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Beckett in Black and Red

Beckett in Black and Red: The Translations for Nancy Cunard's Negro

Edited by Alan Warren Friedman
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Beckett in Black and Red
    Book Description:

    In 1934, Nancy Cunard publishedNegro: An Anthology, which brought together more than two hundred contributions, serving as a plea for racial justice, an exposé of black oppression, and a hymn to black achievement and endurance. The anthology stands as a virtual ethnography of 1930s racial, historic, artistic, political, and economic culture. Samuel Beckett, a close friend of the flamboyant and unconventional Cunard, translated nineteen of the contributions for Negro, constituting Beckett's largest single prose publication. Beckett traditionally has been viewed as an apolitical postmodernist rather than as a willing and major participant in Negro's racial, political, and aesthetic agenda.

    InBeckett in Black and Red, Friedman reevaluates Beckett's contribution to the project, reconciling the humanism of his life and work and valuing him as a man deeply engaged with the greatest public issues of his time. Cunard believed racial justice and equality could be achieved only through Communism, and thus "black" and "red" were inextricably linked in her vision. Beckett's contribution to Negro demonstrates his support for Cunard's interest in surrealism as well as her political causes, including international republicanism and anti-fascism. Only in recent years have Cunard's ideas begun to receive serious consideration.

    Beckett in Black and Redradically revalues Cunard and reconceives Beckett. His work in Negro shows a commitment to cultural and individual equality and worth that Beckett consistently demonstrated throughout his life, both in personal relationships and in his writing.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6162-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. IX-X)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. XI-XL)

    Samuel Beckett’s most extensive publication (more than 63,000 words) consists of nineteen translations he did for Nancy Cunard’sNegro: An Anthology(1934). BothNegroand Beckett’s work for it are little known and less valued, perhaps because Cunard has, until recently, been culturally and historically marginalized or ignored, while Beckett has been constructed as either an apolitical (post) modernist, the literary man in exile (like Joyce), or a recovering Irishman reclaimed for nationalist purposes, rather than a willing participant inNegro’sracial, political, and aesthetic agenda. In the prevailing view, Beckett’s contribution was nothing special: “They are solid, impersonal translations,...

  6. Foreword to Negro (1933)
    (pp. 1-3)
    Nancy Cunard

    It was necessary to make this book—and I think in this manner, an Anthology of some 150 voices of both races—for the recording of the struggles and achievements, the persecutions and the revolts against them, of the Negro peoples.

    The book is composed of seven parts. The reader finds first in this panorama the full violence of the oppression of the 14 million Negroes inAmericaand the upsurge of their demands for mere justice, that is to say their full and equal rights alongside of their white fellow-citizens. At no other time in the history of America...

  7. Translations by Samuel Beckett

    • The Best Negro Jazz Orchestras
      (pp. 4-9)
      Robert Goffin

      From the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Harlem to ‘Frisco, the fertile musical territories of the States are studded with the tumultuous capitals of fashionable jazz. There are certainly more good orchestras than there are states, which means that it is very difficult to be familiar with them all, at least as far as I am concerned, who have never been able to identify all the stars of the American flag.

      The conscientious explorer must arrange to spend some time in the provincial towns and small villages if he wants to make himself acquainted with genuine local flavours and with...

    • Louis Armstrong
      (pp. 11-12)
      Ernst Moerman
    • Hot Jazz
      (pp. 13-16)
      Robert Goffin

      Not so long ago André Coeuroy wrote: “improvised jazz is the most potent force in music at the present time; long may it remain so.”

      What then exactly is this force that has received the sanction of some of our greatest modern musicians and yet is so little known to others, such as Henry Malherbe, the critic of theTemps,that they cannot distinguish it from a counterpoint out of theTales of Hoffmann,and assume in their simplicity that Maurice Yvain, Yves Alix and Christine are the masters of jazz in France? And how is it possible to associate...

    • Summary of the History of Hayti
      (pp. 17-26)
      Jenner Bastien

      Christopher Columbus discovered Hayti on December 6, 1492, and anchored in the magnificent bay of the St. Nicolas Mole, to the north-west of the island. He immediately established communications with the natives and even became friendly with thecacique,Guacanagaric. The island, at that time, was divided into fivecacicatsor kingdoms and had a population of about two millions. After getting into touch with these people whom he called Indians—believing that he had discovered India—Columbus returned to Spain, where he received a royal welcome. Before leaving Hayti, on January 11, 1493, he had easily obtained a concession...

