Anyone who knew Sam well knew that his generosity did not stem from a deprived childhood for which he was trying to compensate; on the contrary, his early years had been happy, fortunate. He would even ask, uncomprehendingly, why people thought his writings must mean he had a miserable childhood. All they have to do, he added, is go to the window, read the papers, it is all there. A. remembers being with him in a taxi, stopped at a traffic light, and Sam, looking out the window, suddenly throwing up his hands and murmuring, almost to himself, ‘La détresse, la détresse‘ (‘Distress, distress’)
How it Was
I think Atik here is showing us a main flaw within psychoanalytic theory: A theory internalizing everything as if life was a personal problem is always in danger of reducing complex social situations to familialism – and thereby obstructing potential social and political criticism. In the case of Beckett, a psychoanalytic approach is in constant danger of reducing a great body of work into a personal misery – which obviously is an assault on the art and the artist, but also on the general reader.
Precisely true, Sigrun, with our gift of perspective. Beckett himself and his generation of artists were Freud’s true torch-bearers, so the error, as we now understand it, is understandable.