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Postcard from Samuel Beckett

In the collection of Beckett's letters in the Library of Trinity College Dublin, there is a series of postcards in which the writer communicates with those closest to him through the same paradoxical language of impoverished richness, simple words and simple images producing an effect far from simple. This was particularly true of the postcards he sent to the painter Henri Hayden and his wife Josette. Typically the postcard images have an almost studied banality, but seem to speak via a visual language. So on 23 August 1982, when Beckett writes to Josette Hayden, he sends her an alpine landscape just picturesque enough to be worth photographing, but without intimating any sublime revelation. It is as if the image is stumbling towards significance. Inside, Beckett has written only a few words separated by an ellipsis, investing the thin air of the image with a strange yearning: 'que lentement… / je t'embrasse' ('how slowly… / love, Sam'). A simple image, simple words: and yet the effect is to evoke emptiness, distance, and desire.

Shelfmark: TCD MS 11488/334

Chris Morash

Chris Morash is the Seamus Heaney Professor of Irish Writing in Trinity College Dublin, and author of books including A history of Irish theatre 1601-2000 (Cambridge, 2002), Mapping Irish theatre [with Shaun Richards] (Cambridge, 2013); he also co-edited The Oxford handbook of modern Irish theatre with Nicholas Grene (Oxford, 2016).  He was elected to Membership of the Royal Irish Academy in 2007, and served as Vice-Provost of Trinity College, 2016-2019.