Ricks on How to Read Beckett

So that although it makes sense to read Beckett, as many do, as a writer who is oddly criss-crossed, a writer who manages to be excruciatingly funny despite his possessing a deeply dispiriting apprehension of life, the opposite makes sense too: the conviction that Beckett’s apprehension of death is not dispiriting, but is wise and fortifying, and therefore is unsurprisingly the lens of his translucent comedy.

Christopher Ricks
Beckett’s Dying Words

7 thoughts on “Ricks on How to Read Beckett

      • Yes. It just seems odd for Ricks to suggest that Beckett was apprehensive about (as in, fearful of) both life and death after having characterized Beckett’s art as embodying the “…ancient enduring belief that it is better to be dead than alive, best of all never to have been born” (a statement with which I agree regarding Beckett’s work). But I haven’t read this or any other book about Beckett — I’ve only read what Beckett wrote — so I don’t know what might prompt someone to perceive in him a deeply dispiriting apprehension (as in, fear) of either life or death. I surely don’t get a sense of that from his work.


        • Your point is well made as it would contradict the raison d’être of Ricks’s book to suggest that Beckett was fearful of death. I resisted his using apprehension to imply understanding because who of us, even Beckett, could claim to understand death. It is however the more logical interpretation.


  1. Yours is a good point, too. I took it to mean not that Beckett understood death (for which “comprehension” probably would be the better word), but that he grasped its value, its function as perimeter of life, its ultimate gift of oblivion. But if so, why would such a grasp be dispiriting? That’s what made me question Ricks’s meaning. I guess his next book should be Ricks on How to Read Ricks. Heh.


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