1953 Olympia Press edition
Watt was Samuel Beckett's second published novel in English. It was largely written on the run in the South of France during the Second World War and was first published by Maurice Girodias's Olympia Press in 1953 (an extract had been published in the Dublin literary review Envoy , in 1950). A French translation followed in 1968.
Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish novelist, playwright, short story writer, theatre director, poet, and literary translator. A resident of Paris for most of his adult life, he wrote in both English and French.
Maurice Girodias was a French publisher who was the founder of the Olympia Press. At one time he was the owner of his father's Obelisk Press. He spent most of his productive years in Paris.
Olympia Press was a Paris-based publisher, launched in 1953 by Maurice Girodias as a rebranded version of the Obelisk Press he inherited from his father Jack Kahane. It published a mix of erotic fiction and avant-garde literary fiction, and is best known for the first print of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita.
Narrated in four parts, the novel describes Watt's journey to, and within, Mr Knott's house, where he becomes the reclusive owner's manservant, replacing Arsene, who delivers a long valedictory monologue at the end of section one. In section two Watt struggles to make sense of life at Mr Knott's house, experiencing deep anxiety at the visit of the piano-tuning Galls, father and son, and a mysteriously language-resistant pot, among other incidents. In section three, which has a narrator called Sam, Watt is in confinement, his language garbled almost beyond recognition, while the narrative veers off on fantastical tangents such as the story of Ernest Louit's account, to a committee at Beckett's old university, Trinity College, Dublin, of a research trip in the West of Ireland. The shorter fourth section shows Watt arriving at the railway station from which, in the novel's skewed chronology, he sets out on a journey to the institution he has already reached in section three.
Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.
The novel concludes with a series of addenda, whose incorporation into the text "only fatigue and disgust" have prevented, but which should nevertheless be "carefully studied". These take the form of concepts and fragments apparently intended for the novel but not used.
who may tell the tale
of the old man?
weigh absence in a scale?
mete want with a span?
the sum assess
of the world's woes?
in words enclose?
From Watt (1953)
The character of Ernest Louit is only one of many satirical digs at Ireland contained in the novel. Others include the recognisably south Dublin locale and respectable citizenry of the novel's opening, Dum Spiro, editor of the Catholic magazine Crux and a connoisseur of obscure theological conundrums, and Beckett's exasperation at the ban on contraception in the Irish Free State (as previously remarked on in his 1935 essay "Censorship in the Saorstat").
Watt is characterised by an almost hypnotic use of repetition, extreme deadpan philosophical humour, deliberately unidiomatic English such as Watt's "facultative" tram stop, and such items as a frogs' chorus, a notated mixed choir, and heavy use of ellipsis towards the end of the text. The final words of the novel are "no symbols where none intended".
An ellipsis is a series of dots that usually indicates an intentional omission of a word, sentence, or whole section from a text without altering its original meaning.
Beckett himself said that Watt was written in Roussillon as "just an exercise" while he was waiting for the war to end.
Roussillon is a commune in the Vaucluse department of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in Southeastern France. In 2016, it had a population of 1,317. Roussillon lies within the borders of the Natural Regional Park of Luberon. In the French natural regional parks system, new economic activities may be developed only if they are sustainable.
The manuscript, which was consulted by Jorge Luis Borges when he visited the University of Texas at Austin, has been described by S. E. Gontarski (in The Grove Companion to Samuel Beckett, 2004) as "the white whale of Beckett studies, a mass of documentation that defies attempts to make sense of it."
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator, and a key figure in Spanish-language and universal literature. His best-known books, Ficciones (Fictions) and El Aleph, published in the 1940s, are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes, including dreams, labyrinths, philosophy, libraries, mirrors, fictional writers, and mythology. Borges' works have contributed to philosophical literature and the fantasy genre, and have been considered by some critics to mark the beginning of the magic realist movement in 20th century Latin American literature. His late poems converse with such cultural figures as Spinoza, Camões, and Virgil.
Beckett was dissatisfied with the novel as originally publshed, spotting "over eighty spelling and typographical errors" as well as the omission of an entire sentence on page 19.A corrected text edited by C. J. Ackerley was published by Faber and Faber in 2009. Ackerley removed many errors that appeared in previous editions.
Faber and Faber Limited, often abbreviated to Faber, is an independent publishing house in London, the United Kingdom. Published authors and poets include T. S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, William Golding, Samuel Beckett, Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon.
Waiting for Godot is a play by Samuel Beckett, in which two characters, Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo), wait for the arrival of someone named Godot who never arrives, and while waiting they engage in a variety of discussions and encounter three other characters. Waiting for Godot is Beckett's translation of his own original French-language play, En attendant Godot, and is subtitled "a tragicomedy in two acts". The original French text was composed between 9 October 1948 and 29 January 1949. The premiere, directed by Roger Blin, was on 5 January 1953 at the Théâtre de Babylone, Paris. The English-language version premiered in London in 1955. In a poll conducted by the British Royal National Theatre in 1990, it was voted the "most significant English language play of the 20th century".
Breath is a notably short stage work by Samuel Beckett. An altered version was first included in Kenneth Tynan's revue Oh! Calcutta!, at the Eden Theatre in New York City on June 16, 1969. The UK premiere was at the Close Theatre Club in Glasgow in October 1969; this was the first performance of the text as written. The second performance, and the English premiere, was at a benefit held at the Oxford Playhouse on March 8, 1970. “The first accurate publication appeared in Gambit 4.16 (1969): 5–9, with a manuscript facsimile.”
