Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Beginnings and Early Writings

Manuscripts | Publications

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The New Review issue in which Beckett’s “Text” appeared also included the poem “Faust, Fauna, and Spring” by Beckett’s friend George Reavey. In an undated letter to Reavey, Thomas MacGreevy wrote that he thought literature was moving away from deliberate obfuscation “towards a clear indication of one’s meaning. I shouldn’t I mean merely think I understand. I should be quite certain—assuming that I am a tolerably intelligent reader. This doesn’t really worry me for you and Beckett. It does worry me a bit for Joyce and the fate of Work in Progress when it does finally appear. For Joyce is not young and you and Beckett are and will evolve towards clear statement.”

The story “Alba” was written at Trinity during the period when Beckett first knew Alfred Péron, who had come there as French lecturer under the same exchange agreement with the Ecole Normale Supérieure that, two years later, took Beckett to Paris. Péron prepared a very close translation into French of “Alba” that was published in issue number 9 of Soutes: Revue de Culture Révolutionnaire Internationale, 1938.

 

figure 17

“Poetry is Vertical” manifesto in Transition, No. 21 (March 1932), signed by Hans Arp, Samuel Beckett, Carl Einstein, Eugene Jolas, Thomas MacGreevy, Georges Pelorson, Theo Rutra [Eugene Jolas], James J. Sweeney, and Ronald Symond.

This issue of Transition also contains Beckett’s “Sedendo et Quiescendo,” an early form of a passage from Beckett’s novel “Dream of Fair to Middling Women,” parts of which appeared later in his collection of short stories, More Pricks Than Kicks.

 

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Edward Titus published this special surrealist number of This Quarter with André Breton as guest editor. Although Titus himself had no “surrealist proclivities” he recognized that “if, by the evocation of the unconscious or subliminal self, poems are produced such as some of those printed in this issue, the day may come when the need of reexamination of every known definition of art—certainly of the art of poetry at least—will force itself upon us.”

Titus singled out Beckett’s work in translating some of the contributions into English, saying that Beckett’s “rendering of the Eluard and Breton poems in particular is characterizable only in superlatives.” The works translated by Beckett comprise “The Free Union,” “Lethal Relief,” and “Factory” (From Soluble Fish by André Breton); “Lady Love,” “Out of Sight in the Direction of My Body,” “Scarcely Disfigured,” “The Invention,” “Definition,” “A Life Uncovered or The Human Pyramid,” “The Queen of Diamonds,” “Do Thou Sleep,” “Second Nature,” “Scene,” “All-Proof: Universe Solitude,” and “Confections” by Paul Eluard; “The Possessions,” “Simulation of Mental Debility essayed,” “Simulation of General Paralysis Essayed,” and “Simulation of the Delirium of Interpretation Essayed” by André Breton and Paul Eluard; and “Everyone Thinks Himself Phoenix. . .” by René Crevel.

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