Beckett: Writing is not Experience

In Damned to Fame, Knowlson reiterates what Beckett had said to Lawrence Harvey about  his trilogy demonstrating how “work does not depend on experience – [it is] not a record of experience. Of course you use it.” (371-2)

Compare the above with the advice Junot Diaz gave to an aspiring young writer:

He talked of not having enough life experiences, mentioned that I should go teach in China or Japan, then make the decision to go spend two or three years writing when I had something to write about.

This amounts to the reclamation and re-embodiment of the author after their ‘death’, with an unperturbed and neglectful depreciation of discourse, that carries the danger of a naive valorisation of experience. The cult of the author in the contemporary guise of the “sage-philosopher” as ‘global’ flaneur, communicator connecting their emotional experience with emphatic outreach (providing the ideal model for the ‘millennial’ figure constructed in the commercials of ‘cool’ consumer tech brands and the ‘abstract’ advertisements for personal loans, credit cards, insurance and savings services offered by the banking & finance sector.)

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Still, as a totally unrelated aside, Beckett seems to have one of the most ‘experience-etched’ faces among the giants of literature. The distinctively deep lines almost appear as though they were painstakingly carved by a true craftsman to communicate the depth and intensity of experiences in a singular (and perhaps ‘damaged’, in the way Adorno used it) life.




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