Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Badiou: Beckett between French and English

There is something of the 'grand style' in Beckett's French. However, radical as his inventions are - like the asyntactic continuum of How It Is - in Beckett's prose we glimpse the elevation of Bossuet, the musical grasp of Rousseau, the finery of Chateaubriand, far more in fact than the taut 'modem style' which is characteristic of Proust. This is because, like Conrad in English, the language that serves Beckett as a model is a language learned in its classical form, a language to which he resorts precisely so as not to let himself be carried away by familiarity. A language adopted in order to say things in the least immediate way possible. It is thus that Beckett's French is 'too' French, just as Conrad's English is a much 'too' mannered sort of English. So that when Beckett returns to English, he must undo this 'too much', this excess, and thereby attain a strange 'not enough' - a kind of subtracted English, an English of pure cadence. He abandons himself to speed and its variations.
Alain Badiou (here)

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