The Fantasy of Lithic Preservation

Irish Studies Review

In Samuel Beckett’s “First Love” (1946), an unnamed speaker wanders through a graveyard, “culling the inscriptions” he finds written on stone. Walking amongst the headstones, he contemplates his own memorialisation through a self-authored epitaph. “Hereunder lies the above who up below/So hourly died that he lived on till now”. The alternation between the above and below creates a dizzying comic effect, displacing the body of the speaker by attempting to situate it. “Above” stands for both the proper name that would hypothetically precede the epitaph, as well as the living speaker’s aboveground body. “Below” spatially situates the corpse under the inscription, as if it too were written in stone. The epitaph implies that after death the speaker will be split between two centres: the name inscribed “above” and his decaying remains buried “below”…