Samuel Beckett’s lost work

Tim Martin in The Guardian:

Beckett_2881546bThe years in which the young Samuel Beckett prepared and published his first collection of short stories were, as he later remarked, “bad in every way, financially, psychologically”. In late 1930 he had returned to Dublin from teaching at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, reluctantly swapping the shabby dazzle of James Joyce’s circle and the fun of drunken nights on the town for a post lecturing at Trinity College that he soon came to hate. Painfully awkward and shy, Beckett was tortured by public speaking, and he dreaded what he called the “grotesque comedy of lecturing” that involved “teaching to others what he did not know himself”. To the horror of his parents, he resigned, bouncing disconsolately between Germany, Paris and London on a family stipend as he tried to get his first novel off the ground. Money became shorter and shorter. In the autumn of 1932, he was forced to “crawl home” to his parents in Dublin when the last £5 note his father sent him was stolen from his digs. He was 26.

At home, however, his problems were far from over. It soon became clear that Dream of Fair to Middling Women, the madcap, erudite, Joycean book he had written at speed in Paris earlier that year, was not going to be the success he imagined. During a miserable spell in London, feeling “depressed, the way a slug-ridden cabbage might expect to be”, he shopped the manuscript around to several publishers: Chatto & Windus, the Hogarth Press, Jonathan Cape and Grayson & Grayson. The letter he wrote later to a friend summarised the results of the trip. “Shatton and Windup thought it was wonderful but they simply could not. The Hogarth Private Lunatic Asylum rejected it the way Punch would. Cape was écoeuré [disgusted] in pipe and cardigan and his Aberdeen terrier agreed with him. Grayson has lost it or cleaned himself with it.” Back in Dublin, wearily recognising that Dream might be unpublishable (it appeared posthumously in 1992), Beckett devoted his remaining energy to compiling a volume of short stories. Like his novel, these covered episodes in the life of Belacqua Shuah, a Dublin student who shared the author’s obsession with Dante and Augustine as well as his hang-ups about sex.

More here.