Nabokov on Beckett's French

From a nice essay on Beckett in the Boston Review:

This thought coalesced into a conviction. Thereafter, Beckett, who so valued control over his work and the paring down of language to its essence, chose French as his primary writing medium because he was afraid his wild Irish English would run away with him, as it had with his mentor, Joyce. The ironic result was a great writer in two languages who was a true master of only one. The contrast was pointed out by Beckett’s fellow exile Vladimir Nabokov, American novelist and Russian aristocrat, who admired Beckett as “the author of lovely novellas”—in English. Himself fluent in French, Nabokov observed that Beckett’s French was “a schoolmaster’s French, a preserved French, but in [his] English you feel the moisture of verbal association and of the spreading live roots of his prose.”



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