BECKETT, SPEAKING.

A half-minute snippet of Samuel Beckett talking about the German television production of What Where is a precious document, since he never wanted to be recorded. Trevor, who sent it to me (many thanks!), says what surprised him is Beckett’s rural Irish accent. How I’d love to have a recording of him reading one of his monodramas!

Comments

  1. Eimear Ní Mhéalóid says:

    I wouldn’t call that a rural Irish accent at all. It’s an old fashioned upper middle class accent.

  2. I grew up in rural Ireland and that doesn’t sound like a rural Irish accent to me. It’s an upper middle-class Dublin accent with a touch of Anglo-Irish – pretty much what I’d have expected given Beckett’s background. It’s still fascinating to actually hear him speak.

  3. John Emerson says:

    I’m afraid that Hat will not go on to the next round in this contest.

  4. John Emerson says:

    I’m afraid that Hat will not go on to the next round in this contest.

  5. Hey, I was just quoting. I wouldn’t know a rural Irish accent from a dustmans dumpling, a corncrakes clapper, or the scum on the eye of a senile ram.

  6. Great metaphors, L.H. You should have been a poet. Maybe you are. Are you wearing rags?

  7. Indeed, “WestBrit” is the local term for this type of accent. I’ve recently been listening to Naxos’ mp3 download of Krapp’s Last Tape and would thoroughly recommend it, Jim Norton really brings out the Irish rhythms beautifully.

  8. Gabe, “West Brit” is more a political term; while many of the West Brits did speak like Beckett, speaking like Beckett didn’t make one a West Brit.
    He’s got an interesting mix of an accent, a non-rhotic [moə], but an Irish rhotic [ˈbɛtɚ] (what is the technical difference between the North American non-Canadian-Maritimes /r/ and the Irish /r/? I can hear it, but can’t explain it) and then [ˈʃtʌtgaːt], no trace of the English-speaker to it.

  9. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    He was a tall man. I would say I like his movements, but it makes him sound like a deer. Gestures is better.

  10. The clip also has nice examples of the “soft Irish T”, lenited (slit) alveolar stops: the final /t/ of “modified it”, the medial one of “superfluity”, even the devoiced final /d/ of “consisted”. And maybe the final /t/ in “Stuttgart”.

  11. There is probably a fair bit more of this interview here:
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0876293/
    which is from where this clip originates.

  12. Great metaphors, L.H. You should have been a poet.
    I’m afraid I swiped them from Flann O’Brien, a better man than I.

  13. J. Del Col says:

    Beckett wasn’t rural in any sense. He came from Foxrock, Dublin. His family were prosperous city-dwellers, not countrymen–his father was a surveyor, his mother, a nurse.
    The closest he would have come to rurality was his time at the Portora Royal School in northern Ireland. But that was hardly a place where he’d have acquired anything even vaguely like an Irish rural accent–not even as an affectation.

  14. Hey, I’m from Mary Street in Dublin, so for me anything beyond the canals is rural. But, still, that accent sounds further out than Foxrock to me.

  15. Eimear Ní Mhéalóid says:

    further out than Foxrock
    I have a vague notion that the family used to spend a lot of time in Greystones.

  16. Over a decade ago I saw Ben Kingsley and Alan Howard do Godot at the Old Vic in accents just like, pronouncing the name of the attended one as GOD-oh. It was glorious.

  17. I’m not going to google this, but was it Shaw who said that someone couldn’t open his mouth for 15 seconds without someone else despising him for the way he speaks? So it’s not a lower upper class accent, and not an ordinary upper middle class accent but a university-educated upper middle class accent with western Irish grace notes. I’m glad we sorted that out – it must be so much easier in North America.

  18. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    Don’t be fooled that class doesn’t affect accents in the States, I particularly remember a so-called upper-class thing in NY called Long Island lockjaw, and the Valley girl phenomenon was supposed to be lower class.

  19. John Emerson says:

    I don’t think that the Valley Girl is lower class. It was a particular local culture of rather privileged middle class high school girls. “Money and no class” or nouveau riche is more like it.

  20. John Emerson says:

    I don’t think that the Valley Girl is lower class. It was a particular local culture of rather privileged middle class high school girls. “Money and no class” or nouveau riche is more like it.

  21. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    I’m sure you’re right.

  22. Rodney Ulyate says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVI5cz8H0M4&feature=related
    Not Beckett himself, alas, but a yet magnificent reading from Watt. YouTube, it seems, is actually good for something.

  23. YouTube is great; you just have to avoid the chaff and the comments.

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