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How it Is

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  776 Ratings  ·  69 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
Paperback, 111 pages
Published January 18th 1994 by Grove Press (first published January 2nd 1961)
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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
Aug 20, 2008 Kim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
MJ Nicholls
Mar 23, 2017 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, pogue-mahone
Novels narrated by various tersely named men (real or imagined) crawling through the mud (of their memories [and literal mud (perhaps)]) tend to lapse into screaming cliché. This is one of the better efforts.
Eric Cartier
Jun 16, 2012 Eric Cartier rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 12, 2015 [P] rated it really liked it
How it is. Dear God. How it will be. A few years ago I was outside, walking along, and a large black and white bird – of a type I had never seen before – fell out of a tree and onto the pavement. Straight down. No flutter of wings. No noise, except the dull thud of its body hitting the concrete. It was unhurt, however. I raised my eyebrows, and carried on walking. Coming towards me was a young woman with a pushchair. The pushchair was empty as the child was by her side. As they passed me they no ...more
David M
The Grove centenary edition classifies it as a novel. Not sure I'd agree, although it does sort of have a plot - something about vaguely humanoid figures raping and killing each other in the mud before, during, and after the age of Pim. Science fiction? Opera? I think it could go well with illustrations by Francis Bacon.

A kind of coda to the trilogy, how it is picks up where the Unnamable left off. But then the Unnamable ends in a very strange and desperate place, how could anyone possibly go fu
Dan Fitch
Sep 04, 2010 Dan Fitch rated it it was amazing
Would you like to destroy your mind? Y/N


OK, read this book in one sitting.
Lee Foust
Apr 06, 2017 Lee Foust rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A novel absolutely like no other--and I imagine a lot of readers breathing a sigh of relief over this fact. Still, the incantatory swatches of prose are musically mesmerizing. Sure, even I--who love such things--found my attention wandering here and there, as it will when listening to such music, but the clarity of this single voice creating, brick by brick, swatch by swatch of unpunctuated words, the repetative life of an odd tribe of men, an infinitely repeated hive-mind it seems, endlessly mo ...more
Simon Robs
Dec 15, 2015 Simon Robs rated it really liked it
"HiI" how it was before with and after Pim in the mud panting murmuring sac of tins quaqua and so on and so forth - you too will consider putting your face down in the mud for relief maybe. The book jacket describes this as a love story - and so a Beckett love story goes. The narrator's wife Pam has defenestrated herself and he is what? Depressed, dejected, bent towards destruction? Or, is this his encomium to life that remains? Even a life in the gutter grasping for illusions of belonging? Does ...more
Michail Varouxakis
Sep 21, 2012 Michail Varouxakis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shocker
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
Jan 21, 2016 Max rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the better mud-based narratives to come out of 20th century irish culture
Nov 21, 2016 Swarthout rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland, 2016
Its good to know I'm not the only one who finds the idea of eating food out of cans weird.
Megan Baxter
Feb 13, 2017 Megan Baxter rated it liked it
Some books just seem designed to make you feel obtuse. I mean, I flatter myself that I'm a fairly perceptive reader, but then I get into the realms of the very weird, and don't know what I'm supposed to make of them. I tend to start off feeling like it's probably just me. I'm not smart enough to get it. I'm not educated in analyzing this type of English literature. I start off assuming that the book is probably better than I feel it is, because I don't get it, and that might mean the deficiency ...more
bir odada bir deli

*dehşetli uzun zaman parçaları
*başka bir şey bulmak varoluşu biraz daha sürdürmek için sorular bulmak kimdi onlar nasıl varlıklardı dünyanın neresindeydiler bu tür şeyler işte bu kuklalar gösterisini kim düzenliyor hiçbir anlamı yok git bir şeyler ye
*----çığlıkları içmek istiyordum mavi vahşi gölge yumrukların üzerine eğilmiş----
*dünyanın ucuna uzanırdım böylece dizlerimin üzerinde dünyanın çevresini dolaşırdım
*kiminle ilgili yumuyorum gözlerimi
Jan 05, 2017 Crito rated it it was amazing
Beckett is so tapped in and so alien at the same time that I'm starting to be convinced that he's the result of some pure spirit or form of literature injecting itself into a human husk. And seeing as he developed under late era Joyce there's probably an ounce of truth in that.
Jan 19, 2011 Davidnathan rated it it was amazing
For best results read out loud.
Tania ChatdiMuse
Dec 14, 2012 Tania ChatdiMuse rated it liked it
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
Dec 13, 2012 Melissa rated it really liked it
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.
A failed solipsism. Attempting to break away from voice, semiotics, structure, story, to extricate the self from the other--as conveyed by the quotation of another.
Gelcy Llecllish santillan
Oct 07, 2016 Gelcy Llecllish santillan rated it really liked it
Jan 20, 2016 Cole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most challenging, disturbing, and perhaps the most incredible of Beckett’s novels that I've read. Frenetic, fevered, and superb.
Michael Cross
Oct 01, 2012 Michael Cross rated it it was amazing
Creatures of filth and light.
Beckett is what I think of as a marmite author, and whilst I love marmite I hate Beckett's books.
Jun 08, 2017 Roger rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Curious Squid
Jun 03, 2017 Curious Squid rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 1001-books
3.6 stars
This book is unlike anything I have ever read before!
There is absolutely no punctuation. For me, this had the curious effect that the book itself seemed to be panting, or throwing words at me in short bursts. Like a desperate effort to communicate.

Surprisingly this really short book took a long while for me to get through. I think because I would read it before bed, and I was unable to concentrate. Not a book for speed reading.

Jun 15, 2017 Steven rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish
How it is How is it Is is How How the first part How the second part How the third part Before Pim With Pim After Pim The Voice The Mud The Sack The Voice After Death Before Death The Voice The Body The Tormentor The Victim It goes on
Susan Rose
Jan 13, 2014 Susan Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-book-list
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
Alex Obrigewitsch
Sep 13, 2015 Alex Obrigewitsch rated it it was amazing
This work is amazing. Beckett's best, I would say. It most clearly expresses what his mature works were always seeking to evoke.
Like all difficult works, this text seems to be very commonly misunderstood. I believe that everyone should experience this work for themselves, and think through it for themselves, but I append a few remarks to clear up what I view to be some misunderstandings. All of these things can be gleaned from the text itself, from the voice that speaks it. One must seek to rea
Apr 08, 2012 Jordan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 21, 2010 Patrick Kelly rated it it was amazing
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
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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...

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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” 5 likes
“God knows I'm not intelligent otherwise I'd be dead” 4 likes
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