A kind of ball that is not a ball

A conversation with poet and author Michael Coffey exploring Samuel Beckett's relationship to political violence


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Philosophy / Theory

Organizing Institutions



Jean-Michel Rabaté

Opens to public





4017 Walnut
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce "A kind of ball that is not a ball," a conversation exploring Samuel Beckett's relationship to political violence. The program will take place on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 from 6-7:30pm, and will feature poet and author Michael Coffey in dialogue with translator Gabriel Quigley and curator Jean-Michel Rabaté.

"How to accommodate the mess," Beckett asked himself in 1961. This question is taken up by Michael Coffey's experimental new book, Samuel Beckett Is Closed (2018), which is a radically challenging work of fiction that mediates on the threat that Being presents to form, and the consequences of aesthetic choices made in today's world. The conversation at Slought will engage questions such as: How does Beckett give voice to carceral suffering and expand the place of the carceral beyond the prison walls, especially in the context of Guantanamo Bay? How does Beckett encourage us to pursue justice and humanism in the face of catastrophes, rather than forsake the pursuit in the face of futility? How do Beckett's works anticipate or complicate the act of recording in juridical and political contexts?

We will also engage the formal structure of Coffey's book, which braids together a baseball game, a chance encounter at a bar, a conversation between a parent and child, officially sanctioned tortures, news reports of terrorist attacks, and a reflection on the transformative power of Beckett's work. This rhythmic, non-linear organizational approach is based on a sequence laid out by Beckett in his notes to the unpublished "Long Observation of the Ray," in which he visits nine themes about an enclosed space and does so in orderly waves of prose.

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Michael Coffey is the author of Samuel Beckett Is Closed, a work of fiction. He has also published three books of poems, a collection of short stories and several nonfiction titles. His essays have appeared most recently in the Journal of Beckett Studies, Books Ireland, Bomb Magazine, and Conjunctions.

Gabriel Quigley is a translator and PhD student in Comparative Literature at New York University. He is completing a translation of the Turkish homage to Beckett entitled Goodbye Godot by Ferhan Şensoy, Ludovic Janvier's Beckett By Himself, and a collection of Beckett's poems titled Mirlitonnades.

Jean-Michel Rabaté is Curator of Discursive Programs at Slought and a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania.

"An interrogator must not pass himself off as a medic, man of god, or member of the Red Cross. To every technique, there are hundreds of possible variations, each of which can be developed for a specific situation or source. The variations are limited only by the interrogator's personality, experience, ingenuity, and imagination.

—We remain at love, then?

I thought, that's not 'Why Beckett'—it is her story, not mine."

— Michael Coffey, Samuel Beckett Is Closed (2018)