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Does Samuel Beckett owe his literary success to currency fluctuations? Plus: What to see this weekend Add to ...

Interesting to read the various reviews of The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Volume 1: 1929–1940. None of them really have me rushing off to wade through the published letters myself, but each of the reviewers seems to highlight a worthwhile tidbit or two about Beckett's early career. I had never really thought about how exchange rates might affect the progress of world literature, for instance, until reading JM Coetzee's piece in the New York Review of Books: Footloose artists like Beckett tended to keep an eye on exchange rates. The cheap franc after World War I had made France an attractive destination. An influx of foreign artists, including Americans living on dollar remittances, turned Paris of the 1920s into the headquarters of international Modernism. When the franc climbed in the early 1930s the transients took flight, leaving only diehard exiles like James Joyce behind. Migrations of artists are only crudely related to fluctuations in exchange rates. Nevertheless, it is no coincidence that in 1937, after a new devaluation of the franc, Beckett found himself in a position to quit Ireland and return to Paris. Now imagine a counter-scenario where the pound sterling is weak and the franc still strong in the late 30s. Then picture cheapskate Beckett living in London during WWII instead of France, maybe joining the RAF or something, I don't know, but afterward he settles down to write Waiting for Godot in English instead of French. And instead of being first a hit of Paris, it is first a flop in London. (In this alternative history, critic Harold Hobson isn't around to champion it in the Sunday Times because, er, he left for the United States because of the weak British Pound.) And then Beckett shrugs and returns to his dull novels and we never get Endgame or Happy Days or Krapp's Last Tape or any of his brilliant shorter stage works. Imagine that. Heading off for the weekend now, but if you're not following my Twitter feed, boy, you're missing out on a lot of theatre links and really deep 140-character thoughts. You don't have to be signed up for Twitter, by the way, to read my tweets, just visit www.twitter.com/nestruck. The Twitter round-up I did a few weeks ago here on the blog looked really ugly, so I think I'll just send you over there. But three messages are worth repeating here: 1. This is the last weekend for Dedicated to the Revolutions at Buddies [in Bad Times in Toronto] Go. It doesn't work perfectly, but where it fails, it fails in an interesting way. 2. There's a lot of other v worthwhile theatre on in Toronto this weekend. Another Home Invasion, Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Glengarry Glen Ross. [You don't have much time for Last Days, so get to it quickest.]br/> 3. Hey Ottawa: You only have a couple more days to catch Robert Lepage's The Blue Dragon at the NAC. Go for gosh sakes. I'm sorry I can't personally recommend any theatre elsewhere in Canada at the moment. If I was in Calgary, though, I'd want to see the Old Trout Puppet Workshop's The Erotic Anguish of Don Juan at ATP. In Edmonton, I'd want to catch Ron Jenkins' Extinction Song at the Citadel. And in Vancouver, I'd hit up Electric Company's Studies in Motion at the Vancouver Playhouse. (If I had time, I'd be awfully curious about Ruby Slippers's English-language premiere of Quebec playwright Serge Boucher's Life Savers given director Diane Brown's self-review - "a brave, honest and beatifully executed production" - on The Georgia Straight website.) What's going on in your city right now?

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