Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Oh all to publish

This is a picture of the front of The Guardian's review pages on March 3rd, 1989, nine months before the death of the man pictured. It is the first publication of his beautiful late work Stirrings Still. John Calder published it in a limited edition retailing at £1,000 each (though every copy was signed by the weary author).

I was prompted to dig out the clipping from my yellowing archives by A Piece of Monologue's report on Faber & Faber's new editions of Beckett's plays and fiction. Faber's own pages on the series reveal a welcome new edition of what Beckett himself called Nohow On, a loose trilogy comprising Company, Ill Seen Ill Said and Worstward Ho.

In a letter to the NYRB, Calder explained the origin of the volume and why Stirrings Still could not be included. The good news is that Faber has now added it, thereby completing a Beckett Quartet. The bad news is that Nohow On has been dropped. Instead, the volume has four titles. Ever failed indeed.

On the other side of the page, the Guardian has a review of Stirrings Still by Frank Kermode:
So the end is a matter of muttering, in a voice so low that it does not even deserve an exclamation mark at the end. This is another of Beckett's nihilistic mantras, best mumbled aloud. They are inescapably paradoxical: representing the last possible act of imagination, they also suggest that even this quasi-Berkeleyan man, existing as perceived but almost not perceiving, cannot be represented without payment of tribute, however reluctant, to a specifically human power, not extinguished so long as one can speak of such things.
Beside Sir Frank's words there is a review of Stark by Ben Elton.


  1. Yes I saw the Beckett reissues (or takeovers) in the Faber catalogue and was rather excited. The optimist in me thinks separate volumes for the trilogy means I might actually read them this time (my previous abortive experience being with the waffer-theen pages of the Everyman's Library one-volume edition).

    (However, looking now on the Faber site, the trilogy volumes aren't listed.)

    Ben Elton's Stark! I loved that book; I was 16 when it came out and thought a stand-up comedy routine on paper was pretty much the epitome of literature. Interestingly, I am pretty sure that it was responsible for the first awareness I had of the issue of climate change. So perhaps not entirely wasted.

  2. John, that Everyman edition is the best I think (but I hear is available only in the US). The text in the Picador paperback is too small and inelegant in comparison.

    Once or twice I've seen paperbacks of Malone Dies but never the other two separately. The Unnamable would no doubt sell like Dante's Paradise and volume three of Penguin Modern Classic's Proust.

  3. John,

    Amazon are listing Faber's editions of the Three Novels. If you'll excuse the address:


  4. Rhys, you don't need to include the text of the URL from "/ref" onward. Anyway, The Book Depository's URLs are cleaner and the books cheaper!

    PS I've just seen this blog on a different, larger monitor and realise it's skewed. Can't fix it now though.

  5. You're kidding me! Thanks for the tip :)



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