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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

Chapter 10 - “Que voulez-vous?”

from III - New Hermeneutic Codes


In a striking letter of October 18, 1932, the twenty-six-year-old Samuel Beckett, highly uncertain about his poetry, wrote to his friend, the poet and critic Thomas McGreevy: “I’m in mourning for the integrity of a pendu’s emission of semen, what I find in Homer & Dante & Racine & sometimes Rimbaud, the integrity of the eyelids coming down before the brain knows of grit in the wind.”. In the letter, Beckett draws a distinction between conscious, agential events (the brain knowing of grit in the wind) and reflex actions – the emission of semen in a hanged man [pendu], and the eyelids coming down without the engagement of the conscious mind.