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Samuel Beckett
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message 1: by Ben (new)

Ben Winch (ben_winch) | 20 comments PROSE


Dream of Fair to Middling Women (1932, published 1992)
Murphy (1938)
Watt (1945, published 1953)
Mercier and Camier (1946, published 1974)
Molloy (1951)
Malone Dies (1951)
The Unnamable (1953)
How It Is (1961)


First Love (1945)
The Expelled (1946)
The Calmative (1946)
The End (1946)
The Lost Ones (1971)
Company (1980)
Ill Seen Ill Said (1981)
Worstward Ho (1983)
As the Story was Told (1990)


More Pricks Than Kicks (1934)
Stories and Texts for Nothing (1954)
Fizzles (1976)
Stirrings Still (1988)


Proust (1931)
Three Dialogues (with Georges Duthuit and Jacques Putnam) (1949)
Disjecta (1929–1967)
L'Image (1959)
Dante...Bruno. Vico..Joyce


Whoroscope (1930)
Echo's Bones and other Precipitates (1935)
Collected Poems in English and French (1977)



Human Wishes (c. 1936, published 1984)
Eleutheria (1940s, published 1995)
Waiting for Godot (1953)
Act Without Words I (1956)
Act Without Words II (1956)
Endgame (1957)
Krapp's Last Tape (1958)
Rough for Theatre I (late 1950s)
Rough for Theatre II (late 1950s)
Happy Days (1961)
Play (1963)
Come and Go (1965)
Breath (1969)
Not I (1972)
That Time (1975)
Footfalls (1975)
Neither (1977) (An 'opera', music by Morton Feldman)
A Piece of Monologue (1980)
Rockaby (1981)
Ohio Impromptu (1981)
Catastrophe (1982)
What Where (1983)


All That Fall (1957)
From an Abandoned Work (1957)
Embers (1959)
Rough for Radio I (1961)
Rough for Radio II (1961)
Words and Music (1961)
Cascando (1962)


Eh Joe (1965)
Beginning To End (1965)
Ghost Trio (1975)
... but the clouds ... (1976)
Quad I + II (1981)
Nacht und Träume (1982)

Film (1965) (filmed with Buster Keaton)

message 2: by Ben (last edited Sep 19, 2012 10:01PM) (new)

Ben Winch (ben_winch) | 20 comments This may look like a lot, but many of these works are very short - for eg most of the plays are collected in the Faber Collected Short Plays which is scarcely 200 pages, and the so-called novellas are an average of 20 pages each, though 20 dense pages. Also reading Beckett is some unique kind of adventure given that every work builds on or subverts the last; every work is a reinvention. To sit day after day in a room in the country with a copy of Deirdre Bair's biography and a pile of Beckett paperbacks was a transformative experience I highly recommend (though I'll admit to having reached a certain level of depression before I embarked on this challenge; I'm not sure if that influenced me or not, but it certainly made it easier to focus, given that my life at the time offered few distractions). As it stands I've read everything except Dream of Fair to Middling Women, which was rehashed to make the (not very scintillating) More Pricks Than Kicks, and a few of the short dramatic pieces. Nor have I seen the Buster Keaton film, which is probably the only missing piece of the puzzle as far as I'm concerned. Most fondly remembered of the works are:

Company / Ill Seen Ill Said / Worstward Ho (collected as Nohow On)
First Love & Other Novellas
Embers (radio play)
The Unnamable

And remember, Beckett always saw the prose as his important work, and the plays as a sideline. Early on he thought he was a poet, but his output was sporadic and his Collected Poems is slim, but he did write one of the most beautiful poems ever:
my way is in the sand flowing
between the shingle and the dune
the summer rain rains on my life
on me my life harrying fleeing
to its beginning to its end
my peace is there in the receding mist
when I may cease from treading these long shifting thresholds
and live the space of a door
that opens and shuts

What more to say?

message 3: by MJ (last edited Sep 20, 2012 02:20AM) (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 211 comments I haven't had an easy time getting acquainted with Beckett, but that is a really beautiful poem. I found Murphy incomprehensible.

message 4: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 148 comments The Lost Ones is among the top five of my favorite books. It should be read in one sitting without distractions when you can fully use your imagination.

message 5: by Ben (last edited Sep 20, 2012 05:35AM) (new)

Ben Winch (ben_winch) | 20 comments MJ, Harold Bloom claims that Murphy is the masterpiece (and What it Is, from memory), but I don't think so. It's the youthful Beckett, admittedly more polished than he had ever been, but it's really not representative of his style - or the style he would go on to make his own. He's still so wordy! He himself hated that in retrospect, and turned to French to cure himself of it. My entry point to Beckett was his first mature works in French: the four novellas published as First Love and Other Novellas. They were kind of incomprehensible, but I kept going back to them, and then when I got hold of Nohow On something clicked.

