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The Beckett Country Collection

Abstract Two publications: (1) 'The Beckett Country: Samuel Beckett's Ireland', by Eoin O'Brien, written to celebrate Samuel Beckett's eightieth birthday in 1986. (2) The catalogue to 'The Beckett Country' exhibition, first held in The Library, University of Reading, in May 1986.

In collection

Extent
2 items
Location of original
Original items located in UCD Library Special Collections.
Repository
UCD Library Special Collections
Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive
Scope and Content
This collection consists of two publications. The first is 'The Beckett Country: Samuel Beckett's Ireland', by Eoin O'Brien, with photographs by David H. Davison. The book was written to celebrate Samuel Beckett's eightieth birthday in 1986. It charts the landscape of the novels, plays and poetry of Samuel Beckett, and is illustrated with black and white photographs from various locations around Ireland. The city and environs of Dublin, including the suburb of Foxrock are particularly covered by the book.
The second publication is the catalogue to 'The Beckett Country' exhibition, based on illustrations and text from the book. The exhibition was first held in The Library, University of Reading in May 1986. It was donated by Professor Eoin O'Brien to the James Joyce Library, University College Dublin in November 2007.
The two publications were brought together digitally by the IVRLA in April 2008, as part of the celebrations to mark the donation of the exhibition to the library. The press release for this event gives details on the creation and production of the book and the background to the exhibition:
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[...] 'The Beckett Country' was written over 20 years ago to celebrate Samuel Beckett's 80th birthday. The book started life well with a tribute from Samuel Beckett: 'My gratitude for this kindly light on other days'. This tribute was extended to the loyal team that had made 'The Beckett Country' a reality against many odds. Samuel Beckett was to later endorse the photographic exhibition based on the book, and he gave his lasting imprimatur to the work by signing the special edition (of which a few copies are available from De Búrca Rare Books). But the story of 'The Beckett Country' is more than the sum of its parts; it is, in fact, the story of a deep and lasting friendship that began in the 1970s, when Professor O'Brien first had thoughts for the book.
O'Brien started from the realisation that much of the apparently surrealistic in Beckett's writing is linked, sometimes forcefully, often only tenuously, with the reality of existence, and much of this actuality emanates from his memories of Dublin - a world he renders almost unrecognisable as he removes reality from his landscape and its people (while also annihilating time) in his creation of the 'unreality of the real'.
O'Brien was introduced to Samuel Beckett in Paris in the early 1970s and so began a friendship that was to endure. Beckett was intrigued by O'Brien's observation that the growing critical literature on his work (mostly written by non-Irish academics, the Irish academic beacon being directed elsewhere) was failing to recognise his Irishness and, as a consequence, his humour. He encouraged O'Brien to persist with his researches and offered to help. Trips to Paris became more frequent, where the pair mulled over many photographs. And so 'The Beckett Country' grew from a dream to the reality of a book, which met with Beckett's enthusiastic agreement. The topographic references now began to take on new meanings. It is widely accepted that 'All That Fall' is set in Foxrock, but what is not so well known is that 'Happy Days' may have had its origins in a seaside cove bearing the delightful name of 'Jack's Hole', that one of the climatic episodes in 'Krapp's Last Tape' occurred on Dún Laoghaire pier, and that a case can be made for placing Vladimir and Estragon's vigil for Godot on the Dublin mountains.
Despite constant encouragement and occasional help from Beckett, O'Brien approached his task aware that artistic issues relative to place and person must be interpreted with great care and never more so than with Samuel Beckett. He had a justified abhorrence of anyone attributing to minutiae a personal significance that did not exist, and this has greatly influenced the structure of the book, which concerned itself more with topography than with personality, more with the ambience of a lifestyle than with those who participated in that life. 'The Beckett Country' is not biographical; if it veers towards the genre of biography it is then closer to autobiography, in that it allows the story of Beckett's life to unfold, in the only way with which he would have been in agreement, that is through his art. Yet, to treat his writing as a whole as autobiographical would be to reduce its artistic value, and to detract from its beauty.
Any discussion as to whether or not the French or the Irish can lay claim to Samuel Beckett is of consequence only insofar as it may assist in the interpretation of his work. A squabble over national identity would have been most offensive to a man to whom national boundaries, geographical and cultural, had always been tiresome, and at times threatening, encumbrances. So while allowing that Beckett was Irish in origin, in manners, and at times in thought, we must accept that he belongs to no nation, neither to France nor to Ireland; if any claim has validity, it is that he represents in outlook the true European, but even this tidy categorisation is excessively constraining: Samuel Beckett is of the world.
A few words are deserving on the production of the book. Because of the uniqueness of the occasion and in acknowledgement of the beauty of Beckett's creative ability to bestow a lasting echo to the Irishness of place and personality, it was deemed imperative that the photography, on which so much of the haunting ambience of The Beckett Country depended should be reproduced in duo-tone to endow the photography with the a tonality and depth of contrast in harmony with the mood profundity of expression of the accompanying prose and poetry. In response to this ambition all who contributed literary and photographic material to the book (including Samuel Beckett) did so without thought of copyright. Second, the designers, Ted and Ursula O'Brien, the artist Bobby Ballagh, David Davison, who trudged the mountains, the city and seashore in search of the ideal mood and light, and a host of individuals, (most notably Nevill Johnson) and many institutions all gave freely of photographic imagery for the book. Tona O'Brien and Bobby Ballagh collaborated with Des Breen to produce the splendid special edition, to which Sam Beckett graciously penned his signature. Behind all of this there were the loyal members of the Black Cat Press, which was joined by Faber and Faber in bringing the book to the public at the printing press of Arnoldo Mondadori in Verona. Alas even allowing for modern printing methods , the book, now long out of print, is unlikely to ever surmount the financial barriers to re-publication to the standard of the first edition. [...]
'The Beckett Country' photographic exhibition, based on a selection of photographs and texts from book was designed and compiled by the Department of Topography and Design at Reading University, with the assistance of James Knowlson and David Davison. Funding for the exhibition was provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain and Aer Lingus in its Jubilee year, which coincided with Samuel Beckett's eightieth birthday. The exhibition was first displayed at The Library, University of Reading in May 1986 with readings from Samuel Beckett by the late Dame Peggy Ashcroft and Ronald Pickup.
The exhibition was subsequently displayed at 30 venues worldwide, which included the MacRobert Art Gallery, University of Stirling, Scotland; The Atrium, Trinity College, Dublin; The Olivier Gallery, National Theatre, London; The Rond-Point Theatre, Paris; Kenny's Art Gallery, Galway; The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham; The Bell Table, Limerick; The Town Hall, Castlebar; The Town Hall, Dundalk; The Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen; The Ulster Museum, Belfast; Clifden Arts Festival, Galway; The Irish College, Louvain; Aachen University, Bonn; Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid; New York Public Library, New York; University of New Orleans; Statten Gallery, Emory University, Atlanta; Sulzer Regional Library, Chicago; Beaumont Hospital, Dublin; The Gate Theatre, Dublin; Maison de la Poésie. Théâtre Molière, Paris; Bibliothèque Municipale de Strasbourg.; Maison de la Fontaine. Brest; Université de Caen. Caen.; The Dublin Writer's Museum; Dundalk Institute of Technology; County Hall, Dun Laoghaire and most lately the University of Leuven in Belgium. [...]. - March 2008
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Subjects
Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989--Criticism and interpretation
Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989--Exhibitions