    • A Note on Haytian Culture
      (pp. 27-28)
      Ludovic Morin Lacombe

      Hayti has no civilisation ofits own. At the time of its discovery in 1492, it was inhabited by the Caribs, who were exterminated by the Spaniards and replaced by Negroes imported from Africa.

      After becoming a French colony in 1666, the island of Hayti severed itself from the mother country in 1804.

      The middle class, called free, consisting of freed Negroes and mulattoes—which came into power after the tragic death ofJean Jacques Dessalines and the expulsion of the white element—had received, from father to son, a purely French education.

      So that we are in the presence of a...

    • The King of Gonaives
      (pp. 29-33)
      Jacques Boulenger

      In 1915 the Republic of Hayti was presided over by one William Sam, who was so little appreciated as an administrator that steps were being taken to have him removed. Now it appears that William Sam, being alive to this, saw fit to execute no fewer than 200 hostages drawn from the most distinguished families throughout the country. He may have counted on the radical nature of this proceeding to reinstate him in the good graces of his fellow citizens, but the contrary was the case, and William Sam referred himself with all speed to the sanctuary of the French...

    • The Child in Guadeloupe
      (pp. 34-40)
      E. Flavia-Léopold

      A study of this kind must be approached without any kind of bias or prejudice. We must not encumber ourselves with any form of racial theory or preconception liable to invalidate our observations. We are all alive to the necessity of circumspection in the study of child-psychology. In the present case we must never lose sight of the fact that local conditions constitute a most important formative factor, whose action is all the more intense as we have to deal with a comparatively limited area, where causes subject to only very slight variation take effect with exceptional energy and fixity....

    • Black and White in Brazil
      (pp. 41-48)
      Benjamin Péret

      In the U.S.A. the Negro is an object of repulsion; but in Brazil he is regarded as a kind of social syphilis, a disease that must be treated on the quiet for fear of quarantine.

      And yet, if there be any country that can be said to owe its economic existence to the Negro, that country is Brazil. This is so true that any account of the Negro in Brazil would be no less than the history of the country itself.

      As early as the second half of the 17th century we find the first importations of “ebony” from the...

    • Samba without Tears
      (pp. 49-54)
      Georges Sadoul

      The French bourgeois turns up his nose in disgust at the American who bars the Negro from certain cinemas, restaurants and dance-halls, and proclaims that democratic France makes no distinction between black and white. Why, if that be the case, are Congo piccaninnies taught that their ancestors were Gauls, white-skinned and fair-haired, while French children are still waiting for the news that the first occupants of France were Negroes? This incoherence is all the more curious as the latter doctrine would seem to proceed naturally from the discoveries of Grimaldi.¹

      I have been reading some French papers published specially for...

    • Murderous Humanitarianism
      (pp. 56-59)
      André Breton, Roger Caillois, René Char, René Crevel, Paul Eluard, J.-M. Monnerot, Benjamin Péret, Yves Tanguy, André Thirion, Pierre Unik and Pierre Yoyotte

      For centuries the soldiers, priests and civil agents of imperialism, in a welter of looting, outrage and wholesale murder, have battened with impunity on the coloured races; now it is the turn of the demagogues, with their counterfeit liberalism.

      But the proletariat of today, whether metropolitan or colonial, is no longer to be fooled by fine words as to the real end in view, which is still, as it always was, the exploitation of the greatest number for the benefit of a few slavers. Now these slavers, knowing their days to be numbered and reading the doom of their system...

    • Races and Nations
      (pp. 60-68)
      Léon Pierre-Quint

      The traveller of the present day, visiting Central Africa for the first time, cannot but be forcibly impressed by the problem of colonisation in all its terrible complexity. Three years ago, André Gide went to the Congo. For me, his testimony is particularly valuable: passionately attached to truth, Gide goes to infinite pains to control and verify the least of his affirmations. He left France “with an open mind”; his baggage consisted of butterfly nets; he had planned a pleasure trip, asking nothing more than to escape and be received into the rapture of nature, the rapture of the blue...

    • The Negress in the Brothel
      (pp. 69-73)
      René Crevel

      In every metaphor—and the shining univocal 17th-century metaphor was no exception—an author discovers himself and his public.

      Whatever France you are pleased to consider—France vibrating to the Homeric “Get rich” of her Guizot; France bankrupted before her Poincaré and stabilised in one little sharp erection ofthat sacrosanct goatee; France meditating colonial expansion and reprisals and, once a week, after a quick Mass, the charms of her estate—at no period, not even when she cast her legendary woollen stocking in favour of one of artificial silk, did she relax that economy of word and image, that intellectual...

