James Knowlson


Several twentieth-century writers and painters have clearly had an important part to play in shaping or influencing Samuel Beckett’s own career—most crucially, perhaps, among his personal friends, James Joyce, Bram van Velde and Henri Hayden. But the somewhat different role played by George Reavey, who died last year, should not be ignored. This issue seeks to clarify George Reavey’s role (as, one hopes, will be done in future Beckett biographies) and allows some of Reavey’s friends, themselves distinguished as painters, engravers, or poets, to pay their own tribute to him. Several of George Reavey’s early poems, specially chosen for this issue by Samuel Beckett, are reprinted by kind permission of his widow, Jean, who has also kindly provided the information from which the chronology and the list of publications was prepared.


We are fortunate in obtaining for this issue the production notes and extracts from the diary of Walter D. Asmus, who, as with Warten auf Godot, was Beckett’s production assistant at the Schiller Theater Werkstatt in 1976 for the production of Damals and Tritte (That time and Footfalls). The other articles were chosen primarily, of course, for their quality but also to provide what aims to be a well-balanced issue, offering, among other articles, a major comparative study of Dickens and Beckett, a fascinating murder trial as an (undoubtedly authentic) source study of ‘Dante and the lobster,’ some pertinent comments on the intricacies and problems of Beckett bibliography and, focussing upon the more recent work, an important review article of For to end yet again and  a study of That time and Footfalls to accompany the Asmus diary.


Although not all of the reviews alluded to in number 1 have yet materialized, adopting a wide-ranging policy on books reviewed has led to some interesting juxtapositions and differences of view (compare Bradby and Redfern, for instance, on Sartre as a dramatist), as well as a lively controversy concerning critical approaches to the plays of Harold Pinter.


Issue 3 will contain, it is hoped, more new work by Samuel Beckett, and will include a study of the unpublished novel, Dream of fair to middling women, and an interview with the actress, Billie Whitelaw, for whom Beckett wrote Footfalls.