on 9 March 2014
I bought this, together with its companion, Texts for Nothing, to create an order to the strange collection of separate monographs and collections bought over the years.
This was stimulated by a revisiting of some of the texts in a local reading group led by a truly remarkable leader.
She encouraged us to read them aloud as a way of starting to engage with the texts she selected. This helped us all, the initially sceptical as well myself who knew them already, in some sense.
Wonderful limpid texts
The pieces here are dense and intense meditations on life and death. Built using sparse and hypnotic prose they are rightly regarded as classic studies of death.
Written over the last decade or so of Beckett's life they all discuss similar ideas and themes, they return again and again to the same motifs.
The hypnotic nature of the text, the use of repetition and the way in which Beckett plays with syntax make these powerful and distinctive works individually.
Company features an unnamed narrator in a dark room pondering words and history and memory, Ill Seen Ill Said presents an old woman dying in a cabin watched by mysterious sentinels. Taken apart they are masterful pieces of literature, put together, along with Worstward Ho and Stirrings Still, they become so dense as to be impenetrable.
It is understandable why the editors chose to do so; these pieces are thematically similar and they represent his last important prose works.
And this could be my failings as a reader, but collected like this I felt the individual stories to lose much of their power.
Company taken on its own leaves quite an impression. It is distinctive and unique in its use of language. Taken as a companion piece with the other writings here it doesn't seem as special somehow.
There is no denying that these are important pieces of literature, they are landmark musing on the nature of death. I am not and cannot deny that. But if you are going to buy this book then treat them as separate entities, in my opinion it renders them much more emotionally vivid.
on 6 May 2013
These last works of Beckett were always my favourite, so to have them presented here with his last proper work ('Stirrings Still') as well as bits and pieces to provide a bit of context makes this the most must-have Beckett title for me. There's also a very scholarly book by the editor here, about 'Stirrings Still', which is well worth having too - if only for the insanity of it ;-)