Nihilism in Samuel Beckett's the Lost Ones: A tale for Holocaust remembrance

David Michael Levin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Is Samuel Beckett committed to nihilism? This essay explores the question in an interpretation of his late short story The Lost Ones, taking as reference point Nietzsche's conception of nihilism as a diagnosis of our modern age. I argue that, exceptionally, in this one story, Beckett does imagine, in the Nazi genocide, a situation of the most extreme nihilism. It is his way of keeping the Holocaust in remembrance. Bearing witness to evil is, for him, the inescapable responsibility of the storyteller. However, except for this story, Beckett's stories always bear prophetic traces and echoes of something hopeful, open to redemptive possibilities. Although Beckett is not "committed" to nihilism, in this story, as unique as the Holocaust itself, nothingness, the ultimate truth of nihilism, reigns. For here Beckett leaves us with nothing but images of a struggle with death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)A212-A233
JournalPhilosophy and Literature
Volume39
Issue number1A
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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