Nabeul . . . Taroudant . El Jadida . . Tangier: Beckett in the Postcolonies

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Beckett’s knowledge of the history of imperialism has left abundant traces. Irish colonial history in particular provides a fertile ground for allusions and residual echoes in many of his texts, and this facet of his writing has received close attention. His alertness to the history of colonial conquest, exploitation and oppression is evident on the peripheries of his bilingual oeuvre too – notably, in his translations for Nancy Cunard’s Negro anthology and Octavio Paz’s Anthology of Mexican Poetry, and in minute alterations to some of his manuscripts revealing a careful reflection on the historical and political weight of words. Charting Beckett’s exposure and responses to the history of decolonization in its French and francophone contexts, however, has proved more challenging, owing to the difficulties posed by the work’s multiple cultural and linguistic positionalities, which are often treated as matters of secondary importance. This article attempts to destabilize and expand the coordinates commonly used when thinking about Beckett as a postcolonial writer, by considering his relation to the postcolony through the prism of his long stays in the Maghreb between 1969 and the early 1980s. Retracing Beckett’s steps in Tunisia and Morocco, I delineate postcolonial and neocolonial imaginaries around Beckett’s creative process that are more challenging and uncomfortable than the evidence previously scrutinized elsewhere, and I pay particular attention to the awkward sense of colonial presence underlying marginal texts such as his Tangier mirlitonnades. The extended periods Beckett spent in Tangier proved immensely generative for him; here, I examine his relation to Tangier in light of the city’s colonial history as an International Zone and a much-fetishized haven for expatriate Anglo-American writers, offering a portrait of Beckett that conveys his simultaneous involvement and non-involvement with his surroundings.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalInterventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies
Early online date15 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Dec 2023

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