Beckett

Nicely put, that.

Beckett Quotes
This page houses a collection of Beckett quotes, broken down by Fiction, Drama, and Nonfiction. If you have a favorite Beckett quote which you think should be included, please mail it to us!

Fiction

Say what you will, you can’t keep a dead mind down.
More Pricks Than Kicks

His plan therefore was not to refuse admission to the idea, but to keep it at bay until his mind was ready to receive it. Then let it in and pulverise it. Obliterate the bastard.
More Pricks Than Kicks

God is a witness that cannot be sworn.
Watt

Bun is such a sad word, is it not?
Watt

As there seemed no measure between what Watt could understand, and what he could not, so there seemed none between what he deemed certain, and what he deemed doubtful.
Watt

But our particular friends were the rats, that dwelt by the stream. They were long and black. We brought them such tidbits from our ordinary as rinds of cheese, and morsels of gristle, and we brought them also birds’ eggs, and frogs, and fledgelings. Sensible of these attentions, they would come flocking round us at our approach, with every sign of confidence and affection, and glide up our trouserlegs, and hang upon our breasts. And then we would sit down in the midst of them, and give them to eat, out of our hands, of a nice fat frog, or a baby thrush. Or seizing suddenly a plump young rat, resting in our bosom after its repast, we would feed it to its mother, or its father, or its brother, or its sister, or to some less fortunate relative.
It was on these occasions, we agreed, after an exchange of views, that we came nearest to God.
Watt

How hideous is the semi-colon.
Watt

To think, when one is no longer young, when one is not yet old, that one is no longer young, that one is not yet old, that is perhaps something.
Watt

The sun shone having no alternative on the nothing new.
Murphy, Chapter 1

Murphy’s purpose in going to sit at Neary’s feet was not to develop the Neary heart, which he thought would quickly prove fatal to a man of his temper, but simply to invest his own with a little of what Neary, at the time a Pythagorean, called the Apmonia. For Murphy had such an irrational heart that no physician could get to the root of it. Inspected, palpated, ausculated, percussed, radiographed, and cardiographed, it was all that a heart should be. Buttoned up and left to perform, it was like Petrouchka in his box. One moment in such labour that it seemed on the point of seizing, the next in such ebullition that it seemed on the point of bursting. It was the mediation between these extremes that Neary called the Apmonia. When he got tired of calling it the Apmonia, he called it the Isonomy. When he got sick of the sound of Isonomy he called the the Attunement. But he might call it what he liked, into Murphy’s heart it would not enter. Neary could not blend the opposites in Murphy’s heart.
Murphy, Chapter 1

She felt, as she felt so often with Murphy, spattered with words that went dead as soon as they sounded; each word obliterated, before it had time to make sense, by the word that came next; so that in the end she did not know what had been said. It was like difficult music heard for the first time.
Murphy, Chapter 3

“Humanity is a well with two buckets,” said Wylie, “one going down to be filled, the other coming up to be emptied.”
Murphy, Chapter 4

“Once a certain degree of insight has been reached,” said Wylie, “all men talk, when talk they must, the same tripe.”
Murphy, Chapter 4

I believe him, I know it’s my only chance to – my only chance, I believe all I’m told, I’ve disbelieved only too much in my long life, now I swallow everything, greedily. What I need now is stories, it took me a long time to know that, and I’m not sure of it.
Molloy, Part I

...you would do better, at least no worse, to obliterate texts than to blacken margins, to fill in the holes of words till all is black and flat and the whole ghastly business looks like what it is, senseless, speechless, issueless misery.
Molloy, Part I

How agreeable it is to be confirmed, after a more or less long period of vacillation, in one’s first impressions. Perhaps this is what tempers the pangs of death.
Molloy, Part I

What a rest to speak of bicycles and horns. Unfortunately it is not of them I have to speak, but of her who brought me into the world, through the hole in her arse if my memory is correct. First taste of the shit.
Molloy, Part I

I who had loved the image of old Geulincx, dead young, who left me free, on the black boat of Ulysses, to crawl towards the East, along the deck. That is the great measure of freedom, for him who has not the pioneering spirit. And from the poop, poring upon the wave, a sadly rejoicing slave, I follow with my eyes the proud and futile wake. Which, as it bears me from no fatherland away, bears me onward to no shipwreck.
Molloy, Part I

Saying is inventing. Wrong, very rightly wrong. You invent nothing, you think you are inventing, you think you are escaping, and all you do is stammer out your lesson, the remnants of a pensum one day got by heart and long forgotten, life without tears, as it is wept.
Molloy, Part I

What I liked in anthropology was its inexhaustible faculty of negation, its relentless definition of man, as though he were no better than God, in terms of what he is not.
Molloy, Part I

But I do not think even Sisyphus is required to scratch himself, or to groan, or to rejoice, as the fashion is now, always at the same appointed places. And it may even be they are not too particular about the route he takes provided it gets him to his destination safely and on time. And perhaps he thinks each journey is his first. This would keep hope alive, would it not, hellish hope. Whereas to see yourself doing the same thing endlessly over and over againfills you with satisfaction.
Molloy, Part II

Oh the stories I could tell you if I were easy. What a rabble in my head, what a gallery of moribunds. Murphy, Watt, Yerk, Mercier and all the others. I would never have believed that – yes, I believe it willingly. Stories, stories. I have not yet been able to tell them. I shall not be able to tell this one.
Molloy, Part II

But the idea of ageing was not exactly the one that offered itself to me. And what I saw was more like a crumbling, a frenzied collapsing of all that had always protected me from all I was condemned to be. Or it was like a kind of clawing towards a light and countenance I could not name, that I had once known and long denied.
Molloy, Part II