Act Without Words I is a short play by Samuel Beckett. It is a mime, Beckett's first. Like many of Beckett's works, the play was originally written in French, being translated into English by Beckett himself. It was written in 1956 following a request from the dancer Deryk Mendel and first performed on 3 April 1957 at the Royal Court Theatre in London. On that occasion it followed a performance of Endgame. The original music to accompany the performance was written by composer John S. Beckett, Samuel's cousin, who would later collaborate with him on the radio play Words and Music.
Play is a one-act play by Samuel Beckett. It was written between 1962 and 1963 and first produced in German as Spiel on 14 June 1963 at the Ulmer Theatre in Ulm-Donau, Germany, directed by Deryk Mendel, with Nancy Illig (W1), Sigfrid Pfeiffer (W2) and Gerhard Winter (M). The first performance in English was on 7 April 1964 at the Old Vic in London. It was not well-received upon its British premiere.
Ohio Impromptu is a "playlet" by Samuel Beckett.
Krapp's Last Tape is a one-act play, in English, by Samuel Beckett. With a cast of one man, it was written for Northern Irish actor Patrick Magee and first titled "Magee monologue". It was inspired by Beckett's experience of listening to Magee reading extracts from Molloy and From an Abandoned Work on the BBC Third Programme in December 1957.
Rough for Theatre II is a short play by Samuel Beckett. “Although this discarded piece of theatre is dated ‘circa 1960’ in End and Odds, a manuscript from two years earlier exists in Trinity College, Dublin, Library. This situates a first version, written in French [as Fragment de théâtre II] and different from that eventually published in 1976 as between the English plays Krapp's Last Tape and Embers.” It is rarely produced.
How It Is is a novel by Samuel Beckett first published in French as Comment c'est by Les Editions de Minuit in 1961. The Grove Press published Beckett's English translation in 1964. An advance text of his English translation of the third part appeared in the 1962 issue of the Australian literary journal, Arna.
What Where is Samuel Beckett's last play produced following a request for a new work for the 1983 Autumn Festival in Graz, Austria. It was written between February and March 1983 initially in French as Quoi où and translated by Beckett himself.
Rockaby is a short one-woman play by Samuel Beckett. It was written in English in 1980, at the request of Daniel Labeille, who produced it on behalf of Programs in the Arts, State University of New York, for a festival and symposium in commemoration of Beckett's 75th birthday. The play premiered on April 8, 1981 at the State University of New York at Buffalo, starring Billie Whitelaw and directed by Alan Schneider. A documentary film, Rockaby, by D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus records the rehearsal process and the first performance. This production went on to be performed at the Annex at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, and, in December 1982, at the Cottesloe, Royal National Theatre, London.
For the song "That Time" by Regina Spektor see Begin to Hope
Mercier and Camier is a novel by Samuel Beckett that was written in 1946, but remained unpublished until 1970. Appearing immediately before his celebrated "trilogy" of Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable, Mercier et Camier was Beckett's first attempt at extended prose fiction in French. Beckett refused to publish it in its original French until 1970, and while an English translation by Beckett himself was published in 1974, the author had made substantial alterations to and deletions from the original text while "reshaping" it from French to English.
Rough for Radio I is a short radio play by Samuel Beckett, written in French in 1961 and first published in Minuit 5 in September 1973 as Esquisse radiophonique. Its first English publication as Sketch for Radio Play was in Stereo Headphones 7. It first appeared under its current title in Ends and Odds.
Rough for Radio II is a radio play by Samuel Beckett. It was written in French in 1961 as Pochade radiophonique and published in Minuit 16, November 1975. Beckett translated the work into English shortly before its broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 13 April 1976. Martin Esslin directed Harold Pinter, Billie Whitelaw (Stenographer) and Patrick Magee (Fox). The English-language version was first published in Ends and Odds as Radio II.
Cascando is a radio play by Samuel Beckett. It was written in French in December 1961, subtitled Invention radiophonique pour musique et voix, with music by the Franco-Romanian composer Marcel Mihalovici. It was first broadcast on France Culture on 13 October 1963 with Roger Blin (L'Ouvreur) and Jean Martin. The first English production was on 6 October 1964 on BBC Radio 3 with Denys Hawthorne (Opener) and Patrick Magee (Voice).
All That Fall is a one-act radio play by Samuel Beckett produced following a request from the BBC. It was written in English and completed in September 1956. The autograph copy is titled Lovely Day for the Races. It was published in French, in a translation by Robert Pinget revised by Beckett himself, as Tous ceux qui tombent.
The Old Tune is a free translation of Robert Pinget’s 1960 play La Manivelle in which Samuel Beckett transformed Pinget’s Parisians, Toupin and Pommard into Dubliners, Cream and Gorman. Its first radio broadcast was by the BBC on 23 August 1960. Barbara Bray directed Jack MacGowran (Cream) and Patrick Magee (Gorman).
Stanley E. Gontarski specializes in twentieth-century Irish Studies, in British, U.S., and European Modernism, and in performance theory. He is a leading scholar of the work of Samuel Beckett, and is the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University.
Eoin O'Brien [LRCP&SI;FRCP (Lond); FRCP (Edin); M.D; DSc.] is an Irish clinical scientist. He has published extensively on hypertension as one of the major causes of death and disability in society.. Alongside his medical career, O'Brien has contributed to the field of literary criticism and biography. He has written books on writers and artists including Samuel Beckett, Nevill Johnson and Con Leventhal.