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Samuel Beckett was born in Dublin in 1906. He was educated at Portora Royal School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated in 1927. His made his poetry debut in 1930 with Whoroscope and followed it with essays and two novels before World War Two. He wrote one of his most famous plays, Waiting for Godot, in 1949 but it wasn't published in English until 1954. Waiting for Godot brought Beckett international fame and firmly established him as a leading figure in the Theatre of the Absurd. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. Beckett continued to write prolifically for radio, TV and the theatre until his death in 1989.
It was as a poet that Samuel Beckett launched himself in the little reviews of 1930s Paris, and as a poet that he ended his career. The Collected Poems is the most complete edition of Beckett's poetry and verse translations ever to be published, as well as the first critical edition. It establishes a significant new canon, and the commentary draws on a wide range of published sources, manuscripts and Beckett's extensive correspondence. The notes place each poem in context, detailing the history and circumstances of its composition; they indicate significant variants and help explain obscure turns of phrase and allusions (frequently sourced to Beckett's notebooks); they also identify resonances between poems and across Beckett's work as a whole. The commentary is written in a lively and engaging style and is intended equally for the general reader, the student of modernism and the Beckett specialist.
Written over three months in 1946, Mercier and Camier was Beckett's first post-war work, and his first novel in French. He came to regard it as a practice piece, and set it aside to write his trilogy. Mercier et Camier was finally published in 1970, and in Beckett's English translation four years later. The eponymous heroes tramp around a city, then out of it, then back again. They are aimless, but there is something elusive that they should be doing. They arrange meetings, they drink, they argue, they discuss being shot of each other. They are preoccupied by the weather, by provisions, by a raincoat, by an umbrella, by a bicycle . . . 'All of these ingredients in the later work are accompanied here, fleetingly, by those things in Beckett that we know but cannot really name, those things that occupy so much of the trilogy. Intangible things, traps in the mind, that voice we hear, the stop-start understanding, the ongoing bewilderment, the fear.' Keith Ridgeway George, said Camier, five sandwiches, four wrapped and one on the side. You see, he said, turning graciously to Mr Conaire, I think of everything. For the one I eat here will give me the strength to get back with the four others. Sophistry, said Mr Conaire. You set off with your five, wrapped, feel faint, open up, take one out, eat, recuperate, push on with the others. For all response, Camier began to eat. You'll spoil him, said Mr Conaire. Yesterday cakes, today sandwiches, tomorrow crusts and Thursday stones. Mustard, said Camier.
The Unnamable - so named because he knows not who he may be - is from a nameless place. He speaks of previous selves ('all these Murphys, Molloys, and Malones...') as diversions from the need to stop speaking altogether. But, as with the other novels in the trilogy, the prose is full of marvellous precisions, full of its own reasons for keeping going. ...perhaps the words have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, will be the silence, where I am, I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know, you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on.
Happy Days was written in 1960 and first produced in London at the Royal Court Theatre in November 1962. WINNIE: [ . . .] Well anyway - this man Shower - or Cooker - no matter - and the woman - hand in hand - in the other hands bags - kind of big brown grips - standing there gaping at me [...] - What's she doing? he says - What's the idea? he says - stuck up to her diddies in the bleeding ground - coarse fellow - What does it mean? he says - What's it meant to mean? - and so on - lot more stuff like that - usual drivel - Do you hear me? He says - I do, she says, God help me - What do you mean, he says, God help you? (stops filing nails, raises head, gazes front.) And you, she says, what's the idea of you, she says, what are you meant to mean?
