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When a Swedish poet tried to sabotage Samuel Beckett.

Dan Sheehan

January 17, 2020, 10:04am

It’s true. According to the Guardian, fifty years after Sammy B deservedly won the Nobel Prize—for a body of work which by then included the plays Waiting for Godot, Endgame, and Krapp’s Last Tape, as well as the novels Molloy, Murphy, and Watt—newly opened archives reveal the serious doubts one milquetoast member of the Swedish Academy had about what he called Beckett’s “artistically staged ghost poetry, characterized by a bottomless contempt for the human condition.” As if bottomless contempt for the human condition were a bad thing. Madness.

That flaccid member was none other than poet and ornery company man Nobel committee chair Anders Österling, who had campaigned against Beckett for years, scuppering the Irish playwright’s chances in both 1964 and 1968.

Thankfully, my boy Karl Ragnar Gierow (who understood that life isn’t all smiles and sunshine, Andres) intervened in 1969, countering that Beckett’s “black vision” was “not the expression of animosity and nihilism.” Beckett, he argued, “portrays humanity as we have all seen it, at the moment of its most severe violation,” and searches for the depths of degradation because even there, “there is the possibility of rehabilitation.”

Damn right, Karl. Damn. Right.


[via The Guardian]

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