Decidedly it will never have been given to me to finish anything, except perhaps breathing. One must not be greedy.
Malone Dies

Decidedly the night is long and poor in counsel.
Malone Dies

I simply believe that I can say nothing that is not true, I mean that has not happened, it’s not the same thing but no matter. Yes, that’s what I like about me, at least on of the things, that I can say, Up the Republic!, for example, or, Sweetheart!, for example, without having to wonder whether I should not rather have cut my tongue out, or said something else.
Malone Dies

I pause to record that I feel in extraordinary form. Delirium perhaps.
Malone Dies

Or I might be able to catch one, a little girl for example, and half strangle her, three quarters, until she promises to give me my stick, give me soup, empty my pots, kiss me, fondle me, smile to me, give me my hat, stay with me, follow the hearse weeping into her handkerchief, that would be nice. I am such a good man, at bottom, such a good man, how is it that nobody ever noticed it?
Malone Dies

I must be happy, he said, it is less pleasant than I should have thought.
Malone Dies

And all these questions I ask myself. It is not in a spirit of curiosity. I cannot be silent. About myself I need know nothing. Here all is clear. No, all is not clear. But the discourse must go on. So one invents obscurities. Rhetoric.
–The Unnamable

That the impossible should be asked of me, good, what else could be asked of me? But the absurd! Of me whom they have reduced to reason.
–The Unnamable

If I have said anything to the contrary I was mistaken. If I say anything to the contrary again I shall be mistaken again. Unless I am mistaken now. Into the dossier with it in any case, in support of whatever thesis you fancy.
–The Unnamable

Is not a uniform suffering preferable to one which, by its ups and downs, is liable at certain moments to encourage the view that perhaps after all it is not eternal?
–The Unnamable

My mistakes are my life.
–How It Is

Better hope deferred than none. Up to a point. Till the heart starts to sicken. Company too up to a point. Better a sick heart than none. Till it starts to break. So speaking of himself he concludes for the time being,
For the time being leave it at that.
Company

Drama & Plays

You were saying something nice about me, I can feel it.
Eleuthéria

I say farce deliberately, in the hope of covering up for you. That’s what our best authors do, they call their most serious works farces, in case no one is prepared to take them seriously.
Eleuthéria

SPECTATOR: Actually, who wrote this rubbish? (checks programme) Beckett (he says Béké), Samuel, Béké, Béké, he must be a cross between a Jew from Greenland and a peasant from the Auvergne.
GLAZIER: Never heard of him. Seems he eats his soup with a fork.
SPECTATOR: Doesn’t matter. Remainder him...
Eleuthéria

If I was dead, I wouldn’t know I was dead. That’s the only thing I have against death. I want to enjoy my death. That’s where liberty lies: to see oneself dead.
–Eleuthéria

We are all born mad. Some remain so.
Waiting for Godot

He stopped crying. You have replaced him as it were. The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh. Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not any unhappier than its predecessors. Let us not speak well of it either. Let us not speak of it at all. It is true the population has increased.
Waiting for Godot

NELL: One mustn’t laugh at those things, Nagg. Why must you always laugh at them?
NAGG: Not so loud!
NELL (without lowering her voice): Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. But–
NAGG (shocked): Oh!
NELL: Yes, yes, it’s the most comic thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it’s always the same thing. Yes, it’s like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don’t laugh any more.
Endgame

Something of this is being heard, I am not merely talking to myself, that is in the wilderness, a thing I could never bear to do – for any length of time. (Pause.) That is what enables me to go on, go on talking that is. (Pause.) Whereas if you were to die – (smile) – to speak in the old style – (smile off) – or go away and leave me, then what would I do, what could I do, all day long, I mean between the bell for waking and the bell for sleep? (Pause.) Simply gaze before me with compressed lips.
Happy Days

the churn of stale words in the heart again
love love love thud of the old plunger
pestling the unalterable
whey of words
Cascando

Nonfiction

Here form is content, content is form. You complain that this stuff is not written in English. It is not written at all. It is not to be read – or rather it is not only to be read. It is to be looked at and listened to. His writing is not about something, it is that something itself.
–On Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: Dante...Bruno.Vico..Joyce, 1929

For Proust the quality of language is more important than any system of ethics or aesthetics. Indeed he makes no attempt to dissiciate form from content. Form is the concretion of content, the revelation of a world.
Proust, 1931

...music is the idea itself, unaware of the world of phenomena, existing ideally outside the universe, apprehended not in Space but in Time only, and consequently untouched by the teleological hypothesis.
Proust, 1931

The eighteenth century has been called the century of reason, la siècle de la raison. I’ve never understood that: they’re all mad, ils sont tous fous, ils déraisonnent! They give reason a responsibility which it simply can’t bear, it’s too weak. The Encyclopedists wanted to know everything... But that direct relation between the self and – as the Italians say – lo scibile, the knowable, was already broken.
–In conversation with Michael Haerdter

...when it comes to those bastards of journalists, I feel the only line is to refuse to be involved in exegesis of any kind. That’s for those bastards of critics.
–Letter to Alan Schneider, 1957


–Tim Conley
& A. Ruch

6 July 2004


“Damn the mail” – Send email to Apmonia’s Tim Conley and the Great Quail – comments, suggestions, corrections, criticisms, submissions . . . all are welcome!

Spiral-Bound – Click here for information about Spiral-Bound, The Modern Word’s monthly electronic newsletter. From this page you can read about Spiral-Bound, browse archived past editions, sign up for the Spiral-Bound e-group, and subscribe to the newsletter itself.