It was as a poet that Samuel Beckett launched himself in the little reviews of 1930s Paris, and as a poet that he ended his career. This new selection, from Whoroscope (1930) to 'what is the word' (1988), describes a lifetime's arc of writing. It was as a poet moreover that Beckett made his first breakthrough into writing in French, and the Selected Poems represents work in both languages, including the sequence of brief but highly crafted mirlitonnades, which did so much to usher in the style of his late prose, and come as close as anything he wrote to honouring the ambition to 'bore one hole after another in language, until what lurks behind it - be it something or nothing - begins to seep through.' Also included are several of Beckett's translations from contemporaries - Apollinaire, Eluard, Michaux, Montale - in versions which count among his own poetic achievements. Edited by David Wheatley
Molloy is Samuel Beckett's best-known novel, and his first published work to be written in French, ushering in a period of concentrated creativity in the late 1940s which included the companion novels Malone Dies and The Unnamable. The narrative of Molloy, old and ill, remembering and forgetting, scarcely human, begets a parallel tale of the spinsterish Moran, a private detective sent in search of him, whose own deterioration during the quest joins in with the catalogue of Molloy's woes. Molloy brings a world into existence with finicking certainties, at the tip of whoever is holding the pencil, and trades larger uncertainties with the reader. Then I went back into the house and wrote, It is midnight. The rain is beating on the windows. It was not midnight. It was not raining. Edited by Shane Weller
These four stories or 'nouvelles' date from 1945, though all were published much later, in French and subsequently in English. All make use of a first-person narrator, and relish its vagaries - the inability to remember facts, the uncertainty as to why he is speaking in the first place, the loss of heart when explanations seem called for... Above all, the stories crisply plot the narrator's plotless descent into vagrancy, the steeper as it approaches The End. Out of these short works and their patient procedures grew the large canvases of Molloy and Malone Dies. My bench was still there. It was shaped to fit the curves of the seated body. It stood beside a watering trough, gift of a Mrs Maxwell to the city horses, according to the inscription. During the short time I rested there, several horses took advantage of the monument. The iron shoes approached and the jingle of the harness. Then silence. That was the horse looking at me. Then the noise of pebbles and mud that horses make when drinking. Then the silence again. That was the horse looking at me again. Then the pebbles again. Then the silence again. Till the horse had finished drinking or the driver deemed it had drunk its fill. Edited by Christopher Ricks
Published in French in 1961, and in English in 1964, How It Is is a novel in three parts, written in short paragraphs, which tell (abruptly, cajolingly, bleakly) of a narrator lying in the dark, in the mud, repeating his life as he hears it uttered - or remembered - by another voice. Told from within, from the dark, the story is tirelessly and intimately explicit about the feelings that pervade his world, but fragmentary and vague about all else therein or beyond. Together with Molloy, How It Is counts for many readers as Beckett's greatest accomplishment in the novel form. It is also his most challenging narrative, both stylistically and for the pessimism of its vision, which continues the themes of reduced circumstance, of another life before the present, and the self-appraising search for an essential self, which were inaugurated in the great prose narratives of his earlier trilogy. she sits aloof ten yards fifteen yards she looks up looks at me says at last to herself all is well he is working my head where is my head it rests on the table my hand trembles on the table she sees I am not sleeping the wind blows tempestuous the little clouds drive before it the table glides from light to darkness darkness to light Edited by Edouard Magessa O'Reilly
This new edition brings together all of Beckett's dramatic writings for radio, television and film, offering works which range from eloquent comic naturalism to an eviscerated and pared-down symbolism. Above all, Beckett found his unique uses for the radio-play, a medium 'for voices not bodies', compacted of speech, sound and silence - and the plays in this volume intently explore the resources and limits of the sound-stage. My father, back from the dead, to be with me. (Pause.) As if he hadn't died. (Pause.) No, simply back from the dead, to be with me, in this strange place. (Pause.) Can he hear me? (Pause.) Yes, he must hear me. (Pause.) To answer me? (Pause.) No, he doesn't answer me. (Pause.) Just be with me. (Pause.) That sound you hear is the sea. (Pause. Louder.) I say that sound you hear is the sea, we are sitting on the strand. (Pause.) I mention it because the sound is so strange, so unlike the sound of the sea, that if you didn't see what it was you wouldn't know what it was. (Pause.). Hooves! Contents: All That Fall, Embers, Words and Music, Eh Joe, Quad, Film, ...but the clouds..., Ghost Trio, Nacht und Traume, Rough for Radio I, Rough for Radio II, Cascando, The Old Tune Preface and Notes by Everett Frost
Subtitled 'A tragicomedy in two Acts', and famously described by the Irish critic Vivien Mercier as a play in which 'nothing happens, twice', En attendant Godot was first performed at the Theatre de Babylone in Paris in 1953. It was translated into English by Samuel Beckett, and Waiting for Godot opened at the Arts Theatre in London in 1955. 'Go and see Waiting for Godot. At the worst you will discover a curiosity, a four-leaved clover, a black tulip; at the best something that will securely lodge in a corner of your mind for as long as you live.' Harold Hobson, 7 August 1955 'I told him that if by Godot I had meant God I would have said God, and not Godot. This seemed to disappoint him greatly.' Samuel Beckett, 1955
Krapp's Last Tape was first performed by Patrick Magee at the Royal Court Theatre in October 1958, and described as 'a solo, if that is the word, for one voice and two organs: one human, one mechanical. It fills few pages. It is perhaps the most original and important play of its length ever written.' (Roy Walker) The present volume brings together Krapp's Last Tape and Beckett's other shorter works or 'dramaticules' written for the stage. It will be complemented by a forthcoming Faber edition of dramatic works written for radio and screen. Arranged in chronological order of composition, these shorter plays exhibit the laconic means and compassionate ends of Beckett's dramatic vision. KRAPP 'Here I end this reel. Box - [Pause.] - three, spool - [Pause.] - five. [Pause.] Perhaps my best years have gone. When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn't want them back. Not with the fire in me now. No, I wouldn't want them back. [Staring motionless before him.]
