In the Beckett archives

In 2005, having long loved Samuel Beckett’s writing and recently read the wonderful biography Damned to Fame, Lara characteristically found out how to get in touch with the author, James Knowlson, and wrote to him. At his suggestion we got the train to Reading and a  bus to the university to find, off a corridor in the upper floors of its musty 1970s library building, the place where all Beckett’s letters and books were being kept. The archivist, Julian Garforth, was one of the few people alive who could read Beckett’s handwriting. He was extraordinarily generous with his time and enthusiasm. I saw the funny little cartoons that Beckett drew in margins. I saw conkers from a tree in the garden of his house in a French village where he went to write.  It was the hundredth anniversary of his birth the next year, so I had an idea to make my name with some tie-in art. I took some photos on that first visit, and thanks to Julian Garforth I took more and made some video on another visit a few months later. 2006 came and went, but I still like these photos and the video. It’s all here.

The archive was soon moved to an environmentally controlled basement of the Museum of English Rural Life, where you can’t just visit and leaf through the pages, and Julian Garforth doesn’t work there any more.