Resistance and Freedom and the Lived Experiences of French Jews in the Works of Samuel Beckett

Conference: The Paris Conference on Arts & Humanities (PCAH2022)
Title: Resistance and Freedom and the Lived Experiences of French Jews in the Works of Samuel Beckett
Stream: Ethnicity, Difference, Identity
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation
Timi O'Neill, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, United Kingdom


This paper illustrates how, by employing philosophical concepts of ‘freedom’ and ‘resistance’, Samuel Beckett’s storytelling and his relationship to the Jewish lived experiences of the second ward war, not only offers a glimpse into how he saw the world, but also permits us to test whether Jean Paul Sartre’s claim that by focusing on a an author’s “a fictional technique always relates back to the novelist’s metaphysics.” 1 As a Jewish academic these themes of ‘freedom’ and ‘resistance’ have a particular resonance with me. The lived experiences of Jews in relation to the histories and philosophical arguments of these contested terms can be tragically mapped across human history. This paper uses these thematic concerns to explore the works of Beckett in his encounters with French Jews in the 2nd world war. In so doing, this piece challenges the reader to re-evaluate Beckett’s work and to reposition it away from modernist concerns that detached him from time and place. Rather what we see in Beckett is his relentless desire to reveal through his stories, a brutally damaged 20th century that saw individuals exposed to extreme political ideas that led to physical and mental abuse. To aid this highly contextualized view of his work, this paper employs the works of Isaiah Berlin, Martin Buber, and Theodore Adorno to construct a deeper connection Beckett’s historical and philosophical context and to provide a prism through which modern-day readers might understand Beckett’s intentions.

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