    • A Short Historical Survey of Madagascar
      (pp. 74-81)
      J.J. Rabéarivelo

      Little is known of the position occupied by Madagascar in antiquity. It is only possible tentatively to identify the Great Island ofthe South with thePhanbalon or Phebolof Aristotle, theMenulthiasof Ptolemy (compare theMenutheseasorMenuthisof Arian and Stephanus), theCerneof Pliny, thePacrasof Tharetas and theAlbargraandManutia-Alphilreferred to by a few old anonymous authors.

      In more recent times we have the Arabs Edrisi, Aboul-Feda and Massoudi referring to it variously asSerandah, Chebona, Phanbalon(this last identical with the Greek term and not far removed from thelamboliof Diodorus...

    • The Ancient Bronzes of Black Africa
      (pp. 82-89)
      Charles Ratton

      It was not until 1891, after the conquest of Benin by the English, that the first Negro bronzes reached Europe. It is well known how England made a handle of the killing of her consul Philipps and his companions, when they attempted to enter the capital of Benin during the religious festival and in spite of the royal prohibition, to despatch a punitive expedition which resulted in the colonisation of the country and the burning of the capital. The invaders contrived however, before their fires had gutted this immense and ancient city which had been the admiration of the earliest...

    • Essay on Styles in the Statuary of the Congo
      (pp. 90-98)
      Henri Lavachery

      Notwithstanding the assertion of M. Georges Hardy, in hisNegro Art, that all enquiry along the lines laid down in this essay is of necessity premature, I am persuaded to persevere, with all proper modesty, in my undertaking. I admit the danger of making generalisations at such an early stage of our familiarity with African archeology. But at the same time I consider this problem of style in the domain of Negro statuary to be of such capital importance in the art of those countries that it becomes desirable that someone, and the sooner the better, should accept the chances...

    • Magic and Initiation among the Peoples of Ubanghi-Shari
      (pp. 99-107)
      B.P. Feuilloley

      Ubanghi-Shari lies beyond Cameroon, 2,000 kilometres from the coast. It is inhabited by about 1,000,000 blacks, divided into four large groups: the Banda, the Mandjia, the Sara and the Baya. My researches, the results of three separate visits, have been mainly among the Banda and the Mandjia, whose territories are roughly bounded by Fort-Sibut and Fort-Crampel, Buka and Bria, and it is with these two groups that I am here concerned.

      A close study of “primitives” reveals in all cases the same force behind the evolutionary process: the irresistible force of Magic. Not magic as conceived in the feverish cerebration...

    • “Primitive” Life and Mentality
      (pp. 108-148)
      Raymond Michelet

      A number of the documents brought forward in this study are taken from M. Olivier Leroy’s most interesting book,Primitive Reason(Ed. Geuthner, Paris), which is presented as “an essay in refutation of the thesis of prelogicism.” It seemed to me, though I am not primarily concerned with the destruction of the thesis arraigned by M. Leroy, that many of the arguments and records adduced by him could, when completed and rearranged, provide a convenient point of departure for an outline of the Negro “mentality,” this term to be taken in its fullest acceptation, as denoting the most material as...

    • A Negro Empire: Belgium
      (pp. 149-158)
      E. Stiers

      Belgium, Negro state? This has the air of a joke.

      But . . . ! Of the 23,000,000 subjects of King Albert only 8,000,000 are white. The remaining 15,000,000 belong to the black race.

      This is because the little kingdom of Belgium has been an important colonial power since the year 1908 and mistress of the greater part of Central Africa.

      The story of this conquest is soon told: Stanley, having explored the Congo basin in 1877, entered the following year into relations with a group of capitalists, “The Upper Congo Research Committee,” headed by Leopold II, King of the...

    • French Imperialism at Work in Madagascar
      (pp. 159-161)
      Georges Citerne and Francis Jourdain

      From all the French colonies comes the same cry, a cry for help from the natives crouching under the dictatorship of capitalism. For these Negro workers are no more exempt than their fellows in other countries from the bloody cruelties of repression as inflicted by the representatives of our imperialism.

      A certain Malagasy, by name Rapaoly, who had been imprisoned for “failure to pay his taxes,” disappeared on the eve of his release. He had walked into the parlour of our administrator Puccinelli. He did not come out of it alive. Puccinelli, whose methods with regard to the natives are...

  8. Appendix 1 Negro: An Anthology (1934) Contents
    (pp. 162-168)
  9. Appendix 2 Contributors to Negro Whose Work Beckett Translated
    (pp. 169-172)
  10. Appendix 3 Extant French Originals of the Beckett Translations
    (pp. 173-203)
  11. Index
    (pp. 204-207)