Special Guests

We have also planned an innovative series of events surrounding the academic component, including contributions from a number of major figures influenced in particular ways by Beckett.

J. M. Coetzee | John Banville | John Minihan | John Calder | Marek Kędzierski

J. M. Coetzee
Nobel Prize-winning author

J. M. Coetzee
J. M. Coetzee was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1940. He entered the University of Cape Town in 1957, and in 1960 and 1961 graduated successively with honours degrees in English and Mathematics. He spent the years 1962–65 in England, working as a computer programmer while doing research for a thesis on the English novelist Ford Madox Ford. In 1965 Coetzee entered the graduate school of the University of Texas at Austin, and in 1968 graduated with a PhD in English, Linguistics, and Germanic languages. His doctoral dissertation was on Beckett’s early fiction.

From 1972 until 2000 he held a series of positions at the University of Cape Town, the last of them as Distinguished Professor of Literature. Between 1984 and 2003 he also taught frequently in the United States: at the State University of New York, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, Stanford University, and the University of Chicago.

Coetzee began writing fiction in 1970. His first book, Dusklands, was published in 1974. The subsequent novels are In the Heart of the Country (1977), Waiting for the Barbarians (1980), Life & Times of Michael K (1983), Foe (1986), Age of Iron (1990), The Master of Petersburg (1994), Disgrace (1999), Elizabeth Costello (2003), Slow Man (2005), and Diary of a Bad Year (2007).
In the manuscripts collection of the library I found the exercise books in which Samuel Beckett had written Watt on a farm in the south of France, hiding out from the Germans. I spent weeks perusing them, pondering the sketches and numbers and doodles in the margins, disconcerted to find that the well-attested agony of composing a masterpiece had left no other traces than these flippancies. Was the pain perhaps all in the waiting, I asked myself, in the sitting and staring at the empty page?

He also writes non-fiction. White Writing: On the Culture of Letters in South Africa (1988) is a collection of essays on South African literature and culture, Doubling the Point: Essays and Interviews (1992) is a collection of essays and interviews with David Attwell (University of York), while Stranger Shores (2001) and Inner Workings (2007) collect his later literary essays. His books Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life (1997), Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II (2002), and Summertime (2009) form a trilogy of fictionalized memoirs. He is also a translator of Dutch and Afrikaans literature.

Coetzee emigrated to Australia in 2002, where he has an honorary position at the University of Adelaide. He is one of only two novelists to have been awarded the Booker Prize twice, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003.

 Nobel Prize website: J. M. Coetzee

John Banville
Booker Prize-winning novelist

John Banville
John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He was educated at a Christian Brothers’ School and St. Peter's College, Wexford. Working in journalism from 1969, he was a sub-editor at The Irish Press and later at The Irish Times, and then Literary Editor at The Irish Times from 1988 to 1999.

Banville's first book, Long Lankin, a collection of short stories and a novella, was published in 1970. His first novel, Nightspawn, came out in 1971. The subsequent novels are Birchwood (1974), Doctor Copernicus (1976), Kepler (1980), The Newton Letter (1982), Mefisto (1986), The Book of Evidence (1989), Ghosts (1993), Athena (1995), The Untouchable (1997), Eclipse (2000), Shroud (2002), The Sea (2005), and The Infinities (2010).

Banville’s work for the theatre includes adaptations of three of Heinrich von Kleist's plays: The Broken Jug (1994), God’s Gift (2000), and Love in the Wars (2005). He worked with director Neil Jordan on The End of the Affair and adapted Elizabeth Bowen’s novel The Last September for a film directed by Deborah Warner (both 1999). He has recently co-authored a script based on the George Moore short story, ‘Albert Nobbs’, for Glenn Close. He also publishes as Benjamin Black. His latest book under that name is Elegy for April (2010).

As well as receiving the Premio Nonino, a literary award from the Lannan Foundation, and, most recently, the Franz Kafka Prize for literature, his novels have won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, and the Man Booker Prize, among many other awards. Banville lives in Dublin.

 BenjaminBlack.com: John Banville website

John Minihan
Distinguished photographer

John Minihan
John Minihan was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1946 and raised in Athy, County Kildare. At the age of twelve he was brought to live in London. He went on to become an apprentice photographer with the Daily Mail, before becoming the youngest-ever staff photographer for the Evening Standard at just twenty-one. For thirty years he remained in London, returning every year to his hometown of Athy to record the people and document their daily lives.

During his extraordinary career on Fleet Street, he photographed, among others, The Beatles, Chuck Berry, The Kinks, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Yves Saint Laurent, Lady Diana Spencer, and The Who. Over the years Minihan developed a close relationship with many artists and writers, including Francis Bacon, William S. Burroughs (who once referred to Minihan as "a painless photographer"), and Gilbert and George. His photographs of Beckett show a particular affinity between the two men. This friendship produced some of the most remarkable photographs ever taken of the writer, capturing moments that have become iconic images of twentieth-century culture.
Looking at the work of John Minihan one understands immediately why Samuel Beckett, that most private and publicity-shy of artists, entirely trusted him, and allowed him to become, in effect, his official photographer.

