Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Beginnings and Early Writings

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Beckett contributed three translations from the Italian to the April-May-June 1930 contemporary Italian literature issue of This Quarter (vol. II, no. 4), including “Delta” by Eugenio Montale, “Landscape” by Raffaello Franchi, and “The Home-Coming” by Giovanni Comisso. The following year Beckett participated in a team translation into French of James Joyce's Anna Livia Plurabelle.

Excerpts from the translation (the first third plus the last two pages) were published as “Anna Livie Plurabelle” in the 1 May 1931 issue of La Nouvelle Revue Française. In his preface, Philippe Soupault wrote that a first draft had been prepared by Samuel Beckett, assisted by Alfred Péron, and that a revision of that version was done, under Joyce’s supervision, by Paul Léon, Eugene Jolas, and Ivan Goll. Then Joyce, Léon, and Soupault, over a period of fifteen weekly sessions lasting three hours each, revised the revision. That version was submitted to Jolas and Adrienne Monnier. Jolas sent his comments from Austria, Adrienne Monnier gave hers in person, and the team incorporated their changes—along with others made in the meantime by Joyce and Soupault—into the final version.

 

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First edition of Negro. Anthology Made by Nancy Cunard 1931-1933 (London: Nancy Cunard at Wishart & Co., 1934). Nancy Cunard's copy, with an autograph note in her hand, giving the publication date as 15 February, and adding: “My own copy. Nancy Cunard. Oct 1941. London. What remained of the whole edition has been destroyed by bombs and fire last years (Sept.), save 10 copies, saved by E. E. Wishart, as if in prevision.”

Samuel Beckett translated eighteen of the anthology’s articles (plus a poem) into English including René Crevel’s “The Negress in the Brothel,” Henri Lavachery’s “Essay on Styles in the Statuary of the Congo,” Bejamin Péret’s “Black and White in Brazil,” and Charles Ratton’s “The Ancient Bronzes of Black Africa.” Nancy Cunard dedicated the book to “Henry Crowder / my first Negro friend.”

A contemporary edition of Beckett’s translations for the anthology, edited by Alan Warren Friedman and titled Beckett in Black and Red: The Translations for Nancy Cunard’s Negro (1934), was published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2000.

 

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First edition of The European Caravan: An Anthology of the New Spirit in European Literature. Part I, France, Spain, England and Ireland (New York: Brewer, Warren & Putnam, 1931).

Compiled and edited by Samuel Putnam, Maida Castelhun Darnton, George Reavey, and J. Bronowski, The European Caravan included four poems by Beckett—“Hell Crane to Starling,” “Casket of Pralinen for a Daughter of a Dissipated Mandarin,” “Text,” and “Yoke of Liberty.”

The introductory notice to these four poems states that “S. B. Beckett is the most interesting of the younger Irish writers . . . . He has a great knowledge of Romance literature, is a friend of Rudmose-Brown and of Joyce, and has adapted the Joyce method to his poetry with original results. His impulse is lyric, but has been deepened through this influence and the influence of Proust and of the historic method.”

Thomas Rudmose-Brown was the professor at Trinity under whom Beckett took first-class honors in French and Italian and who encouraged him to make his first trips to France, helped him in the matter of his appointment to the Ecole Normale Supérieure, made him his principal assistant after his return from his Paris post, and continued to encourage him, even after Beckett had left Trinity, with half of his teaching uncompleted.

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