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Friday, February 16, 2007

Inexorable Purposefulness

Beckett fact no. 83.

To nail down the Beckett-Cioran nexus, finally, into a fact.

Bach forms a rare, possibly unique touchstone of affirmation in Cioran's work. As he told Benjamin in Ivry in 1989:

Sans Bach, Dieu serait diminué. Sans Bach, Dieu serait un type de troisième ordre. Bach est la seule chose qui vous donne l'impression que l'univers n'est pas raté. Tout y est profond, réel, sans théâtre. On ne peut supporter Liszt après Bach. (...) Sans Bach je serais un nihiliste absolu.

Whereas Beckett... bizarrely, inexplicably, blasphemously even... did... not... like... Bach. Marcel Mihalovici remembers his complaining of Bach's 'inexorable purposefulness', and Bettina Jonic reports Beckett comparing him to 'an organ grinder churning out musical phrases.' John Beckett put it down to Bach's 'seamlessness and short, endlessly repeated, musical phrases.'

Cioran's tribute to Beckett in Aveux et Admirations recalls the evening the two men spent in search of a French equivalent for the English title 'Lessness'. Cioran thought of Boehme's Ungrund, as a kind of subsoil to the Urgrund, and wrote to Beckett the next day with sinéité. Beckett replied that he had thought of it too, perhaps 'au même instant'. Except the two letters on this subject reproduced in Cioran's Œuvres don't seem to bear out this version. Judge for yourself (click to enlarge):

I can't make out all of Beckett's handwriting, I must confess. Transcriptions in the comments box please.

Another point of connection between the two men: Dieppe, whither Cioran would escape for short breaks, and the subject of Beckett's Hölderlin-inflected French-English quatrain, 'Dieppe'. In French:

encore le dernier reflux
le galet mort
le demi-tour puis les pas
vers les vieilles lumières

I said Cioran's love of Bach was a 'possibly' unique positive touchstone, because careful reading of his Œuvres suggests he had a dark, which is to say a bright side, normally kept well out of view: 'Je suis grand amateur de tango', he also told Benjamin Ivry, 'C'est une vraie faiblesse.' Of Beckett's dancing skills, I fear, as Watt would put it, 'nothing is known'.

1 comment:

George said...

"Then ere he could see through his feeling for her she mentioned that she cared for nothing in heaven above or the earth beneath or the waters under the earth so much as the music of Bach and that she was taking herself off almost at once and for good and all to Vienna to study the pianoforte. The result of this was that the curds put forth suckers of sargasso, and enmeshed him." - Dream, p.3.