John Banville on Minihan
Minihan's many exhibitions in museums and galleries include the Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro (1984); Centre George Pompidou, Paris (1986); the National Portrait Gallery, London (1987/88); the October Gallery, London (1990); the Guinness Hop Store, Dublin (1991); and a series of five exhibitions around the world beginning at the Leinster Gallery, Dublin (2006). His books include Samuel Beckett: Photographs by John Minihan (1995), Shadows from the Pale: Portrait of an Irish Town (1996), An Unweaving of Rainbows: Images of Irish Writers (1998), John Minihan’s Cork (2004), and Samuel Beckett: Centenary Shadows (2006).

He was given the freedom of Athy in 1990, and now lives in Ballydehob, West Cork, Ireland. Voices at the World’s Edge: Irish Poets on Skellig Michael, edited by Paddy Bushe and with photographs by Minihan, will be published in November 2010 by Dedalus Press.

 John Minihan: Official website

John Calder

John Calder
John Calder, legendary publisher of twenty winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature, was born in 1927. His forbears were brewers in Alloa, Scotland. Having spent sixty years in the book trade, he is best known for his publishing commitment to his life-long friend Beckett, for promoting the French nouveau roman writers, and for introducing major figures of European literature into the English-speaking world. His commitment to literary excellence has influenced generations of authors, publishers, and readers.

Calder began publishing under his own name in 1949. In the late 1950s, he courted controversy by publishing Henri Alleg’s The Question, a scathing attack on French colonial policy in Algiers, and La Gangrène, edited by Jerôme Lindon, which catalogued state torture in Parisian prisons during the Algerian conflict. In 1960 Marion Lobbenberg (later married to Arthur Boyars) invested in the company and joined Calder as a partner. The company's name then changed to Calder & Boyars Ltd. When the two split in 1975, he revived the name of his former company, Calder Publishing.

These two firms were responsible for publishing thousands of titles across most genres. As well as Beckett, authors published by Calder include Ivo Andrić, Fernando Arrabal, Heinrich Böll, William S. Burroughs, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Robert Creeley, Marguerite Duras, Paul Foster, Aidan Higgins, Ivan Illich, Eugène Ionesco, Norman Mailer, Henry Miller, René de Obaldia, Robert Pinget, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jeff Nuttall, Nathalie Sarraute, Hubert Selby, Jr., Claude Simon, Alexander Trocchi, Peter Weiss, and Angus Wilson, as well as many others from Britain, the United States, and all over Europe.

Like close friends Barney Rosset and Maurice Girodias at Grove and Olympia Press respectively, Calder embraced the counter-culture of the 1960s, publishing Naked Lunch, The Soft Machine, and The Ticket that Exploded by Burroughs, Miller's long-banned Tropic of Cancer, Trocchi's Cain's Book, and Selby's Last Exit to Brooklyn. The latter was the subject of a famous obscenity trial at the High Court in London, which Calder and Boyars won on an appeal, fought by John Mortimer, in 1968.

Besides publishing, Calder was also responsible for organizing literary conferences and creating Ledlanet Nights, a music and opera festival. One result of the obscenity controversy was his founding of the Defence of Literature and the Arts Society. He is also the author of several plays, two recent collections of poetry - What's Wrong? What's Right (1999) and Solo (2008) - and various non-fiction titles, including The Philosophy of Samuel Beckett (2001). An autobiography, Pursuit: The Uncensored Memoirs of John Calder, came out in 2001.

Marek Kędzierski
Writer, translator, director

Marek Kędzierski is the author of three novels in Polish and one in English (lucid intervals blind summits, Huntington 1992), and has translated and commented on works by, among others, Samuel Beckett (Dante and the Lobster, Watt, Malone meurt and 8 plays), Alberto Giacometti, David Mamet, Harold Pinter and Thomas Bernhard. He has edited special issues of the Polish Quarterly Kwartalnik Artystyczny on a variety of writers and artists, including Beckett, Robert Pinget, Harold Pinter, Giacometti, Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgois, the authors of Suhrkamp Verlag and Editions de Minuit. He has staged works by Beckett, Bernhard, Borges, Pinget, Gombrowicz in Cracow, Warsaw, Paris, Atlanta, Karlsruhe and Helsingborg. He has organised and co-organised theatre festivals in Strasbourg, Berlin, Cracow and Zurich. For German radio (Südwestrundfunk, Bayerischer Rundfunk), he prepared a festival of Beckett´s radiophonic work in 1990 as well as radio productions of Watt (1996) and Company (1990), the latter in collaboration with the Author and according to his advice.

His collaboration with Barbara Bray extended over the period 2002-2009. Excerpts of his conversations with her have been translated and published in Germany (Lettre International), France (L´Europe), Sweden (Helsingborgs Stadsteater), Slovakia (Theatre Institute), Poland (Kwartalnik Artystyczny). Kedzierski´s text on Barbara Bray Rue Samuel Beckett has been translated into German, Polish, Spanish, and Romanian. Its abreviated version appeared on the internet in Evergreen Review, issue #122 (March 2010).

© J. M. Coetzee. “Remembering Texas” in Doubling the Point: Essays and Interviews, edited by David Attwell (Harvard University Press, 1992), 51.