Krapp’s Last Tape was first performed in 1958, which places it towards the end of Samuel Beckett’s middle period: those fruitful postwar years during which he wrote his major plays, Waiting for Godot (1952) and Endgame (1957), and the three extraordinary novels known collectively as the ‘Molloy Trilogy’ (1951–58). Between them, these works have come to define the themes and the aesthetic qualities we now think of as distinctively Beckettian. Their creative breakthrough was, famously, achieved as a result of his decision to switch from writing in English to writing in French – a decision he made, in no small part, to escape the smothering influence of his old mentor James Joyce, who, he felt, had taken stylistic abundance to its logical conclusion, and who inspired in Beckett a counter-resolution to achieve his effects, as he later put it, by ‘subtracting rather than adding’.
Krapp's Last Tape (fortyfivedownstairs)
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James Ley is an essayist and literary critic who lives in Melbourne. A former Editor of Sydney Review of Books, he has been a regular contributor to ABR since 2003.
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