"Astride of a Grave and a Difficult Birth": Samuel Beckett's Watt Struggles to Life (1940-42)


  • Sighle Kennedy


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Sighle Kennedy

Sighle Kennedy, a member of the Department of Modern Literature at Hunter College I City University of New York from 1964 to 1985, died suddenly on August 18, 1996. Since her retirement she had focused her time and energy on her study of Samuel Beckett's Notebooks of Watt, continuing her research until 1990 in Texas, Ohio, Missouri and Massachusetts collections as well as in Ireland and England, in view of an in-depth study left unfinished. "Astride of a Grave and a Difficult Birth" was written to celebrate Beckett's 75th birthday in 1981 and is published here for the first time. Sighle Kennedy's correspondence with Beckett began May 7, 1967, when she submitted to him her doctoral proposai on Murphy to confirm its methodology (see her bibliograpby). Mystifying often, always encouraging, her correspondence with Beckett continued for twenty-one years. His final words to her were written as a postscript to her letter of October 29, 1988: "Not sure I understand. But by all means fair or foul, carry on with whatever it is. Best, Sam" (November 28, 1988). During the 1970's and 1980's she had had several meetings with Beckett in Paris to discuss her projects. After reading in Mel Gussow's account (see bibliography) of his last meeting with Beckett that "in the last year of his life he was rereading Dante in Italian," she discovered in Dante (see Kennedy 1990) the profound connection that had eluded her search for the inner Beckett for nearly three decades. (Ethne M. Kennedy, May 6, 1997)