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Thursday, January 11, 2007


Beckett fact no. 76.

There's a great gap, Pegeen Mike tells us in The Playboy of the Western World, between a gallous tale and a dirty deed.

I was reminded of this the other day reading Gerry Dukes's painstaking edition of First Love and Other Novellas. 'Out of my life too he went without a care', we're told of a young boy in The Calmative, 'not one of his thoughts would ever be for me again, unless perhaps when he was old and, delving in his boyhood, would come upon that gallows night...' In the French text, though, it's a joyeuse nuit. How so? Because the manuscript originally read 'joyous', which Beckett then changed to the Syngeian 'gallous', before changing that again to the very different 'gallows'.

The title of this post has nothing to do with the above, by the way. In my list of French poets in Beckett I omitted Anna de Noailles, and couldn't resist using the above photograph of her (second row, on the right), if only for the pleasure of quoting Beckett's reaction in Proust to the 'garrulous old dowager''s admiration for her poetry: Saperlipopette!

There is another Mme de Noailles, possibly related, who was known as 'Madame Etiquette', one of whose charges fell off a donkey and forbade her friends to assist her, insisting they wait for Madame's arrival: 'She will show us the right way to pick up a Dauphine who has tumbled off a donkey.' Perhaps she should have stuck to a hinny, I mean a jennet. Can hinnies procreate, I wonder? I feel an equine fact coming on.

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