By TOBY LICHTIG
One final (I promise) aside about the recent Beckett Festival in Enniskillen. In researching Beckett's schooldays in Anthony Cronin's excellent biography, The Last Modernist (1996), I came across a poem the young Beckett wrote in the autograph album of his friend Tom Cox while the pair were students at Portora.
Beckett, seated on right. Photograph: Courtesy of Portora Royal School
I'd read Cronin's biography years ago at university but hadn't remembered the poem. Having pointed out the incongruity of staging a Beckett festival at all, I was struck by the peculiarity of this poem in relation to the author's later work, its jaunty optimism so wonderfully at odds with everything Beckett was to stand for.
Here is the (untitled) piece of verse in full:
When a bit of sunshine hits you
After a passing of a cloud,
And a bit of laughter gets you
And your spine is feeling proud,
Don't forget to up and fling it
At a soul that's feeling blue,
For the moment that you sling it
It's a boomerang to you.
As Cronin wryly comments of these lines: "So at variance with [Beckett's] own mature outlook and so appalling in certain literary respects are they, that one wonders whether they were not inscribed with satirical intent".
I've always found there to be something tremendously uplifting about Beckett's (often brilliantly funny) acceptance and exploration of uncertainty, fallibility, hopelessness, existential silence – just as the enforced buoyancy of this little piece of juvenilia can only feel humourless, crushing and constraining.
Perhaps, though, if Seán Doran's festival is to embrace its kitsch aesthetic to the full then this squib might become the event's ironic motto. Happy Days indeed.