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How It Is

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  572 ratings  ·  40 reviews
"It is one thing to be informed by Shakespeare that life "is a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing"; it is something else to encounter the idea literally presented in a novel by Samuel Beckett. But I am reasonably certain that a sensitive reader who journeys through How It Is will leave the book convinced that Beckett says more that is relevant to experience in our ti ...more
ebook, 147 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Grove Press (first published 1961)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,609)
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K.D. Absolutely
The 7th Beckett novel that I've read and similar to his The Unnamable (3 stars), this has no plot and told in first-person narrative. Unlike that novel though, this has a structure: divided into three parts that feels like past, present and future. It's just that the setting is all in mud or murky place where the narrator suffers like in the cell of Malone in Malone Dies (5 stars). The narration has no punctuations and it somehow signifies to me the continuity of the suffering like it does not n ...more
Eric Cartier
One of my favorite books ever. It's a poetic, punctuation-free, bleak and humorous three-part piece about one's past, present, and future selves. There's no story per se; it's more like an existential essay. I sped through the book nine years ago, but this past week I read most of it aloud, measuring phrases and writing in the margins. There are dead ends, revelations, repetitions, and lucent calculations, all in the name of storytelling about being. Beckett composed it in French in 1961 and tra ...more
My favorite Beckett. This is a must-read, but not easy by any means. This novel doesn't have punctuation. It may or may not have characters. Setting: mud. Props: sacks with a few things in them. This book is life-changing, and I feel it to be one of the best articulations of human cruelty in existence. An amazing glimpse, one might argue, into Beckett's ethics. Does really interesting stuff with notions of authorial voice/presence/conception of time. If he would have published it as a poem, he c ...more
Michail Varouxakis
If you know Beckett then you know the "oh, no" feeling of his uncompromising marriage of the bleak with the sarcastic; shoulders sink with the "here we go again". But then after all the grinding has begun sixteen pages in you get a phrase like "we are on a veranda smothered in verbena the scented sun dapples the red tiles yes I assure you" and you hold your breath.

I found myself - not reading it aloud so much, as being compelled by that voice to get it out of my throat: each time I read "murmur
It's a masterpiece. Beckett's thesis statement. It's difficult, yes, but for good reason. Beckett is demanding your attention. He has something to say. Many many somethings to say, and many of which I'm sure I still don't understand. I'll need to re-read it again and again. He saw straight through to the innerworkings of the world and put it onto the page in the only way that one accurately can. Not with nice, neat, clean sentences, but with chaotic explosions of text, formless and confounding. ...more
Dan Fitch
Would you like to destroy your mind? Y/N


OK, read this book in one sitting.
Tania ChatdiMuse
My mind panted right along Beckett with the repetitive words, the counting, the existential questions, the desperation in the mud. Never met this type of poetic novel before, I want his story novels. His writing is inspirational to me because I love the breaking of all barriers and experimental form in mostly all arts. His anti-text, the decoding of his thinking process as if written in mathematical sequences but not congruent. I'm seeing a collage of his novel, the mud like the muddled meanings ...more
Susan Rose
This is a very hard book to review as there isn't really a plot or rather the plot is un-summarisable. Basically this book is stream of consciousness meets poetry written in a couple of un-punctuated sentences at a time. Sometimes these thoughts are linear although often they aren't, some of the passages are extremely beautiful and some of them aren't.

The Best way I can think to represent the book is by quoting some of my favourite lines:

'past moments old dreams back again or fresh like those
This book was hard to put down. Makes me think of something John Hollander said in an interview: "A poem that doesn’t get out of hand isn’t a poem." According to that statement, this book was a fine example of true poetry.
Beckett is what I think of as a marmite author, and whilst I love marmite I hate Beckett's books.
the broken rhythms reflected in the layout

realism, causality and explanation are written out. only that required to subsist remains.

only Beckett devoid of punctuation

the final line of each page is deliberately shortened, left incomplete. the amount of space between the fragments is varied to ensure that fragments do not overflow onto the next page

monologue: false starts, self-corrections, interruptions, repetition. scarce grammatical linkages.

