A partnership of Beckett and Joyce might suggest an alliance between two of Ireland’s greatest writers, but in this case the individuals in question are John Beckett and William Joyce. Ejected from Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (BUF), they together formed the National Socialist League in 1937, a farcical enterprise that, deservedly, swiftly fizzled out. Beckett thought Joyce too far gone in his mad anti-Semitism – you can say that again – and yet Beckett retained a certain loyalty to the man who became notorious during the Second World War as ‘Lord Haw-Haw’, sending him a kindly letter just before his execution for treason in 1946.
Beckett is described by his son Francis as ‘a racist and an anti-Semite’, but ‘not a bad man’. This account of his life prompts the reflection tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner. Beckett’s young life was hard – his father was swindled in a financial scam – and his education ended