The stuff about efforts at publishing is interesting only to a point. Then there are the many expressions of angst about how poorly writing is coming, how awful it is. And he includes poems in some of these letters, some to friends, others to publishers. The excessive influence of Joyce is unmistakable, in the worst way: I find I cannot read Beckett's poetry, the early poems anyway. (Much as I have difficulty chewing on many of the early stories, whereas I felt an affinity with the great trilogy.) Then there are the remarks about other authors, assessments. This is, unsurprisingly, some of the best stuff here (along with Beckett's own ideas on what writing is and ought to be, about which I hope to blog, time permitting). During this time he was reading Proust and working on his critical monograph (as yet unread by me, though included in the Grove set) about In Search of Lost Time, so there are scattered comments about different sections of the book. In a letter from December 1932, for example, he writes about re-reading Le Temps Retrouvé [Time Regained] and finding himself unable to "get on with" the "Balzac gush" of the first half, while the second includes "surely [...] as great a piece of sustained writing as anything to be found anywhere." I find such remarks bracing. But somehow my favorite so far are about Dostoevsky, in part, I think, because of my own troubles with that author. Here, Beckett is reading a French translation of that novel which is variously rendered in English as The Possessed or Devils or Demons:
I'm reading the 'Possédés' in a foul translation. Even so it must be very carelessly & badly written in the Russian, full of clichés & journalese: but the movement, the transitions! No one moves about like Dostoievski. No one ever caught the insanity of dialogue like he did.More to come. . .