Written in Roussillon during World War Two, while Samuel Beckett was hiding from the Gestapo, Watt was first published in 1953. Beckett acknowledged that this comic novel unlike any other 'has its place in the series' - those masterpieces running from Murphy to the Trilogy, Waiting for Godot and beyond. It shares their sense of a world in crisis, their profound awareness of the paradoxes of being, and their distrust of the rational universe. Watt tells the tale of Mr Knott's servant and his attempts to get to know his master. Watt's mistake is to derive the essence of his master from the accidentals of his being, and his painstakingly logical attempts to 'know' ultimately consign him to the asylum. Itself a critique of error, Watt has previously appeared in editions that are littered with mistakes, both major and minor. The new Faber edition offers for the first time a corrected text based on a scholarly appraisal of the manuscripts and textual history.
Originally written in French and translated into English by Beckett, Endgame was given its first London performance at the Royal Court Theatre in 1957. HAMM: Clov! CLOV: Yes. HAMM: Nature has forgotten us. CLOV: There's no more nature. HAMM: No more nature! You exaggerate. CLOV: In the vicinity. HAMM: But we breathe, we change! We lose our hair our teeth! Our bloom! Our ideals! CLOV: Then she hasn't forgotten us.
These four last prose fictions by Samuel Beckett were originally published individually, and their composition spanned the final decade of his life. In Company a solitary hearer lying in blackness calls up images from the far-off past. Ill Seen Ill Said meditates upon an old woman living out her last days alone in an isolated snow-bound cottage, watched over by twelve mysterious sentinels. In Worstward Ho, a breathless speaker unravels the sense of things, acting out the unending injunction to 'Try again. Fail again. Fail better.' And Stirrings Still, published in the Guardian a few months before Beckett's death in 1989, is the last prose work and testament of 'this great soothsayer of the age, and of the aged' (Christopher Ricks). The present edition includes several short prose texts (Heard in the Dark I & II, One Evening, The Way, Ceiling) which represent work in progress or works ancillary to the composition of these late masterpieces.
Edited by J. C. C. Mays Murphy, Samuel Beckett's first novel, was published in 1938. Its work-shy eponymous hero, adrift in London, realises that desire can never be satisfied and withdraws from life, in search of stupor. Murphy's lovestruck fiancee Celia tries with tragic pathos to draw him back, but her attempts are doomed to failure. Murphy's friends and familiars are simulacra of Murphy, fragmented and incomplete. But Beckett's achievement lies in the brilliantly original language used to communicate this vision of isolation and misunderstanding. The combination of particularity and absurdity gives Murphy's world its painful definition, but the sheer comic energy of Beckett's prose releases characters and readers alike into exuberance.
The letters written by Samuel Beckett between 1929 and 1940 provide a vivid and personal view of Western Europe in the 1930s, and mark the gradual emergence of Beckett's unique voice and sensibility. The Cambridge University Press edition of The Letters of Samuel Beckett offers for the first time a comprehensive range of letters of one of the greatest literary figures of the twentieth century. Selected for their bearing on his work from over 15,000 extant letters, the letters published in this four-volume edition encompass sixty years of Beckett's writing life (1929-1989), and include letters to friends, painters and musicians, as well as to students, publishers, translators, and colleagues in the world of literature and theatre. For anyone interested in twentieth-century literature and theatre this edition is essential reading, offering not only a record of Beckett's achievements but a powerful literary experience in itself.
Edited by Paul Auster, this four-volume set of Beckett's canon has been designed by award-winner Laura Lindgren. Available individually, as well as in a boxed set, the four hardcover volumes have been specially bound with covers featuring images central to Beckett's works. Typographical errors that remained uncorrected in the various prior editions have now been corrected in consultation with Beckett scholars C. J. Ackerley and S. E. Gontarski. A man speaking English beautifully chooses to speak in French, which he speaks with greater difficulty, so that he is obliged to choose his words carefully, forced to give up fluency and to find the hard words that come with difficulty, and then after all that finding he puts it all back into English, a new English containing all the difficulty of the French, of the coining of thought in a second language, a new English with the power to change English forever. This is Samuel Beckett. This is his great work. It is the thing that speaks. Surrender. -- Salman Rushdie, from his Introduction