Nohow On. Samuel Beckett

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Nohow On - Samuel Beckett

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Nohow On



      Collected Poems

      in English and French

      The Collected Shorter Plays

      of Samuel Beckett




      Ends and Odds

      First Love and Other Stories

      Happy Days

      How It Is

      I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On

      Krapp’s Last Tape

      The Lost Ones

      Malone Dies

      Mercier and Camier


      More Pricks Than Kicks


      Nohow On: (Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, Worstward Ho)

      Ohio Impromptu



      Stories and Texts for Nothing

      Three Novels

      Waiting for Godot


      Worstward Ho


      Happy Days: Samuel Beckett’s Production Notebooks, edited by James Knowlson

      Samuel Beckett: The Complete Short Prose, 1929–1989, edited and with an introduction and notes by S. E. Gontarski

      The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett: Endgame, edited by S. E. Gontarski

      The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett: Krapp’s Last Tape, edited by James Knowlson

      The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot, edited by Dougald McMillan and James Knowlson


Nohow On


      Ill Seen Ill Said,

      Worstward Ho

      Three Novels by Samuel Beckett

      With an Introduction by S. E. Gontarski


Grove Press, New York

      Company copyright © 1980 by Samuel Beckett

      Ill Seen Ill Said copyright © 1981 by Les Editions de Minuit; translation copyright © 1981 by Samuel Beckett

      Worstward Ho copyright © 1983 by Samuel Beckett

      Introduction copyright © 1996 by S. E. Gontarski

      Jacket photograph © Miroslav Zajíc/CORBIS

      All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Scanning, uploading, and electronic distribution of this book or the facilitation of such without the permission of the publisher is prohibited. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated. Any member of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use, or anthology, should send inquiries to Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 154 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10011 or

      Ill Seen Ill Said was first published in French as Mal vu mal dit

      by Les Editions de Minuit, Paris, France, 1981

      Published simultaneously in Canada

      Printed in the United States of America

      ISBN: 0-8021-3426-2

      eBook ISBN: 978-0-8021-9834-1

      Grove Press

      an imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

      154 West 14th Street

      New York, NY 10011

      Distributed by Publishers Group West





       Ill Seen Ill Said

       Worstward Ho

      NOHOWORN.TIF Introduction

      The Conjuring of Something out of Nothing:

      Samuel Beckett’s “Closed Space” Novels

      . . . this seemed rather to belong to some story heard long before, an instant in the life of another, ill told, ill heard, and more than half forgotten. Watt

      In the mid-1960s, Samuel Beckett’s fiction took a dramatic turn, away from stories featuring the compulsion to (and so solace in) motion, toward stories featuring stillness or some barely perceptible movement, at times just the breathing of a body or the trembling of a hand. These “closed space” stories often entailed little more than the perception of a figure in various postures, like an exercise in human origami. The journey theme had been a mainstay of Beckett’s fiction from Murphy and Watt, and it culminated in the body of French fiction: the four French Stories of 1946; the three collected novels, Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable; the fictive fragments written to move beyond the impasse of The Unnamable, collected as Texts for Nothing; and the great post–Unnamable novel, How It Is. Motion ­offered a degree of solace to Beckett’s “omnidolent” creatures: “As long as I kept walking I didn’t hear [the cries] because of the footsteps,” the narrator of First Love reminds us. But it was the fact of movement rather than any particular destination that consoled, as the narrator of From an Abandoned Work makes clear: “I have never in my life been on my way anywhere, but simply on my way.” The shift from journeys, a movement from and return to some shelter or haven—often “home”—to the “closed space” tales was announced in the fragments and faux départs that eventually developed into All Strange Away (1963–64) and its sibling, Imagination Dead Imagine (1965): “Out the door and down the road in the old hat and coat like after the war, no not that again.” The more imaginative alternative was now: “A closed space five foot square by six high, try for him there.” The change necessitated a new character as well, the nameless “him” who became Beckett’s second major fictional innovation. The first was “voice,” that progressive disintegration of literary character that dominated the journey fictions from Watt through From an Abandoned Work and included most of Beckett’s major novels—and made occasional appearances in “closed space” tales like Company and Ill Seen Ill Said, for instance. The second was “him,”

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