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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: September 2009

3 - Relation and nonrelation


In ‘The Exhausted’, Gilles Deleuze considers the image to be of primary importance to Beckett's television plays. While this idea fits neatly within Deleuze's reading, which stresses how the concept of ‘exhaustion’ might be seen to develop in Beckett's works, it leaves some aspects of Beckett's use of the image to one side. I will argue in this chapter that, if we pay attention to the key idea of nonrelation in Beckett's works, we can add elements to Deleuze's description of Beckett's use of the image.

Beckett's interest in developing an art of nonrelation is well known from Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit and has been treated by a number of critics such as J. E. Dearlove. What has not been fully drawn out in these previous studies is how Beckett's aesthetic practice and his understanding of the importance and nature of relations, or connections, develops throughout his career. A close attention to the quality of these shifts sheds light on Beckett's understanding of the image.


In Beckett's abandoned first novel, Dream of Fair to Middling Women, which was written in 1932, the central character Belacqua describes his theory of relations for the Polar Bear. He begins by referring to an image of a bridge over water, an image which reappears throughout Dream as it is drawn into relation with an idealised anti-hero called ‘Nemo’, who stands on a bridge and finally jumps from that bridge.