Support the Beckett Letters Interactive Index Project
The Samuel Beckett Letters Project is 30-plus-year research endeavor to locate, transcribe and annotate all extant letters written by Irish writer Samuel Beckett. Led by project director Lois Overbeck in the Laney Graduate School, it has resulted in the publication of four volumes of selected letters (Cambridge University Press, 2009-2016). Following this publication, Overbeck’s team began collaborating with the library to create the Location Register which provides archival location and letter metadata for each item in public archives and with the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) to develop the Interactive Index website which curates searchable data from all Beckett letters in public archives.
The Letters of Samuel Beckett has entered the final phase of its open-access Interactive Index Project. This tool for exploring all of Beckett’s letters in public archives supports future scholarship and research in the collections of Beckett’s letters held in archives world-wide.
Just as Beckett’s letters offer a rich context for the events of the 20th century to many fields of inquiry, so the metadata of the Interactive Index Project opens the door to Beckett’s life and works for digital humanities initiatives. Emory students have played a significant role in establishing this unique resource, and have gained invaluable research skills by working with the editors of the project.
We invite your gifts to support this work toward its live reveal in April 2023. Your donation will be matched, up to $25,000. Gifts can be made online here. For more information about supporting the project, please contact Philip Brooks, Lead Director of Development at email@example.com or (678) 801-5909.
Chinese Edition of "The Letters of Samuel Beckett Volume I" translated by Bo Cao, Emory Visiting Scholar
The Chinese translation of the first volume of The Letters of Samuel Beckett has been published in two volumes in Dec. 2021 by Hunan Literature and Art Publishing House (HLAPH), Changsha City, the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese translation is the first version rendered outside of Western Europe.
The translator Bo Cao, a professor of English literature at Hunan Normal University in Changsha, began his work in 2015. As a visiting scholar at Emory University in 2019, sponsored by China Scholarship Council, he refined his translation under the guidance of the Director of The Letters of Samuel Beckett Project at Emory, Dr. Lois More Overbeck. She is one of the editors of the original edition of The Letters of Samuel Beckett published in four volumes by Cambridge University Press (2009-2016). The Beckett Letters project is based in the English Department of Emory University.
Beckett’s letters from 1929-1940 present Beckett as a young writer who is growing in “sound and fury.” His letters are replete with colloquial phrases, local references, foreign languages, and even neologisms and word games. Translation also included the editorial prefaces and rigorous notes, which the editors strove to make value neutral and approachable for a world-wide readership. As a veteran translator, Bo Cao is both faithful to Samuel Beckett many voices in the letters and to the editorial contexts, while also considering how to make the letters accessible to Chinese readers – a task that is both linguistic and cultural.
Since 2005, Cao has been writing about Samuel Beckett and translating his works, including Murphy (2012), Watt (2012), More Pricks Thank Kicks (2016) as well as an edition of occasional pieces, Disjecta (2016). To be better prepared, he went to Trinity College Dublin in 2011 to further his studies under the supervision of Prof. Ian Ross. He was interested in the teaching of Irish Studies in United States and spent some time consulting with Dr. Geraldine Higgins, Director of the Irish Studies Program at Emory. Well-trained for the translation of The Letters, Cao has put to full use his knowledge of Samuel Beckett, western European culture, and both languages.
While at Emory in 2019, he presented a study of the Chinese reception of Samuel Beckett’s work, for a colloquia series on translation at the Center for Humanistic Inquiry: “The Chinese Translation of Samuel Beckett: A Critical History” (Irish University Review 51.2, November 2021). He gave that talk in Chinese at the Chinese Flagship Program, Indiana University (Bloomington), and presented it in English with a paper, “The Chinese Translation of a Samuel Beckett Letter,” at a symposium at Washington University of St. Louis. Also in 2019, he prepared a study of Beckett’s awareness of Chinese culture: “Terms of Chinese Culture in Samuel Beckett’s Dream of Fair to Middling Women and their (Re- /Back) Translations.”
The progress of the Chinese translations of Samuel Beckett’s work since the turn of the twentieth-century “mirrors both the re-evaluation of Beckett as an innovative artist and the ‘inward turn’ of Chinese intellectual circles,” writes Cao. The Chinese version of The Letters is “the heroic conclusion of Samuel Beckett’s reception in China, which began reproachfully with the publication of Waiting for Godot in 1965 by China Theatre Press, and reached its climax with the Chinese translation of the Complete Works of Samuel Beckett, in 22 volumes, by HLAPH.
