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Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Beckett fact no. 10.

In Malone Dies the eponymous narrator gives a racial tinge to his paranoid abjection when he speaks of seeking a 'kindred spirit among the inferior races, red, yellow, chocoloate, and so on'. An interesting aspect of Beckett's race politics was his involvement, as translator, in Nancy Cunard's 1934 Negro Anthology. The results can be found in Alan Warren Friedman's Beckett in Black and Red: The Translations for Nancy Cunard's Negro. Although most of the text is prose, a version of Louis Moerman's poem 'Louis Armstrong' shows strong affinities with the poems of Echo's Bones (the flashes of Hiberno-English, the incantatory repetitions, the imploring addresses to the female), as well as forming the right-hand panel of a jazz Venn diagram with Philip Larkin on the left-hand side and Satchmo in the centre. Here's an extract:

suddenly in the midst of a game of lotto with his sisters
Armstrong let a roar out of him that he had the raw meat
red wet flesh for Louis
and he up and he sliced him two rumplips
since when his trumpet bubbles
their fust buss

poppies burn on the black earth
he weds the floor he lulls her

some of these days muffled in ooze
down down down down
pang of white in my hair

after you've gone
Narcissus lean and slippered

{end quotation}

PS For anyone wondering, like me, whether 'bubbles' in line five of the above is meant to be a verb, the original French is: 'Il s'en fit des lèvres et depuis ce jour, /Sa trompette a la nostalgie de leur premier baiser.’

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