Letter: Brave Beckett

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Blake Morrison's article on Samuel Beckett ("The poet of less", Review, 6 October) alleged a "change from wild youth into stagnant middle years". My dictionary defines stagnant as "showing no activity, dull, sluggish". The prime body of work on whose power, beauty and originality Beckett's stature is based (the Molloy trilogy, Waiting for Godot, Endgame, All That Fall, Krapp's Last Tape) was composed in an extraordinary burst of energy between 1947 and 1958, the second decade of Beckett's "middle years". It's hard to imagine how they could have been less stagnant.

As for the preceding decade, Morrison recycles what he calls "a chilling sentence" from Anthony Cronin's new biography, in which Beckett refers to "all the usual sentimental bunk about the Nazi persecutions". But the sentence Morrison quotes from Cronin begins: "One could attribute (Beckett's seeming unperturbed in 1936-37) to his endemic indifference to politics and public affairs were it not for the fact that when he got back to Ireland he would display a positive hostility to those who expressed what he called 'all the usual sentimental bunk'".

The point is that when Beckett gradually took to heart the extent to which the persecutions continued to escalate in the late 1930s, his whole life changed dramatically. The apparent "indifference" turned to a commit- ment which was the diametrical converse of sluggish. Though still a neutral citizen, he joined a Resistance cell of the British SOE and worked indefatigablydefending victims of Nazism and taking such arms as he could against it, at considerable personal risk, until December 1945. While many artists and writers were content to stagnate, Beckett held that "You couldn't stand by with your arms folded".

Michael Horovitz

Editor, 'New Departures'

London W11

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