How I came to write this book:
was inspired by a story from my family’s past. My grandfather was a lifelong friend of Samuel Beckett: they met at boarding school, studied together at Trinity College, Dublin and moved to London as young men in the 1930s. As a junior psychiatrist my grandfather worked at the Bethlem psychiatric hospital in south London, and helped Beckett research his first novel Murphy
by taking him onto the wards. I never met my grandfather, but I’ve always been intrigued by the story of his friendship with Beckett, and by the Murphy
connection in particular. The idea of somehow writing about it had been in my mind for a long time, and at a certain point I felt ready to give it a try.
Here’s a short piece at the London Review of Books blog
about the friendship and how it became the seed for the book.
Although I felt close to the story of Geoffrey and Sam, I also felt it wasn’t exactly my story to tell. So when I began to write this book, I found myself exploring the subject by indirect routes, not writing about the real people and events but inventing fictional versions in which the originals are mirrored, changed and contradicted. In that way Jott
became an unreliable roman à clef, playing with the boundary between historical record and pure invention to create characters who sometimes resemble their originals and sometimes betray them—but in doing so gain new lives of their own. In other words, Jott
is a story of imaginary people in a real situation: at least that’s how it feels to me.
For more background, here’s a note on the book’s sources and a bibliography
Many books helped me write Jott
. This page is here to give a list of sources, and to acknowledge, with thanks, my debt to all the writers whose texts I drew on.
is a made-up story, but the process of making it up involved some research: in particular I took a lot of inspiration and information from texts about the life and work of Samuel Beckett, and about the history of psychiatry and psychoanalysis in the early twentieth century. Some of the texts listed below were vital companions throughout the writing — like James Knowlson’s biography of Beckett, and the four volumes of Beckett’s published letters.
The list is mostly non-fiction, but I also want to name a few fictions that were important for Jott
: the novels to which I kept returning to catch a feeling I wanted for the book. The first, by miles, is Beckett’s Murphy. Jott
gets energy from Murphy,
and wants to argue with it and play around with it in the way you want to when you love a book very much. The other Beckett texts especially present were More Pricks Than Kicks
, and pieces of short prose including ‘A Case in A Thousand’, ‘First Love’ and the Stories and Texts for Nothing
. Then there’s Virginia Woolf and Mrs Dalloway
— a book I kept revisiting to see its brilliance in action, and to pick up a sense of interwar modernist writing a little different from the Beckettian version. Other novels that became increasingly well-thumbed were John Banville’s The Untouchable
, with its reworking of a true story into a pure fiction that’s nothing so simple as a roman-a-clef; and Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys
, that graceful triumph of the maligned novel-about-novelists genre. Maybe every novel in progress ends up orbiting among certain other novels that help to shape it into itself. For Jott
, these were the ones.
Chris Ackerley, Demented Particulars: The Annotated Murphy (Edinburgh, 2004).
Deirdre Bair, Samuel Beckett: A biography (Cape 1978).
Phil Baker, Beckett and the Mythology of Psychoanalysis (Macmillan 1997).
Susie Christensen, ‘Relics of Bion in Beckett: ‘Attacks on Linking’ in Beckett’s letters; Closed Systems and a Mapping of the Mind in Murphy and ‘The Grid’’. Stet: An Online Postgraduate Research Journal, 1, Oct 2010.
Anthony Cronin, Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist (HarperCollins 1996).
Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Lois More Overbeck, George Craig and Daniel Gunn (eds), The Letters of Samuel Beckett. 4 vols (Cambridge University Press, 2009-2016).
Matthew Feldman, Beckett’s Books: A Cultural History of Samuel Beckett’s “Interwar Notes” (Continuum 2006).
Lois Gordon, The World of Samuel Beckett, 1906-1946 (Yale University Press 1996).
Lawrence Graver and Raymond Federman, Samuel Beckett: The Critical Heritage (Routledge 2003).
Elizabeth Knowlson and James Knowlson, Beckett Remembering, Remembering Beckett (Bloomsbury 2006).
