Monday, 31 March 2014

Apocalypse Soon, Beckett Now

As you'd expect, I'm still reeling from the impact of the latest IPCC Report, published today and instantly hogging top spot in the BBC's news agenda. Having been oddly muted last time around, the IPCC is now firmly back on the front foot and in ass-kicking form (if such a thing can be achieved while firmly on the front foot). This year's report is truly apocalyptic, promising the imminent arrival of at least three of the Four Horsemen - indeed it's so apocalyptic that one of the panel withdrew his name from the published report in protest. I know better than to stray very far into this heavily mined territory, but it did strike me as interesting that the report's authors condemned 'sceptics' for their reliance on 'disputable' science. Isn't it the very definition of a valid scientific proposition, at least since Popper, that it should be disprovable, i.e. thoroughly disputable. And, come to that, isn't scepticism the only respectable attitude the scientific mind can adopt towards any area of knowledge? Any bar one, it seems, where 'denial of the science is malpractice'...
  But today's more interesting story was the publication, by Faber & Faber, of a 'lost' story by Samuel Beckett, Echo's Bones (a title he subsequently reused). It's an early effort that was forcibly rejected by his publisher at the time ('it gives me the jim-jams'), and Beckett was never keen on publishing much of what he wrote before he found his true voice. I shan't be fighting to get my hands on this story, but specialists and completists will no doubt be pleased - and it got Beckett's name onto that BBC news agenda. There was a little discussion about it on Today, tying it to the current resurgence of interest in Beckett's stage plays. Why is this 'high modernist' suddenly so popular again? No one had much of an answer, and no more have I. Perhaps it simply shows that Becket is a classic writer, one who has been (and will be) in and out of fashion, but whose best works will surely never go away.


  1. Interesting rhetorical shift. After several decades of listening to these chaps screech, usually before a big conference, that our very last chance to avoid extinction was nigh and the point of no return was tomorrow, we are now assured that "Climate change is really important but we have a lot of the tools for dealing effectively with it - we just need to be smart about it.". Sort of like saying the Four Horsemen are at the gates but technological innovation can solve it if we are clever and rise early. It would be interesting to know whether there is any correlation between this development and the fatigue of funding agencies.