual, and that our dual constitution is the fons et origo of our unease in the world. He also believes there is nothing we can do to change our constitution, least of all by philosophical introspection. This plight renders us absurd.

But what is it exactly that is absurd: the fact that we are two different kinds of entity, body and mind, linked together; or the belief that we are two different kinds of entity linked together? What is it that gives rise to Beckett’s laughter and Beckett’s tears, which are sometimes hard to tell apart: the human condition, or philosophical dualism as an account of the human condition?

Read more at Literary Hub.

Originally Published: January 3rd, 2018