How it is, p.2
How It Is, p.2Samuel Beckett
Follows Frank to Portora Royal, a distinguished Protestant boarding school in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh (soon to become part of Northern Ireland).
October Enrols at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) to study for an Arts degree.
August First visit to France, a month-long cycling tour of the Loire Valley.
April–August Travels through Florence and Venice, visiting museums, galleries, and churches.
December Receives B.A. in Modern Languages (French and Italian) and graduates first in the First Class.
Jan.–June Teaches French and English at Campbell College, Belfast.
September First trip to Germany to visit seventeen-year-old Peggy Sinclair, a cousin on his father’s side, and her family in Kassel.
1 November Arrives in Paris as an exchange lecteur at the École Normale Supérieure. Quickly becomes friends with his predecessor, Thomas McGreevy [after 1943, MacGreevy], who introduces Beckett to James Joyce and other influential anglophone writers and publishers.
December Spends Christmas in Kassel (as also in 1929, 1930 and 1931).
June Publishes first critical essay (‘Dante … Bruno. Vico . . Joyce’) and first story (‘Assumption’) in transition magazine.
July Whoroscope (Paris: Hours Press).
October Returns to TCD to begin a two-year appointment as lecturer in French.
November Introduced by MacGreevy to the painter and writer Jack B. Yeats in Dublin.
March Proust (London: Chatto and Windus).
September First Irish publication, the poem ‘Alba’ in Dublin Magazine.
January Resigns his lectureship via telegram from Kassel and moves to Paris.
Feb.–June First serious attempt at a novel, the posthumously published Dream of Fair to Middling Women.
December Story ‘Dante and the Lobster’ appears in This Quarter (Paris).
3 May Death of Peggy Sinclair from tuberculosis.
26 June Death of William Beckett from a heart attack.
January Moves to London and begins psychoanalysis with Wilfred Bion at the Tavistock Clinic.
February Negro Anthology, edited by Nancy Cunard and with numerous translations by Beckett from the French (London: Wishart and Company).
May More Pricks Than Kicks (London: Chatto and Windus).
Aug.–Sept. Contributes several stories and reviews to literary magazines in London and Dublin.
November Echo’s Bones and Other Precipitates, a cycle of thirteen poems (Paris: Europa Press).
Returns to Dublin.
29 September Leaves Ireland for a seven-month stay in Germany.
Apr.–Aug. First serious attempt at a play, Human Wishes, about Samuel Johnson and his household.
October Settles in Paris.
6/7 January Stabbed by a street pimp in Montparnasse. Among his visitors at Hôpital Broussais is Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil, an acquaintance who is to become Beckett’s companion for life.
March Murphy (London: Routledge).
April Begins writing poetry directly in French.
3 September Great Britain and France declare war on Germany. Beckett abruptly ends a visit to Ireland and returns to Paris the next day.
June Travels south with Suzanne following the Fall of France, as part of the exodus from the capital.
September Returns to Paris.
13 January Death of James Joyce in Zurich.
1 September Joins the Resistance cell Gloria SMH.
16 August Goes into hiding with Suzanne after the arrest of close friend Alfred Péron.
6 October Arrival at Roussillon, a small village in unoccupied southern France.
24 August Liberation of Paris.
30 March Awarded the Croix de Guerre.
Aug.–Dec. Volunteers as a storekeeper and interpreter with the Irish Red Cross in Saint-Lô, Normandy.
July Publishes first fiction in French – a truncated version of the short story ‘Suite’ (later to become ‘La Fin’) in Les Temps modernes, owing to a misunderstanding by editors – as well as a critical essay on Dutch painters Geer and Bram van Velde in Cahiers d’art.
Jan.–Feb. Writes first play, in French, Eleutheria (published posthumously).
April Murphy, French translation (Paris: Bordas).
Undertakes a number of translations commissioned by UNESCO and by Georges Duthuit.
25 August Death of May Beckett.
March Molloy, in French (Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit).
November Malone meurt (Paris: Minuit).
Purchases land at Ussy-sur-Marne, subsequently Beckett’s preferred location for writing.
September En attendant Godot (Paris: Minuit).
5 January Premiere of Godot at the Théâtre de Babylone in Montparnasse, directed by Roger Blin.
May L’Innommable (Paris: Minuit).
August Watt, in English (Paris: Olympia Press).
8 September Waiting for Godot (New York: Grove Press).
13 September Death of Frank Beckett from lung cancer.
March Molloy, translated into English with Patrick Bowles (New York: Grove; Paris: Olympia).
3 August First English production of Godot opens in London at the Arts Theatre.
November Nouvelles et Textes pour rien (Paris: Minuit).
3 January American Godot premiere in Miami.
February First British publication of Waiting for Godot (London: Faber).
October Malone Dies (New York: Grove).
January First radio broadcast, All That Fall on the BBC Third Programme.