To Cao, the Chinese translation is also a mark of the constructive cooperation in the international SB community. His stay at Emory opened for him a second window on Samuel Beckett and Irish studies outside of Ireland. In July 2021, he published some conclusions drawn from his talks with Lois Overbeck: “Recent Trends of Samuel. Beckett Studies” Foreign Language and Literature, a journal of Sichuan International Studies University in Chongqing City of China.
Translations are underway of the following three volumes of The Letters of Samuel Beckett, from 1941 to 1989, each undertaken by a different translator. The balance of the Chinese edition is expected to be published by 2023. It will join the German (Suhrkamp) French, (Gallimard), and Italian (Adelphi) translations of the edition. “Beckett’s correspondents and consequently his letters can be found in archives all over the world,” says Lois Overbeck, so it is both appropriate and exciting that the edition of his letters has reached such a wide audience.”
July 2021: The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation awarded a grant to Emory University to support the Letters of Samuel Beckett Location Register
The award will be applied to confirmation of the letters of Samuel Beckett in European and non-western archives. It is expected to be completed by 30 June 2022.
The Letters of Samuel Beckett Project is grateful for this continued support that will serve archives and future scholarship.
29 June 2021: Festival of Modernism 2021, British Association of Modernism
Editing Modernist Letters: A Roundtable discussion
Editors of The Collected Letters of Ford Maddox Ford
Scott McCracken, editor of Dorothy Richardson’s letters
Sandra Spanier, editor of Kay Boyle: A Twentieth-Century Life in Letters, and The Letters of Ernst
Hemingway and Editor of the Letters of Kay Boyle,
Lois Overbeck, an editor of the Letters of Samuel Beckett
Editing Modernist Letters - video.mp4 - OneDrive (live.com)
June 2021: Publication of Volume 2 of the Italian edition of The Letters of Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett, Lettere, II, 1941 – 1956
A cura di George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn e Lois More Overbeck
Edizione italiana a cura di Franca Cavagnoli
La collana dei casi, 139
2021, pp. 517, 21 ill. b/n
April 29 2021: Trinity College Dublin awards Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters to Martha Fehsenfeld, founding editor of The Letters of Samuel Beckett
Trinity awards honorary degrees to pioneer of international family law and editor of Samuel Beckett letters - Trinity News and Events (tcd.ie)
Honorary Degrees April 2021 - YouTube
5 February 2021: The Irish Influence, Boston College Ireland
This Boston College Ireland webinar series explores the lives and works of the four Irishborn winners of the Nobel Prize in Liteature: George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, and Seamus Heaney.
“The Four Irish Nobel Literary Laureates”—William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney—in cast bronze by internationally noted Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie. The piece was commissioned and donated by former BC Trustee and Burns Library benefactor Brian P. Burns for installation at Boston College Ireland.
Lois More Overbeck, Scholar, on Samuel Beckett
Highlights: Lois Overbeck On Beckett's Transition to French
6, 10, 12 and 13 November 2020: National Humanities Conference (virtual)
Poised at the Crossroads: Preservation and Public Access to Humanites Research – The Letters of Samuel Beckett. Presentation of the Location Register and the linked Data Project of The Letters of Samuel Beckett, with Emory Digital Scholarship partners Sara Palmer and Jay Varner,
Large, long-term humanities projects leave a wake of research that may become inaccessible or lost when publication is complete. Following publication of final volume of The Letters of Samuel Beckett (Cambridge University Press, 2009-2016), came the big question: How can thirty years of essential primary research be preserved for future scholarship? Metadata provided a methodology: while respecting literary rights, it could describe and index the letters, integrate decades of interviews and research, and model humanities methods for new and public inquiry.
By making both the platforms and the data open access, the discovery of these intersections between the humanities and digital methodologies offers a model for other projects in the Humanities - opening research to new questions and new evidence.”
April 2020: Journal of Beckett Studies
Lois More Overbeck, "Samuel Beckett's Responses to Pedagogy," The Journal of Beckett Studies 29.1 (2020) 3-26.
3 March 2020: Atlanta Francophonie Festival 2020
The Consulate General of Ireland presented a film screening in French and English of Samuel Beckett’s play Krapp’s Last tape with Rick Cluchey and La Dernière Bande with Roland Bertin. Lois Overbeck led the post-screening discussion.
