Vivian Mercier

Vivian Mercier

Beckett/Beckett was first published in 1977
by the Oxford University Press, New York.
The first British edition was published in 1990
by Souvenir Press (ISBN 0-285-63010-5).
In 1979 Oxford reissued the book in paperback
as 'A Galaxy Book' (ISBN 0-19-502495-8) The following description
is taken from the Souvenir paperback edition.

This classic study of the novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett has never been surpassed. Written by an outstanding scholar and critic who was one of the first to recognise Beckett's genius, it was originally published in 1977, and was praised for its refreshingly personal approach and its many new insights. Here was a writer who not only understood Beckett from the shared knowledge of a similar background, but who was not afraid to temper admiration with criticism.

Thirteen years younger than Beckett and like him of Anglo-Irish ancestry, Vivian Mercier attended the same school and university, and first became aware of him in 1934. From then on he followed his progress with keen interest, and his analysis of the many contrasts and contradictions in Beckett's work is constantly enlivened by his appreciation of Beckett the man.

This personal approach is blended skilfully with a persuasive dialectical discussion of the complex paradoxes in Beckett's writings - gentleman/tramp, intellect/emotion, Ireland/the World, eye/ear, artist/philosopher, man/woman. No other critic has so lucidly described the many facets of Beekett's learning - his use of mathematics, his debt to Racine in the classical shaping of his plays, his views on painting and music. He also presents a lively, almost irreverent study of the women in Beckett's work.

Samuel Beckett has too often been set on a pedestal as a writer beyond criticism and, for many, beyond true understanding. This entertaining but scholarly book, with its wealth of knowledge lightly dispensed, not only gives us a fresh appreciation of the man and his work but also entices us to read and re-read with enlightened eyes.


"Vivian Mercier's qualifications for writing a book about Beckett are numerous and impressive ... A great many subjects are discussed, for Vivian Mercier is truly, as Hugh Kenner said, 'polymath' ... 'Beckett/Beckett' provides a valuable addition to the published material on Beckett.'

J. S. Atherton, Times Literary Supplement (London)

"How refreshing and valuable! For once we have a book on Samuel Beckett that treats him with relaxed, personal admiration, not breathless adoration ... Mercier ... is a reader who fervently loves his subject ... and helps us recognize that when Beckett is at his best, even his pessimism can be exhilarating."

Milton Levin, Eire-Ireland

"One is enticed by Professor Mercier into re-reading Beckett."

Phillip Corwin, Commonweal

"This critical study is notable for the author's easy familiarity with Samuel Beckett's works and with his Irish background."

The New Yorker

"One of the most pertinent sections ... is a fine discussion of Racine's influence on Beckett's plays. There is also an excellent tracing of Beckett's involvement with painting and music and of their effect on his work.

Paul Auster, Saturday Review

"it breaks from the conventional studies in offering a lively, almost irreverent, study of women in Beckett's works."

Quidnunc, Irish Times

"Here is a Baedeker to Beckett, a reasonable guide deciphering method and meaning without introducing complexities the texts fail to sustain."

Enoch Brater, The Nation

'Beckett/Beckett' is recommended in Martin Esslin's article on Beckett in the Encyclopaedia Britannica 97 CD-ROM edition.

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