Paul Stewart
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The figure of Beckett in four contemporary novels
in Beckett’s afterlives
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This chapter analyses the ‘afterlife’ of the figure of Beckett in four contemporary novels: Lucia, by Alex Pheby; The Joyce Girl, by Annabel Abbs; A Country Road, A Tree, by Jo Baker; and Jott, by Sam Thompson. Rather than adaptations of Beckett’s works, these novels interact with the historical figure of Beckett in the war years (Baker) and in his relationships with Geoffrey Thompson (Thompson) and Lucia Joyce (Pheby and Abbs). It is argued that the ‘historical’ nature of the figure and reputation of Beckett is brought to the fore and made problematic through his deployment as a fictionalised character. Baker, Thompson, Abbs and Pheby all draw on biographical material that has recently become more readily available through the publication of the letters. Yet it is also apparent that a lack of biographical material is supplemented by these authors through adopting or adapting facets of Beckett’s own works of fiction. By examining the economy of these textual traces, the chapter charts a tension between the ‘biographical’, ‘historical’ and ‘fictional’ representations of Beckett. The chapter also argues that these four fictional uses of the author allow us to consider his own practice of ‘adapting’ from real-life, especially in Dream of Fair to Middling Women (in which Lucia Joyce appears as the Syra-Cusa) and Murphy (which draws on Thompson’s experiences at the Bethlehem Hospital). This in turn raises ethical concerns about the use of ‘real’ people within fiction, for both Beckett and others.

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Beckett’s afterlives

Adaptation, remediation, appropriation


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