Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Let us get there rather earlier, while there are still refusals we can make."

This is from a letter Samuel Beckett wrote to Georges Duthuit on August 2, 1948, collected in The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1941-1956:
Here I have difficulty in believing that it has ever happened to me, that it may happen again, to write. In the old days, I used to make up for that, used to rejoice in it if you like, by talking in abundance, in this city of abundant talkers. Not these days. But you do have to see the two or three who are fond of you, and that you are probably fond of too, faithfully. "Ange plein de beauté connaissez-vous les rides, Et la peur de vieillir et ce hideux tourment, De lire. . .?" [Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal: "Fair as you are, what could you know of fear - /The fear of ageing and the unspeakable pain . . ." in the Richard Howard translation provided by the editors, but see also several others here.] The lines that matter are those one forgets. The others one quotes easily and incorrectly. And so again the other evening great firing-off of knowledge, Neoplatonic academy, Masaccio, Foppa, Michelangelo dead and Galileo born the same year, and that old warhorse the Giorgionism of our times, of their times. And understood, overstood, this Pickwick of a Christ who died for the hard men and the executioners. Do you know the cry common to those in purgatory? Io fui. [Dante: "I was."] I went with my mother to church last Sunday, a distant church, so that she could find the pillar behind which my father would  hide his noddings-off, in the evening, his physical restlessness, his portly man's refusal to kneel. […] The weather is fine, I walk along my old paths, I keep watching my mother's eyes, never so blue, so stupefied, so heartrending, eyes of an endless childhood, that of old age. Let us get there rather earlier, while there are still refusals we can make. I think these are the first eyes I have seen. I have no wish to see any others, I have all I need for loving and weeping, I know now what is going to close, and open inside me, but without seeing anything, there is no more seeing.


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