repetition: crucial organisation as well as express
Beckett is always strange the first time you read him. Neither "prose" nor "verse" are appropriate labels for this text, both presupposing formal properties not present in the book. How It Is throws you right into the deep end and leaves you struggling to stay afloat for the first few pages, and it's easy to find yourself dozing off or wondering what the hell you're reading, especially if you're new to Beckett's work and style. But once the text "clicks", you find yourself marvelling at the vast ...more
Patrick Kelly
Beckett is one of those enigmatic, bizarre novelists you either love or hate. I happen to love him. He wrote this novel in French, then translated it back into English. The story is told from the perspective of a nameless narrator, who is crawling through a kind of nameless purgatory - an endless pit of mud. Beckett said the novel was about a "'man' lying panting in the mud and dark murmuring his 'life' as he hears it obscurely uttered by a voice inside him... The noise of his panting fills his ...more
Christophe Bassett
this novel is brilliant how brilliant one might ask well brilliant enough to make a Beckett fan out of me I would respond read this book if you want a challenge but a challenge that is very rewarding it is somewhat trance like when you get towards the end of the book open read page by page you will find yourself understanding the vague syntax or lack thereof as your mind digresses into the stream of consciousness flow through the three stages of the journey of the mudman part one before Pim part ...more
Esteban Brena
Taylor Napolsky
Beckett at his prime. There are no periods or capitalizations. Something about a man crawling along the ground, dragging a sack full of sardine tins, with another person clinging to his back. I loved it and will re-read it someday.
bits and scraps...when the panting stops...
Would be interesting to compare 'yes' and 'no' at the end of parts 2 and 3 to 'yes' at the end of Ulysses.
Reading How It Is aloud is a very good mouth/ breathing exercise!
Kenny Mooney
Really amazing read. Superb for its form as well as for its complete vision of isolation, loneliness, despair. A man, alone, lying in mud, in the dark, mumbling his life as he hears it spoken to him. In three parts - his journey through the mud; his time with another like him, Pim; the time after he is abandoned by Pim. The language is poetic, fractured, and possibly a little off-putting to start, since there is no punctuation in the whole novel - barely a proper sentence. But well worth persist ...more
Philip Lane
I really couldn't get much out of this. I found it very difficult to understand because there is no punctuation just a series of short paragraphs which don't perform as paragraphs do in most writing. I found it very repetitive and rather banal. I got no understanding of story or character and the setting is a surreal sea of mud. The only thing I was able to hook into really was a feeling of existentialist angst. Perhaps if I had read it as a teenager I would have got more out of it. Definitely n ...more
Christina Packard
Not for me. I'm not even going to try and pretend that I understood for a moment where he was coming from. I did read from beginning to end trying to find some meaning to me and especially to him: I didn't find it. This book to me brings to mind Ulysses and the Emperor's New Clothes. There are too many books to read, but I would find it interesting to have someone of knowledge explain some pages bit by bit to see if I could grasp his great meanings....
This book reminded me a lot of how one might experience music by Beethoven. You take very short fragments of something, combine them, combine them in a different way to change their meaning in creative and surprising ways, all the while maintaining a coherent structure and a certain consistency that somehow makes the surprises seem like something obvious.
how the fuck did he write this and get it published how the fuck did i read it and just what is enough all wick and no flame all malfunction and no life but a writhing insect the skeletal labour of survival a dignity in shit and my everlasting respect down with punctuation
This book will be slow reading, as I read it aloud to myself over a beer from my sweetheart's closet-nest. he says this book will "explain everything", and I can't tell if he means it will explain everything about himself--or the universe at large.
Robb Todd

I read as much of this aloud as I could (meaning everywhere but the subway). The experience of hearing it is different than just seeing it on the page. It's music with meaning that has to filter through you.
I read a majority of this short novel on a train going to and fro New York City. It is a usual Beckett novel and highly experimental. I am sure that it would get five stars if I take the time to reread it.
Alex Schmidt
I love it. It gives me countless ideas for my own writting. The wording is absolutly absurd, one will find themselves roling ont he ground laughing, that is, if they like that sort of thing.
Zachary Moore
A very interestingly written modernist novel questioning the very nature of meaning. The language can be challenging to follow but the the work's brevity does much to help it along.
este fue el primer libro de samuel que leí. Me llevó a muchos otros. Lo he leido unas cuatro veces, y lo usaba como libro de los cambios... me partió la cabeza como un melón.
Jure Godler
Muddy. There are people crawling in the mud. For real.
as Beckett goes, I like this kind of Beckett a lot
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Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, who lived in France for most of his adult life. He wrote in both English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour.

Beckett is widely regarded as among the most influential writers of the 20th century. Strongly influenced
More about Samuel Beckett...
Waiting for Godot Endgame Endgame & Act Without Words Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable Krapp's Last Tape & Embers

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“find someone at last someone find you at last live together glued together love each other a little without being loved be loved a little without loving answer that leave it vague leave it dark” 3 likes
“that childhood said to have been mine the difficulty of believing in it the feeling rather of having been born octogenarian at the age when one dies in the dark” 2 likes
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