Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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How It Is

Manuscripts | Publications | Reviews

 

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Autograph manuscript of V. S. Pritchett’s review of Beckett’s How It Is, published in the New Statesman on 1 May 1964 under the title “No Quaqua.”

V. S. Pritchett wrote in his review of Beckett’s How It Is, in part:

How It Is does point to one or two things in Beckett that have made him remarkable as a dramatist in the rich traditions of Irish farce. There is the peculiar unexpected affinity with [George Bernard] Shaw. Both dramatists triumphed in the seemingly impossible: they made garrulousness [sic] dramatic, seriously and comically at the same time. Both make their comedies out of the conflict between their serous concerns—rational justice in Shaw, the injustice of having been born and waiting for release in Beckett—and the flooding in of meaninglessness which their obsessive wit and word power has made inevitable.

The French reviewer, Maurice Nadeau, in the 26 January 1962 issue of Express (25), marvels that in How It Is Beckett has gone even further in “that strange ascetic exercise” of “destroying the habitual supports of the story (or dramatic play)” to arrive at “an even more deserted no-man’s-land.” Raymond Federman, in the French Review for May 1961, considers the novel to be a remarkable structural achievement “built on a series of simple sentences repeated at various stages in a fragmentary rhythm” that, despite its broken and distorted syntax and because of its mathematical arrangement, creates a believable world. The author of an unsigned review in the London Times Literary Supplement (21 May 1964, 429), on the other hand, argues that with Beckett’s prose “what seem at first ways of ordering the flux of experience become uncertain and unreliable, and finally part of the general incoherence: the real structure is the collapse of all structures, the concretion of his vision of ‘How It Is.’”