When Raymond Federman learned of Samuel Beckett’s death he reflected upon knowing Beckett not only as a writer but especially as a friend. Federman, a French-American writer who always spoke with Beckett in French, said: “Each time I would leave him holding on to a few precious words he had given me like a fragile gift.”
The glimpses that we have of the intensely private Beckett from his friends reveal a man, a writer, driven by his commitment to words, not just any words, but words stripped bare, edited, and reduced, as if by doing this he could remove every inconsequential modifier and reveal meaning in its simplest form, the most direct form, without embellishment, without fluff.
This was in contrast to his mentor’s style. Beckett once said of Joyce’s writing: “James Joyce was a synthesizer, trying to bring in as much as he could. I am an analyzer, trying to leave out as much as I can.”
So it is even more moving how Beckett’s words influenced those around him. This writer who was so careful, who wrote in French to prevent himself from attempting to write for style, seemed to say the most poignant things with the fewest words.
When Federman first met Beckett, he told him that he wanted to become a writer. In response, Beckett replied: “Raymond, whatever you write, never compromise, and if you plan to write for money or fame, do something else.” Federman cherished these words and hoped never to betray them.
And at the 34thParallel Magazine this is our desire as well, to be true to the words.
34TH PARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 03
THE DANGER YOU KNOW
TEARS BEFORE THEY FALL
YAWN HATES ME
OF QUICKSAND MATS
AND PEACEFUL MEDITATION
ON HOLD IN ZIHUA
WINDY LYNN HARRIS
THE TEA PARTY
MICHAEL ERNEST SWEET
KATHLEEN J STOWE
TIME WITH FRIEDA
SARAH E AZIZI
“Na Sled, Jan.” I smile and suck in my cheeks as I say good day to him. Come on Janny, like me.
YAWN HATES ME BY SE DIAMOND
Jan hates me. He has thin blond hair tied into a ponytail, and his name is pronounced yawn—not like the American girl’s name Jan. Our Czech Foreign Relations class has just ended and it’s Friday. This is Jan’s country, but class is in English. I’m not smart or dedicated enough to learn a second language, but I have money and I’ll pay to sit in their classrooms as long as they teach in my language. At first I thought Jan hated me because our professor Dr Hasek likes me so much. All the kids in class (American, British, Luxembourgian, and Czech) get annoyed with my enthusiasm for Czech history.
Jan, like the other Czechs, doesn’t approve of us American kids because our study abroad program is easy stupidy stuff. Our class is a joke, not like real European universities, where the students have to fight for the few coveted spots. He has a point though; I would never attend an Economics University in the US. Jan says it’s a waste for students like me to go abroad for only one semester. He says that’s not enough time. I try and show him how smart I am. I’m always correcting his English and talking about my favorite American television shows. Maybe he’s just a mean person.
“Na Sled, Jan.” I smile and suck in my cheeks as I say good day to him. Come on Janny, like me. I just want your country to like me.