James Knowlson, Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (Bloomsbury 1996).
Mark Nixon, Samuel Beckett’s German Diaries 1936-1937 (Continuum 2011).
Victoria Stevens, ‘Nothingness, No-thing and Nothing in the Work of Wilfred Bion and in Samuel Beckett’s Murphy’, Psychoanalytic Review, 92 (2005) 607-635.
Luke Thurston, ‘Outselves: Beckett, Bion and Beyond’, Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 32, Number 3, Spring 2009, pp. 121-143.
Gary Winship, ‘Chess & Schizophrenia: Murphy v Mr Endon, Beckett v Bion’, Journal of Medical Humanities (2011) 32:339–351.
PSYCHOANALYSIS, PSYCHIATRY AND MENTAL HEALTH
Patricia Allderidge, The Bethlem Royal Hospital: an illustrated history (Bethlem and Maudsley NHS Trust 1995).
Jonathan Andrews, The History of Bethlem (Routledge 1997).
German Berrios and Hugh Freeman (eds), 150 Years of British Psychiatry (Gaskell 1991).
Patrick and Henry Cockburn, Henry’s Demons: Living with Schizophrenia: A father and son’s story (Simon & Schuster 2012).
Andrew Crowcroft, The Psychotic: Understanding Madness (Penguin 1967).
Faith B. Dickerson and Anthony F. Lehman, ‘Evidence-Based Psychotherapy for Schizophrenia: 2011 Update’, Focus: The Journal of Lifelong Learning in Psychiatry’, Spring 2012, Vol. X, No. 2.
Henry V. Dicks, Fifty Years of the Tavistock Clinic (Routledge 1970).
Jenny Diski, ‘I haven’t been nearly mad enough’. London Review of Books, 6 Feb 2014.
Anthony Elliott, Psychoanalytic Theory: an introduction (Blackwell 1994).
Justin Faden, ‘Maintaining Empathy in a Locked Psychiatric Unit’. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association April 2013, Vol 113, No. 4.
Hal Foster, ‘Blinded Insights: On the Modernist Reception of the Art of the Mentally Ill’. October, 97 (Summer 2001), 3-30.
Sigmund Freud, Civilisation and its Discontents, trans. David McLinktock (Penguin 2002).
Sigmund Freud, Selected Papers on Hysteria and Other Psychoneuroses, trans A. A. Brill (The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease Publishing Company, 1912).
Chris Frith and Eve C. Johnstone, Schizophrenia: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press 2003).
Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, ‘Contribution to the psychogenesis of migraine’. Psychoanalytic Review, Vol 24, 1937, 26-33.
Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, ‘Notes on the Development of Treatment of Schizophrenics by Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy’. Psychiatry, Volume 11, 1948, Issue 3, 263-273.
Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, Principles of Intensive Psychotherapy (Allen and Unwin 1953).
Hannah Green, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden (Pan 1964).
James E. Groves, ‘Taking Care of the Hateful Patient’. New England Journal of Medicine 1978; 298: 883-887.
Edgar Jones, Shahina Rahman and Robin Woolven, ‘The Maudsley Hospital: Design and Strategic Direction, 1923–1939’, Medical History 2007 Jul 1; 51(3): 357–378.
Bertram P. Karon and Gary R. VandenBos, Psychotherapy of Schizophrenia: The Treatment of Choice (J Aronson 1981).
Roger Kennedy, The Many Voices of Psychoanalysis (Routledge 2007).
R. D. Laing, The Divided Self (Penguin 1965).
Darian Leader, What is Madness? (Penguin 2012).
Montagu Lomax, Experiences of an Asylum Doctor (Allen and Unwin 1921).
George Makari, Revolution in Mind: the creation of psychoanalysis (Duckworth 2010).
Dennis O’Donnell, The Locked Ward: Memoirs of a Psychiatric Orderly (Random House 2013).
John Padel, ‘Dr Arthur Geoffrey Thompson (1905-1976)’. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis (1977) 58: 497-497.
Adam Phillips, Equals (Faber 2002).
