Belfast Telegraph

Germaine Greer is still a tour de force in her 70s

By Terry Blain

Mention Germaine Greer and most people immediately think of The Female Eunuch, the combatively feminist, still controversial book which made her globally famous in 1970.

Greer is in her mid-70s now, and her lecture at this year's Happy Days Beckett Festival showed none of the fire and commitment of her younger self has diminished. Greer's subject wasn't feminism, but Samuel Beckett himself, specifically his novels.

Her thesis was essentially simple – that Beckett is "possibly the most misunderstood author ever", and that his prose works in particular have suffered from lazy misapprehensions, and being neglected in favour of the great works for theatre.

In a classically fulminating Greer polemic, the Australian writer laid into all around her, lambasting the pompously moralising stance of contemporary Booker Prize judges who, she claimed, "would have frozen Beckett's soul", and the "obscene", profoundly wrongheaded citation he received from the Nobel Prize committee.

Greer herself sees Beckett's refusal to embellish reality in his prose writing, to present it strictly as it is, as central to the bracing attractions of his writing, and its shocking originality.

Including sideswipes at the alleged excesses and wilful obscurities of Joyce and Proust, compared to Beckett's leanly filleted verities, Greer's lecture was a tour de force of passionate intellectual engagement, and deservedly drew a prolonged ovation.

Five stars

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