Spring 2009: Of Note
Waiting for Mail
The letters of Samuel Beckett open to scholars, public at last
To learn more, visit gs.emory.edu/beckettletters/.
Playwrite Edward Albee on creativity (Emory University's YouTube Channel)
It was the perfect way to spend st. patrick’s day. A capacity crowd filled Glenn Memorial Auditorium to hear readings from the early letters of Dublin-born writer Samuel Beckett, best known for his play Waiting for Godot.
The letters were read by Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Edward Albee, author of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, who knew the Nobel Laureate personally, and Distinguished Writer in Residence Salman Rushdie; they were joined by Professor Emerita Brenda Bynum and Atlanta actor Robert Shaw-Smith.
The evening was one of several Emory events highlighting the recent publication of The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Volume One 1929–1940, the first of a planned four-volume series by Cambridge University Press. The project was conceived after more than fifteen thousand of Beckett’s letters were discovered in archives and private collections around the world.
“It would hardly seem possible were the evidence not right here: Samuel Beckett, that most taciturn and private of twentieth-century writers—the man who said ‘every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness’—was in fact one of the century’s great correspondents,” read the New York Times book review.
The international effort to edit Beckett’s letters became affiliated with Emory’s Graduate School in 1990 and received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Research associate Lois More Overbeck, who directs the Emory effort, coedited the volume with Martha Dow Fehsenfeld.
Rushdie admitted that he once stole Beckett’s first novel, Murphy, as a young man at Cambridge. From the first sentence, he said, “I knew it would be a long relationship.”