Adam Phillips, Going Sane (Penguin 2006).
Adam Phillips, Missing Out: In praise of the unlived life (Penguin 2013).
Roy Porter, Madness: A Brief History (Oxford University Press 2002).
Roy Porter, The Faber Book of Madness (Faber 1991).
John Nathaniel Rosen, ‘The Treatment of Schizophrenic Psychosis by Direct Analytic Therapy’, Psychiatric Quarterly, 20:2, 183, April 1946.
David L. Rosenhan, “On Being Sane in Insane Places,” Science, Vol. 179 (Jan. 1973), 250-258.
David Russell, Scenes from Bedlam: a history of caring for the mentally disordered at Bethlem Royal Hospital and the Maudsley (Baillière Tindall 1997).
Andrew Scull, ‘Desperate Remedies: a Gothic tale of madness and modern medicine’. Psychological Medicine, 1987, 17, 561-577
Andrew Scull, Madness: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press 2011).
Anthony Storr, Freud: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press 2001).
Joan Symington and Neville Symington, The Clinical Thinking of Wilfred Bion (Routledge 1996).
David Taylor, Talking Cure: Mind and Method of the Tavistock Clinic (Duckworth 1999).
Victor Tausk, ‘On The Origin of the “Influencing Machine” in Schizophrenia’, trans. Dorian Feigenbaum. Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, 1:2, Spring 1992.
D. W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality (Taylor and Francis 2005).
Clare Marc Wallace, Portrait of a Schizophrenic Nurse (Hammond 1965).
Antonia White, Beyond the Glass (Virago 1979).
J. K. Wing and G. W. Brown, Institutionalism and Schizophrenia (Cambridge University Press 1970).
Eli Zaretsky, Secrets of the Soul: a social and cultural history of psychoanalysis (Vintage 2005).
Michael H.C. Baker, London Transport from the 1930s to the 1950s (Ian Allan 2009).
British Pathé, ‘Health and Beauty on Parade!’ (1933), ‘Here’s Health’ (1937). britishpathe.com
Barbara Caine, English Feminism 1780-1980 (Oxford University Press 1997).
Colin Chant, Science, technology, and everyday life, 1870-1950 (Routledge 1989).
Juliet Gardiner, The Thirties: An Intimate History of Britain (HarperPress, 2010).
Brian Harrison, Prudent Revolutionaries: portraits of British feminists between the wars (Oxford University Press 1987).
Hilda Kean, ‘Searching for the past in present defeat: the construction of historical and political identity in British feminism in the 1920s and 1930s.’ Women’s History Review 3.1 (1994): 57-80.
Sheila Jeffreys, The Spinster and Her Enemies: Feminism and Sexuality, 1880-1930 (Pandora Press 1995).
Louis MacNeice, The Strings are False (Faber 1996).
Russell Martin, Picasso’s war: the extraordinary story of an artist, an atrocity – and a painting that shook the world (Pocket 2004).
Sybil Oldfield (ed), This Working-Day World: Women’s Lives And Culture(s) In Britain, 1914-1945 (Taylor and Francis 1994).
Alison Oram, Women Teachers and Feminist Politics, 1900-39 (Manchester University Press 1996).
Richard Overy, The Morbid Age: Britain and the crisis of civilization, 1919-1939 (Penguin 2010).
Martin Pugh, Women and the women’s movement in Britain, 1914–1999 (Macmillan 2000).
Harold L. Smith (ed), British Feminism in the Twentieth Century (University of Massachusetts Press 1990).
Harold L. Smith, ‘British feminism and the equal pay issue in the 1930s.’ Women’s History Review 5.1 (1996): 97-110.
Marie Stopes, Married Love or Love in Marriage (New York: The Critic and Guide Company, 1918).
Margaret Walters, Feminism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford Unversity Press 2005).
Jerry White, London in the Twentieth Century: A City and Its People (Vintage 2008).
Mary-Kay Wilmers, The Eitingons: A Twentieth Century Story (Faber 2009).