Beckett

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David Kleinberg-Levin

Beckett’s Words: The Promise of Happiness in a Time of Mourning

David Kleinberg-Levin, Beckett’s Words: The Promise of Happiness in a Time of Mourning, Bloomsbury, 2015, 313pp., $29.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781474216838.

Reviewed by Gerald L. Bruns, University of Notre Dame

This book is the third volume in a trilogy in which David Kleinberg-Levin attempts to develop an unorthodox philosophy of hope, one derived from the reading of a number of twentieth-century literary texts — in other words, a philosophy that diverges from the politico-theological tradition represented by such canonical works as Ernst Bloch’s The Principle of Hope (1938-47) and Jürgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology (1964).[1] Levin does not engage these texts — instead his recurrent references are to Walter Benjamin’s secularized Messianism and T. W. Adorno’s critique of Enlightenment, from both of which he takes his starting point: namely that neither a theocracy nor a world administered according to the principles of reason can save us from the ongoing catastrophes of history. For Levin, as (in different ways) for Benjamin and Adorno, the experience of disaster (hence of mourning) is the paradoxical condition that makes hope possible, if only in the form of the memory (or imagination) of happiness, or maybe simply a semblance of momentary freedom from the world as we know it.

Why turn to literature in search of hope?

Read the review.

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