“Echo’s bones were turned to stone”

Pros: some wordplay

Cons: plot, etc.

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In 1933 Samuel Beckett (1906-89) wrote an additional (13,500-word) story for his 1934 collection of short fictions, More Kicks than Pricks. though he had killed off his alter ego and the protagonist/observer of the other stories, the Dublin slacker Belacqua Shuah (lifted from Dante’s Purgatorio Canto IV) in “Yellow,” the penultimate story of More Kicks than Pricks.

Eighty years later the 59-page piece was published by Grove Press “Echo’s Bones.” It runs only slightly more pages than that of apparatus, which includes 57 pages of annotations by Mark Nixon and Beckett’s correspondence with the book’s Chatto & Windus editor, Charles Prentice, who judged the story/novella a “nightmare” and predicted that any readers would “shudder and be puzzled and confused.” Prentice said it gave him “the jim-jams.”

Like Gaul, “Echo’s Bones” is comprised of three parts. In the first Belacqua is reborn and cavorts with a prostitute, Miss Zaborovna Privet.. Next he meets Haemo Lord Gall of Wormwood, a giant whose aids in impregnating his giantess wife the giant seeks from Belacqua. (Without male issue, Wormwood would be inherited by the villainous Baron Extravas.)

In the final part, Belacqua watches his own grave being robbed in a “long night of knock-about”. “Echo’s Bones” goes nowhere, the three parts failing to cohere, let alone lead from one step to another. Dwight Garner in the Irish Times likened the story to an “anthology of death rattles” (an apt characterization of “Endgame” and “Krapp’s Last Tape”). The novella now a sort-of stand-alone book is literally “snotty.”

Echo, post-Narcissus, had a voice as well as bones. The voices in Beckett (here as elsewhere) are mostly male one.

 

©2018, Stephen O. Murray

Having quickly bogged down trying to reread Molloy, I have bumped Beckett down to the maybe clump in my second-guessing Nobel Prizes for literature.

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