Beckett Country Collection - UCD Digital Library

The Beckett Country Collection

Abstract: This collections comprises of 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.

Is part ofIrish Virtual Research Library and Archive

Origin information
Dublin, Ireland
Date issued:
Type of Resource
Physical description
2 items
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.
Biographical/historical information
The two publications were brought together digitally by the IVRLA (a forerunner to UCD Digital Library) 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: [...] '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.
Location of original
Original items are located in UCD Library Special Collections.
Book   linked data (marcgt) Exhibition catalogs   linked data (lcgft)
Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989 --Criticism and interpretation
Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989 --Exhibitions
UCD Library. UCD Library Special Collections . IVRLA13
Suggested credit
"The Beckett Country Collection," held by UCD Library Special Collections. © Various copyright holders - see individual records. Digital content by University College Dublin, published by UCD Library, University College Dublin <>
Funder: Higher Education Authority ; funding stream: Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions, Cycle 3.

Part of
Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive (1986) –
Record source
Descriptions created by staff of UCD Library, University College Dublin. — Metadata creation date: 2016-01-20

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Copyright of the original resource: Various copyright holders - see individual records

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