Apr/May 2010

Beckett: Photographs by François-Marie Banier

Albert Mobilio


Molloy, the hermetic, dyspeptic narrator of Samuel Beckett's eponymous novel, sits alone in a bare room, apparently imprisoned, filling pages for the "man who comes every week." The grim scene is as familiar to anyone who knows the Irishman's world of barren fields and bleak cells as the below photograph of the poet of nothingness, ambling the streets of a beach town wearing short shorts, sandals, and shades, is unsettling. Perhaps photographer François-Marie Banier was also a bit shocked when he recognized and began stalking the vacationing author on the streets of Tangier in 1978. Eventually, the lurking gave way to friendship, and Beckett consented to being photographed. The color images from that year in Tangier (which he visited with his wife, Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil), as well as a cache of black-and-white photos taken in Paris in the late 1980s, are published in this volume. In the Paris images, an older Beckett, cane in hand, commandeers a sidewalk bench, unsurprisingly solitary and introspective. But his holiday peregrinations provide a tonic counterpoint to our assumptions, not only about Beckett but also about writers' work and their lives. In casual garb, his bony, untanned limbs as flagrantly on display as any tourist's, Beckett appears unburdened by the human condition—born "astride of a grave," as he once described it. Rather than for Godot, it seems, this lanky fellow is content to wait for the next bus to the beach.

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