Aloha, to be honest I've forgotten which story The Lost Ones is, but I think it's one of his late pieces? They all start to blend into each other later on, and as I read them in a big hardcover collected version they are a blur to me now.

... Oh, I also wanted to say I lied above: I haven't read the early play Human Wishes or his book on Proust.

And I've always had troubles with Joyce.

message 6: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 148 comments The Lost Ones is one of the most elegant prose piece I've ever read, which is not saying much when comparing to what I've read. I did look at it again a couple of days ago, and it's starting to be as simple as Dr. Seuss. Those postmodernist puzzles must have moved me up the reading ladder.

message 7: by Ben (new)

Ben Winch (ben_winch) | 20 comments Well why not move on to some more of Beckett's late prose? Elegant is the word. And yes, simple. He strives for simplicity. He's interested in whittling away everything extraneous to leave the most elemental work possible.

Also, MJ, I was thinking: re Murphy, it's not just that he's too wordy, but he's still too attached to this world, rather than the other realm he would soon reach and never leave again via Watt and his writings in French.

message 8: by MJ (last edited Sep 21, 2012 02:43AM) (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 211 comments Ben wrote: "he would soon reach and never leave again via Watt and his writings in French. "

So Watt is the what I should start with? Sold.

message 9: by Nathanimal (new)

Nathanimal | 11 comments I started with the Trilogy. That may have been a mistake. By the Unnameable I was out of my depth for sure. But Molloy struck me as really funny and structurally fascinating and fairly accessible. And, MJ, I kept hearing Beckett patting Bernard Share on the back all through Inish.

I aspire to get myself all wrapped around Beckett. Ben, your adventure with all those Beckett paperbacks in the country, depression induced or not, sounds wonderful. (I had a similarly transformative month with Kafka a few years back and I long for it again.)

message 10: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 148 comments I intend to. Right now, my reading plan is filled with group reads. It's much more fun in a group read. No, I am not joining a Beckett group this year. My card is full!

Ben wrote: "Well why not move on to some more of Beckett's late prose? Elegant is the word. And yes, simple. He strives for simplicity. He's interested in whittling away everything extraneous to leave the most..."

message 11: by Nate D (new)

Nate D (rockhyrax) | 120 comments Watt is amazing. Read it aloud to friends to their delight and/or dismay! I had particularly good results with the bits about the dog-breeding family mathematics and the section on footwear options.

I have the trilogy somewhere, really must get on that at some point.

message 12: by Ben (new)

Ben Winch (ben_winch) | 20 comments I love Watt, it's my personal favourite and in places it's downright hilarious, but I'm never quite confident to recommend it as the place to start, partly because it's so unpolished and occasionally (deliberately) frustrating and partly because it's pretty much unique in his ouvre. Usually I suggest Molloy or the novellas, but in a way Watt is more virtuosic than either. Also if you read Molloy I don't think it's necessary to read the whole 'trilogy' at once. (Beckett, after all, objected to its being called a trilogy in the first place.)

The depression topic is possibly moot, but it's like what I say to friends thinking of watching Lynch's Lost Highway: if you do it when you're too sick or hungover to move you may be more likely to give it the attention it requires. And I think Beckett repays a high degree of attention.

Would I were back in the country now, depressed or not!

message 13: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 211 comments Hmm, I don't feel any more confident about the right entrypoint to Beckett now. I may take the ill-advised plunge into Watt. I remember I did read First Love & Other Novellas a while ago too, to stony-faced bafflement.

message 14: by Ben (new)

Ben Winch (ben_winch) | 20 comments Stony-faced bafflement - I can see that. Try Watt. I guarantee not all of it will be baffling, and I suspect you may actually break into a grin here and there, if not outright laughter. At the very least you'll appreciate the genius of the prose.

message 15: by Ben (new)

Ben Winch (ben_winch) | 20 comments I don't know if you've read it already but here's my review of Watt if you're still undecided.

message 16: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 211 comments Thanks! I'll go read that now . . .

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