Distress, distress

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’)

Anne Atik
How it Was

2 thoughts on “Distress, distress

  1. 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.


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