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Samuel Beckett's How It IsPhilosophy in Translation$
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Anthony Cordingley

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474440608

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440608.001.0001

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Pascal’s Miraculous Tongue

Pascal’s Miraculous Tongue

(p.194) 6 Pascal’s Miraculous Tongue
Samuel Beckett's How It Is

Anthony Cordingley

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter locates allusions to the works and life of Blaise Pascal from The Unnamable to How It Is. It explores the relationship Beckett forges between literary allusions and the contents of memory when relating Pascal’s mysticism to the notion of “involuntary memory” in Marcel Proust’s writing. Debates in the preceding chapters come to a head in the figure of Pascal, and Beckett’s comic attitude towards his narrator/narrated’s habit of filtering his journey through tropes of Cartesian rationalism, reasoned theology or arational mysticism becomes evident when the “I” emulates or draws from colourful and absurd episodes of Pascal’s life. The nineteenth-century literary historian and novelist Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve is considered as a potential mediator between Pascal and Proust in Beckett’s thinking. Yet Beckett is shown to neutralize the referential content of his Pascalian and Proustian allusions over the course of his manuscript revisions, when he is shown to move away from directly allusive to abstracted and poetic language, attempting to bring an “ignorant” perspective to his past learning. The question of how to find an authentic, original voice out of past experience emerges, finally, as central to the meaning of these novels and Beckett’s creative process.

Keywords:   Samuel Beckett, Blaise Pascal, Marcel Proust, Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Mysticism, Philosophy, Translation, Bilingualism, Memory, Genetic criticism

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