All we need for Christmas is Samuel Beckett (and Buster Keaton)

It is, as Auden wrote of the day Yeats died, “the dead of winter.” On this day, with the brooks frozen, the airports deserted, the statues disfigured by snow and the mercury sinking in the mouth of the day, it is my luck to be (re)reading Samuel Beckett.

It’s the only time of the year to read Beckett, really. You couldn’t take any of it seriously in the heat of a summer piazza. He’s no beach read. But at this time of thin light and monochrome landscapes, huddled around a small fire with only your own treacherous thoughts, he’s ideal.

I don’t understand those who praise Dickens, and especially I don’t understand the love of ‘A Christmas Carol’. Each to their own, but to me it’s mawkish, saccharine and untrue. Give me Beckett any Christmas, that muscular, unremitting prose with its unexpected laughter, the laugh of resignation.

And if you want a proper Christmas movie, there’s no better option than ‘Film’. You can keep ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ or ‘Die Hard’ or whatever. THIS is the real Christmas movie.

Gilles Deleuze called it “the greatest Irish film ever”, but don’t let that put you off. Of course Deleuze is always reliably wrong, but it’s still a great movie. Beckett and Keaton in Manhattan. The eyes have it.

PS I have received a petition claiming that the true movie of Christmas is the Muppets version of A Christmas Carol, a complaint I have had to consider seriously. It resolves the mawkish saccharine quality of the original Dickens admirably, it must be admitted.

Nevertheless, I intend to stick by Sam. I think a muppets Godot would be an ever greater masterpiece. How about Kermit and Fozzy as Vladimir and Estragon, Dr Bunsen and Beaker or else Miss Piggy and Gonzo as Pozzo and Lucky, and Scooter or Crazy Harry as the Boy? Tell me you wouldn’t watch that!

The Chymical Wedding of Samuel Beckett

There is to be an odd little celebration this month, in Folkestone of all places, to commemorate its visitation by, and subsequent nuptials therein of, Samuel Beckett.

Beckett married his long-term partner, as we now know due to a series of excellent biographies, in curious circumstances. He was embroiled in a serious relationship with a BBC producer at the time.

Samuel Beckett with his wife Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil. | Samuel beckett,  Playwright, Samuel
Beckett with Mme Beckett

Ostensibly, marrying Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil in March 1961 was intended to achieve the aim of ensuring her inheritance of his copyrights. As it happened, she ended up dying about six months before him, in 1989.

The curiosity pertains to Beckett’s decision to marry after nearly three decades of relationship, at the very moment when he was most involved in a separate relationship with an entirely different woman.

The organisers of the festival in Folkestone aim to give voice to those surrounding the events of the marriage, including the perspective of a journalist thrown off the scent, and a witness to the wedding itself.

It’s fun, original and embedded theatre, doing what theatre can do best, which is dramatise our stories back to ourselves. Samuel Beckett’s mysterious marriage took place in Folkestone, and it is great that they can now include this odd intrusion from the world of absurdist theatre and continenal intellectuals as one of their own stories, for it is that too.