'Preserving the integrity of incoherence'?: Dostoevsky, Gide and the novel in Beckett's 1930 Lectures and Dream of Fair to Middling Women
Readers have long recognised the importance of Joyce and Proust on Beckett's artistic theory and practise. Yet despite the impressive body of criticism documenting such influences, Beckett's significant debts to one of his greatest early masters, André Gide, have gone virtually unnoticed. The first part of this essay uses archival materials to reconstruct Beckett's theory of the modern novel at a crucial point in 1930, immediately following his Proust monograph and preceding his first novel, Dream of Fair to Middling Women, by only months. It is shown that Beckett's novelistic theory at this time shifted away from his thinking in Proust toward an emphasis on divided subjectivity (as articulated in Gide's Dostoievsky), fragmented form, and a ‘new structure’ of the novel in Les Faux-Monnayeurs. An examination of Dream's debts to Gide follows, and a new reading of the novel emerges. It is argued that in Dream Beckett deployed a counter-novelistic theory inspired by Gide and his Dostoevsky to parody and subvert what Beckett termed the ‘European’ tradition.