Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

email signup Blog Video Facebook Twitter Instagram
Watt

Manuscripts | Publications | Reviews

 

Richard Seaver, reviewing Beckett’s novel Watt in Nimbus (Autumn, 1953, pp. 61-62), guessed that readers would react at one or another of extremes, finding it “either completely disjointed, or a carefully conceived whole, utterly boring or completely captivating . . . devoid of meaning, or profoundly significant, ludicrously droll, or even tragic” and predicted that “’Watt’ will probably either be placed carefully on the shelf reserved for those books to be re-read and re-read, or tossed angrily into the wastepaper basket. Which one does is perhaps less a judgment of the author than of oneself.”

Anthony Hartley, in the Spectator (23 October 1953, 458-459), sets Watt in the continuum of the trilogy—Molloy, Malone Meurt, and The Unnamable—that, with Watt, collectively makes up the “Beckett universe”: “All Beckett’s solitaries . . . have an unmistakable family likeness. Their abjection is complete and is symbolized in their physical condition . . . A free use is . . . made of scatological imagery to express human degeneration . . . To the physical abjection corresponds mental disintegration . . . [and] all these solitaries are waiting . . . for someone who will take responsibility for them.”

Bernard Pinguad, in Quinzine Littérarie (16 and 28 February 1969, 4-6), reviewing the first French language edition of Watt, speculates that had Beckett not delayed by sixteen years the work's appearance in translation, contemporary critics would have “neglected certain key passages, and missed what seems obvious . . . now: namely that Beckett’s work is a reflection on language, that it exhausts itself in saying (in living) the question of speech.”