4, 11, 18 and 15 February 2020: Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry Great Works Seminar
Reading Samuel Beckett, The Shorter Plays, Moderator: Lois More Overbeck
Samuel Beckett’s full-length plays, especially Waiting for Godot, Endgame, and Happy Days, are fairly well-known, but his shorter plays are less frequently produced. Lois Overbeck, an editor of The Letters of Samuel Beckett (Cambridge University Press, 2009-2016), offers a series of discussions based on the shorter plays. She will introduce these intriguing dramas with close reading and open discussion of the texts, as well as share background about them from the Letters of Samuel Beckett. Discussions take place in The Luce Center so that materials held in the edition’s offices are at hand. Performances of the plays will be discussed and links to video materials will be available.
7-8 November 2019: What is the Word: Celebrating Beckett, Washington University St. Louis
Presentation: Bo Cao, “The History of Beckett translations in China”
Seminar Session: Lois Overbeck “The End is in the Beginning, and yet you go on”: A
Digital Post-script to The Letters of Samuel Beckett
Seminar Session: Bo Cao, “The Intricacies and Challenges of Translating Beckett’s
What is the Word: Celebrating Samuel Beckett—Day 1 - University Libraries | Washington University in St. Louis (wustl.edu)
What is the Word: Celebrating Samuel Beckett—Day 2 - University Libraries | Washington University in St. Louis (wustl.edu)
24 October 2019: Wesleyan University Olin Library, Middletown, Connecticut Homage to Samuel Beckett, a Symposium in honor of the Jay Levy Beckett Collection
A symposium, “Homage to Samuel Beckett,” highlighted books, letters, and memorabilia gifted by noted AIDS researcher Jay Levy ’60, Hon. ’96, and his wife, Sharon, from their decades-long friendship with the playwright, which began when Jay was living in Paris after his graduation from Wesleyan.
Presentation: Lois Overbeck, “A Journey of Letters”
Gift of Beckett Letters by Levy ’60 Inspires Homage Symposium
21 October 2019 - 4 March 2019: The Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, Emory University, Public Scholarship Forum
Translation in Word and Image: Assumptions and Implications
Walter S. Melion, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Art History and Director, FCHI
Lois Overbeck, Director, The Letters of Samuel Beckett Project, Department of English
The Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry and The Letters of Samuel Beckett co-organized a series of four afternoon colloquia, one in Fall 2019 and three in Spring 2020, on the comparative topic of literary and pictorial translation. They examined four types of translation:
- translation of literary texts from one language to another, one culture to another, one medium to another;
- translation of ancient, medieval, or early modern texts into a modern vernacular language and, connected to this, of prosody into prose;
- translation of visual images across media, e.g., of a painting into a reproductive print;
- the translational dynamics of the emblem, a composite literary genre that brings words and images into mutual relation, jointly translating text into image, image into text.
4 March 2020 - Texts of Translation – Issues of Re-translation and Adaptation. Presented by Breon Mitchell, Professor Emeritus of Germanic Studies and Comparative Literature, Indiana University, Director Emeritus of the Lilly Library.
Without literary translation many authors would simply be lost to the vast majority of readers. That's one reason why the nature and role of literature translation in culture has become, in the last decade or so, one of the liveliest new topics in academic research and our university classrooms. Literary translations are akin to musical performances—they represent attempts to convey the sense and sound of an original text or score for a public audience. Of course, no one would dream of suggesting that a single performance of a Verdi opera or Beethoven quartet would suffice for the world at large. Yet there are scores of important literary works in foreign languages for which there is only a single translation into English. The issues raised by the appearance of new versions of Franz Kafka's The Trial and Günter Grass's The Tin Drum serve as a basis for a wider discussion of the place of retranslation in international culture.
17-18 October 2019, National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) and Digital Preservation Conference, Tampa, Florida
A panel presented by Lois More Overbeck, Director of The Beckett Letters Project, Emory University, with Sara Palmer and Jay Varner, the Emory Center for Digital Research
Large, long-term projects generate research that can be lost after publication is complete. At this critical juncture, the end may be a beginning. The Location Register and Linked Data Project created at Emory University seeks to preserve the research of The Letters of Samuel Beckett for future scholarship. Developing the electronic tools for access was a journey of discovery and experiment.