Fin de partie, suivi de Acte sans paroles (Paris: Minuit).
28 March Death of Jack B. Yeats.
August All That Fall (London: Faber).
October Tous ceux qui tombent, translation of All That Fall with Robert Pinget (Paris: Minuit).
April Endgame, translation of Fin de partie (London: Faber).
From an Abandoned Work (London: Faber).
July Krapp’s Last Tape in Grove Press’s literary magazine, Evergreen Review.
September The Unnamable (New York: Grove).
December Anthology of Mexican Poetry, translated by Beckett (Bloomington: Indiana University Press; later reprinted in London by Thames and Hudson).
March La Dernière bande, translation of Krapp’s Last Tape with Pierre Leyris, in the Parisian literary magazine Les Lettres nouvelles.
2 July Receives honorary D.Litt. degree from Trinity College Dublin.
November Embers in Evergreen Review.
December Cendres, translation of Embers with Pinget, in Les Lettres nouvelles.
Three Novels: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable (New York: Grove; Paris: Olympia Press).
January Comment c’est (Paris: Minuit).
24 March Marries Suzanne at Folkestone, Kent.
May Shares Prix International des Editeurs with Jorge Luis Borges.
August Poems in English (London: Calder).
September Happy Days (New York: Grove).
February Oh les beaux jours, translation of Happy Days (Paris: Minuit).
May Assists with the German production of Play (Spiel, translated by Elmar and Erika Tophoven) in Ulm.
22 May Outline of Film sent to Grove Press. Film would be produce
March Play and Two Short Pieces for Radio (London: Faber).
April How It Is, translation of Comment c’est (London: Calder; New York: Grove).
June Comédie, translation of Play, in Les Lettres nouvelles.
July–Aug. First and only trip to the United States, to assist with the production of Film in New York.
October Imagination morte imaginez (Paris: Minuit).
November Imagination Dead Imagine (London: The Sunday Times; Calder).
January Comédie et Actes divers, including Dis Joe and Va et vient (Paris: Minuit).
February Assez (Paris: Minuit).
October Bing (Paris: Minuit).
February D’un ouvrage abandonné (Paris: Minuit).
Têtes-mortes (Paris: Minuit).
16 March Death of Thomas MacGreevy.
June Eh Joe and Other Writings, including Act Without Words II and Film (London: Faber).
July Come and Go, English translation of Va et vient (London: Calder).
26 September Directs first solo production, Endspiel (translation of Endgame by Elmar Tophoven) in Berlin.
November No’s Knife: Collected Shorter Prose 1945–1966 (London: Calder).
December Stories and Texts for Nothing, illustrated with six ink line drawings by Avigdor Arikha (New York: Grove).
March Poèmes (Paris: Minuit).
December Watt, translated into French with Ludovic and Agnès Janvier (Paris: Minuit).
23 October Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Sans (Paris: Minuit).
April Mercier et Camier (Paris: Minuit).
Premier amour (Paris: Minuit).
July Lessness, translation of Sans (London: Calder).
September Le Dépeupleur (Paris: Minuit).
January The Lost Ones, translation of Le Dépeupleur (London: Calder; New York: Grove).
The North, part of The Lost Ones, illustrated with etchings by Arikha (London: Enitharmon Press).
January Not I (London: Faber).
July First Love (London: Calder).
Mercier and Camier (London: Calder).
Spring Directs Godot in Berlin and Pas moi (translation of Not I) in Paris.
February Pour finir encore et autres foirades (Paris: Minuit).
20 May Directs Billie Whitelaw in Footfalls, which is performed with That Time at London’s Royal Court Theatre in honour of Beckett’s seventieth birthday.
Autumn All Strange Away, illustrated with etchings by Edward Gorey (New York: Gotham Book Mart).
Foirades/Fizzles, in French and English, illustrated with etchings by Jasper Johns (New York: Petersburg Press).
December Footfalls (London: Faber).
March Collected Poems in English and French (London: Calder; New York: Grove).
May Pas translation of Footfalls (Paris: Minuit).
August Poèmes, suivi de mirlitonnades (Paris: Minuit).
January Compagnie (Paris: Minuit).
Company (London: Calder).
May Directs Endgame in London with Rick
Cluchey and the San Quentin Drama Workshop.
March Mal vu mal dit (Paris: Minuit).
April Rockaby and Other Short Pieces (New York: Grove).
October Ill Seen Ill Said, translation of Mal vu mal dit (New York: New Yorker, Grove).
April Worstward Ho (London: Calder).
September Disjecta: Miscellaneous Writings and a Dramatic Fragment, containing critical essays on art and literature as well as the unfinished play Human Wishes (London: Calder).
February Oversees San Quentin Drama Workshop production of Godot, directed by Walter Asmus, in London.
Collected Shorter Plays (London: Faber; New York: Grove).
