“The realisation that art has always been bourgeois is finally of scant interest…”
- Samuel Beckett, Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit
Here’s a way to read Beckett: by making destitution metaphysical, Beckett goes as far as he can in rejecting art’s relation to production while remaining within the form of art. Beckett’s tramps are utterly unproductive, but because this non-production is not real, but allegorical, his protagonists’ travails can reflect back on the lives of Beckett’s audience. In this sense Beckett’s poverty is the mirror image of Proust’s wealth: the one minimalist, the other expansionist, both make a social position into an aesthetic and philosophical experience. It could be said of Beckett what Walter Benjamin said of Proust:
This disillusioned, merciless deglamorizer of the ego, of love, or morals – for this is how Proust liked to view himself – turns his whole limitless art into a veil for this one most vital mystery of his class: the economic aspect. -
The Image of Proust
- Praxis Blog
...no animal is able to restrict his needs to the same unbelievable degree and to reduce the conditions of his life to the absolute minimum. In a word, there is no animal with the same talent for 'Irishing' himself. Such a reduction to a bare physical minimum is not at issue when we are discussing the value of labour-power.
- Marx, Capital
First, some background. Beckett always disapproved of productions of his plays that "mixed" the races (or the genders in ways not specifically described), because he felt that power relations between the races and genders were not a part of the artistic material he was trying to present, and so he wanted to leave them out entirely, as he felt they would inevitably draw attention in performance from his central concerns. He was happy, however, to see all-black productions of his plays - or all-female productions of single-sex scripts like Waiting for Godot. I suppose it's easy for Cambridge types to pooh-pooh Beckett's worries on this score - like Stephen Colbert, they probably "can't tell" when someone's black. But since Beckett's death, mixed-race productions of his plays have appeared elsewhere - and unsurprisingly have been largely interpreted as meditations on race and colonialism.
- The Hub Review