The Samuel Beckett archives are exceptional and deep. They offer traces of the living record of the writing (drafts, revisions, translations, publication) and performance (photos, reviews, recordings, interviews with actors, designers, and directors). Just as each performance finds its own measure, so archival research is constantly reflexive. The nuance that Beckett’s letters provides is an essential entry point to such archives.
Although the Linked Data Project of The Letters of Samuel Beckett is built empirically, its intent is to stimulate, and not replace, reading of the letters in context. The projects offer curated data to open fields of inquiry organically from his letters.
23 September 2019: Launch of The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Location Register
The Location Register of the Letters of Samuel Beckett is the first step to preserve the cumulative knowledge of this unique archive. Also in development is a Linked Data Project of the Letters of Samuel Beckett in Public Archives.
Visit the Location Register of the Letters of Samuel Beckett
20-22 June 2019: Association for Documentary Editing Annual Meeting, Princeton University
In Memory of George Craig
In Memory of George Craig
George Craig, Editor and French Translator of The Letters of Samuel Beckett, died on 6 March 2019.
He tackled the arduous task of translating into English Samuel Beckett’s letters written in French with courage and a delight that befitted his own passion for language, and generously gave his “retirement” years to this effort. His translations were exemplary, as readers and reviewers have appreciated.
George was in the thrall of words and the music of languages. He found in Beckett’s writings a special home. George was a man of immense learning whose editorial eye was frighteningly insistent; he missed nothing. By nature, he was a patient, humble, and kind man. His passion was felt in every nuance of what he did.
George Craig brought unique personal credentials to his role as French translator: born and educated in Ireland, he followed in Beckett’s own academic pathway from Trinity College Dublin to the Ecole normale supérieure in Paris. He loved the challenges of crosswords, he was at times infuriated by the untranslatable jokes of Beckett’s wordplay, and he knew the Oxford English Dictionary as life experience – knew when a word entered the English language and so when it could be used in a translation.
An Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Sussex, and, formerly, Reader in French, The School of European Studies, University of Sussex, he educated leaders in literature and critical writing. His distinguished scholarship includes a critical edition of Marguerite Duras, Des journées entières dans les arbres (1972), and with co-editor Margaret McGowan, Moy qui me voy: the Writer and the Self from Montaigne to Leiris (1989), together with essays on Hugo, Mallarmé, and Proust -- and on reading. He was for many years a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement.
It is with great sadness that we have lost a dear friend, It is with great joy that we celebrate his continued presence with us.
January - December 2019: Leading Chinese Translator of The Letters of Samuel Beckett at Emory
While at Emory, Dr. Cao will complete his translation of The Letters of Samuel Beckett: 1929-1940. He will also familiarize himself with the research for all four volumes of Beckett’s letters, so that he can guide colleagues who are translating the other three volumes. The full Chinese edition of The Letters will be available by the end of 2021. “The publication of The Letters in Chinese will be monumental, marking the completion of the Beckett translation project and rewriting the reception of Beckett in China,” said Bo Cao. To him, The Letters, a biography with “no commentary,” is as significant as Beckett’s works themselves.
In 2016 Hunan Literature and Art Press published The Complete Collection of Samuel Beckett in Chinese. In that series are Dr. Cao’s translations of Beckett’s novels Murphy, Watt (first edition in 2012), and More Pricks Than Kicks (2016), as well as his collection of occasional pieces edited by Beckett scholar Ruby Cohn: Disjecta (2016).
Dr. Cao is Director of Center for British and Irish Literature at College of Foreign Studies, Hunan Normal University, where he also directs Department of Translation Studies. Since getting a Ph.D. degree in 2005 at Shanghai International Studies University, he has written on Irish and British authors and English-Chinese translation. Among his monographs are A Study of Samuel Beckett’s Novels of Failure (Beijing: Commercial Press, 2015) and Humanity Exploration: A Study of 18th Century British Novels (Beijing: Guangming Daily Press, 2009). Among his translations is also the Irish national epic The Tain (Changsha: Hunan Education Press, 2008). He is Secretary General of China British Literature Association.
The Beckett Letters project at Emory welcomes Dr. Bo Cao, and looks forward to arranging discussions within the Emory community about issues of translation as well as explorations of the cultural interactions invited by the study of literature. His presence at Emory offers a rich opportunity to share ideas.