May Collected Poems 1930–1978 (London: Calder).
July Collected Shorter Prose 1945–1980 (London: Calder).
April Stirrings Still, with illustrations by Louis le Brocquy (New York: Blue Moon Books).
June Nohow On: Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, Worstward Ho, illustrated with etchings by Robert Ryman (New York: Limited Editions Club).
17 July Death of Suzanne Beckett.
22 December Death of Samuel Beckett. Burial in Cimetière de Montparnasse.
As the Story Was Told: Uncollected and Late Prose (London: Calder; New York: Riverrun Press).
Dream of Fair to Middling Women (Dublin: Black Cat Press).
Eleutheria (Paris: Minuit).
Eleutheria, translated into English by Barbara Wright (London: Faber).
No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider, edited by Maurice Harmon (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press).
Beckett on Film: nineteen films, by different directors, of Beckett’s works for the stage (RTÉ, Channel 4, and Irish Film Board; DVD, London: Clarence Pictures).
Samuel Beckett: Works for Radio: The Original Broadcasts: five works spanning the period 1957–1976 (CD, London: British Library Board).
The Letters of Samuel Beckett 1929–1940, edited by Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Compiled by Cassandra Nelson
Draft typescript of Comment c’est
Courtesy of the Beckett International Foundation, University of Reading.
© The Estate of Samuel Beckett.
how it was I quote before Pim with Pim after Pim how it is three parts I say it as I hear it
voice once without quaqua on all sides then in me when the panting stops tell me again finish telling me invocation
past moments old dreams back again or fresh like those that pass or things things always and memories I say them as I hear them murmur them in the mud
in me that were without when the panting stops scraps of an ancient voice in me not mine
my life last state last version ill-said ill-heard ill-recaptured ill-murmured in the mud brief movements of the lower face losses everywhere
recorded none the less it’s preferable somehow somewhere as it stands as it comes my life my moments not the millionth part all lost nearly all someone listening another noting or the same
here then part one how it was before Pim we follow I quote the natural order more or less my life last state last version what remains bits and scraps I hear it my life natural order more or less I learn it I quote a given moment long past vast stretch of time on from there that moment and following not all a selection natural order vast tracts of time
part one before Pim how I got here no question not known not said and the sack whence the sack and me if it’s me no question impossible too weak no importance
life life the other above in the light said to have been mine on and off no going back up there no question no one asking that of me never there a few images on and off in the mud earth sky a few creatures in the light some still standing
the sack sole good sole possession coal-sack to the feel small or medium five stone six stone wet jute I clutch it it drips in the present but long past long gone vast stretch of time the beginning this life first sign very first of life
then on my elbow I quote I see me prop me up thrust in my arm in the sack we’re talking of the sack thrust it in count the tins impossible with one hand keep trying one day it will be possible
empty them out in the mud the tins put them b
no appetite a crumb of tunny then mouldy eat mouldy no need to worry I won’t die I’ll never die of hunger
the tin broached put back in the sack or kept in the hand it’s one or the other I remember when appetite revives or I forget open another it’s one or the other something wrong there it’s the beginning of my life present formulation
other certainties the mud the dark I recapitulate the sack the tins the mud the dark the silence the solitude nothing else for the moment
I see me on my face close my eyes not the blue the others at the back and see me on my face the mouth opens the tongue comes out lolls in the mud and no question of thirst either no question of dying of thirst either all this time vast stretch of time
life in the light first image some creature or other I watched him after my fashion from afar through my spy-glass sidelong in mirrors through windows at night first image
saying to myself he’s better than he was better than yesterday less ugly less stupid less cruel less dirty less old less wretched and you saying to myself and you bad to worse bad to worse steadily
something wrong there
or no worse saying to myself no worse you’re no worse and was worse
I pissed and shat another image in my crib never so clean since
I scissored into slender strips the wings of butterflies first one wing then the other sometimes for a change the two abreast never so good since
that’s all for the moment there I leave I hear it murmur it to the mud there I leave for the moment life in the light it goes out
on my face in the mud and the dark I see me it’s a halt nothing more I’m journeying it’s a rest nothing more
questions if I were to lose the tin-opener there’s another object or when the sack is empty that family
abject abject ages each heroic seen from the next when will the last come when was my golden every rat has its heyday I say it as I hear it
knees drawn up back bent in a hoop I clasp the sack to my belly I see me now on my side I clutch it the sack we’re talking of the sack with one hand behind my back I slip it under my head without letting it go I never let it go
something wrong there
not fear I quote of losing it something else not known not said when it’s empty I’ll put my head in it then my shoulders my crown will touch the bottom
another image so soon again a woman looks up looks at me the images come at the beginning part one they will cease I say it as I hear it murmur it in the mud the images part one how it was before Pim I see them in the mud a light goes on they will cease a woman I see her in the mud
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