Chairman Mao a Beckett Reader?

This is one of the quotations from The Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse Tung, better known as The Little Red Book:

“Make trouble, fail, make trouble again, fail again … til their doom; that is the logic.”

The grim, inescapable, but also perversely humorous philosophy encapsulated within the quote bears the unmistakable overtones of Samuel Beckett — whose Complete Works could probably be subtitled “Make trouble, fail, make trouble again, fail again” without raising many eyebrows, or rattling many coughs. Whence this peculiar resonance between the two? Could it be that Mao Tse Tung was a Beckett reader?

Mao certainly was a reader and a lover of literature. To the dismay of his various minions and committees, he would frequently take time out from the heavy fare of political-atrocity-wreaking to spend a few days in bed surrounded by books, and maybe a girl or two. He even penned a few volumes of poetry himself.

The most obviously aligned (and oft-quoted) Beckett line comes from Worstword Ho:

“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

But are we moving the moon with the tide here? Isn’t it perhaps the other way around? Beckett published Worstword Ho in 1983, while Mao’s quote, reproduced in The Little Red Book (1964), originally comes from the 1949 essay ‘Cast Away Illusions, Prepare for Struggle’.

Was Beckett in fact a Mao reader?

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