Other Descriptive Information
The author of 'The Beckett Country' has endeavoured to obtain the agreement of all rights holders in making the digital version of the publication available for research and academic usage within the IVRLA infrastructure. Any putative use of material, without the permission of the relevant rights owners, should be drawn to the attention of the IVRLA as soon as possible. The author accepts responsibility for any offence caused.
All works by Jack B.Yeats are © Estate of Jack B Yeats. All rights reserved, DACS 2008

Record source
Finding aid encoded in EAD by the Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive (IVRLA) - A.C., 25 March 2008.

Finding aid author
Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive (IVRLA)

1. The Beckett Country: Samuel Beckett's Ireland / Eoin O'Brien; photography David H. Davison; foreword James Knowlson; illustrations Robert Ballagh; design Ted and Ursula O'Brien

2. The Beckett Country: an exhibition for Samuel Beckett's eightieth birthday / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson; photography by David Davison


1.   The Beckett Country: Samuel Beckett's Ireland / Eoin O'Brien; photography David H. Davison; foreword James Knowlson; illustrations Robert Ballagh; design Ted and Ursula O'Brien

1 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - [Front Cover]   [View...]
2 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - [Front Matter]   [View...]
3 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - Chapter One: Early Influences: Home, Foxrock and Environs   [View...]
4 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - Chapter Two: The Dublin Mountains   [View...]
5 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - Chapter Three: The Sea   [View...]
6 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - Chapter Four: Education   [View...]
7 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - Chapter Five: The City   [View...]
8 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - Chapter Six: The River Circle   [View...]
9 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - Chapter Seven: Dublin's Lunatic Asylums   [View...]
10 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - Chapter Eight: Dublin: City of character and characters   [View...]
11 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - Chapter Nine: Beyond the Pale   [View...]
12 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - Chapter Ten: Saint-Lô: Humanity in ruins   [View...]
13 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - Notes and References   [View...]
14 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - Bibliography   [View...]
15 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - Index   [View...]
16 The Beckett Country / Eoin O'Brien - [Back Cover]   [View...]

2.   The Beckett Country: an exhibition for Samuel Beckett's eightieth birthday / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson; photography by David Davison

17 The Beckett Country: an exhibition [...] / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson - [Front Cover]   [View...]
18 The Beckett Country: an exhibition [...] / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson - [Front Matter]   [View...]
19 The Beckett Country: an exhibition [...] / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson - List of Photographs   [View...]
20 The Beckett Country: an exhibition [...] / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson - Early Influences: Home, Foxrock and Environs   [View...]
21 The Beckett Country: an exhibition [...] / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson - The Dublin Mountains   [View...]
22 The Beckett Country: an exhibition [...] / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson - The Sea   [View...]
23 The Beckett Country: an exhibition [...] / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson - Education   [View...]
24 The Beckett Country: an exhibition [...] / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson - The City   [View...]
25 The Beckett Country: an exhibition [...] / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson - The National Gallery of Ireland   [View...]
26 The Beckett Country: an exhibition [...] / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson - The River Circle   [View...]
27 The Beckett Country: an exhibition [...] / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson - Dublin's Lunatic Asylums   [View...]
28 The Beckett Country: an exhibition [...] / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson - Bibliography   [View...]
29 The Beckett Country: an exhibition [...] / catalogue by Eoin O'Brien & James Knowlson - Index   [View...]

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For further information on accessing original items in this collection, please contact UCD Library Special Collections directly.

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Conditions Governing Use of Original Materials Restrictions may vary depending upon the particular item. Please contact UCD Library Special Collections for further information.

Conditions Governing Use of Digitised Materials Digital surrogates may only be used in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive (IVRLA).