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Sunday, April 02, 2006


Chas (with beard) (and Dave): a fellow Chasian?

Beckett fact no. 58.

The concierge is disappearing from Parisian life, we are told. The security code on the front door may not give you the same dirty look as a sour-faced old hag when you stumble through the door with a new lady friend at two in the morning, but it’s hard to see Concentriste supreme Jean du Chas ever getting as worked up about security codes as he did about concierges.

Jean du Chas was born in Toulouse on 13 April 1906, only, illegitimate and posthumous son of a Belgian stockbroker. Inspired by Descartes to pen a Discours de la Sortie, its founder defined Concentrisme as un prisme sur l'escalier, a prism on the staircase, reflecting with suitable staircase wit our earthly comings and goings. Every centimetre a peripatetic creed, it preaches the doctrine of Va t’êmbeter ailleurs, 'go make a nuisance of yourself somewhere else.' But at the heart of its teaching is the concierge, that Clapham junction of human commerce; and it was into the safe-keeping of a concierge that du Chas's manuscripts were entrusted on the night he took his life in 1928. Among the scraps of his journal quoted in Beckett's 1930 talk to the Modern Languages Society of TCD (from which all this information derives), I particularly like the description, complete with 'inverted pagoda of teleological tergiversations', of du Chas's Proustian quantities of matutinal snot.

Two unusual words in Le Concentrisme, saperlipopette and coryza, turn up again in Proust, I've noticed. Another unusual word Beckett uses quite a lot in his early writing in 'circumvolutionisation.'

And speaking of concierges, one might have come in handy in that strange little scene described in the first part of How It Is where the drunken narrator catches his foot 'twixt cage and landing' and stays trapped for two hours before 'someone came running having summoned it in vain'.

Du Chas may die in 1928, but returns as the particule-less Chas in both Dream and More Pricks Than Kicks, encountering Belacqua twice over between the two books zigzagging down Pearse Street on his way to the Alba's party.

Chasisme, Concentrisme's concomitant personality cult, I form on analogy with chosisme.

Chasian, 'of du Chas', I hereby declare a perfect rhyme with 'Asian'.

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