Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Final and Posthumous Works

Manuscripts | Publications

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figures 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Signed, autograph manuscript of “Ceiling,” 8 pages of loose sheets removed from a spiral-bound notebook, 1981.

These six consecutive versions of a short prose piece written for the painter Avigdor Arikha are concerned with the nature of perception. Heavily revised and having numerous deletions, these drafts explore states of consciousness from the point of view of one who finds in an expanse of white a stimulus for introspection as he emerges from the “dim consciousness” of sleep to awareness.

The first draft, which has been entirely crossed out, consists of an incomplete, untitled text written in black ink. The title, “Ceiling,” which appears in the upper left corner, was apparently added at a later date, with a different pen.

There are interesting lines in this version which are reminiscent of the opening paragraph of Molloy and which Beckett eliminates in the third draft: “Two pages they said. No more. After the last page two pages. Two more. No more.” Within this draft Beckett has written two sets of instructions. He follows the first instruction to “(Finish with ‘2 pages. No more.’)” for one draft only. Beckett incorporates the second instruction—“Insert on or equivalent”—in all subsequent drafts.

This first autograph version differs considerably from the final one, particularly in its direct focus on the writing as well as on emerging consciousness, illustrated best in the passage that begins “Here so far four” and concludes “From where. To himself.”

Beckett’s second draft of “Ceiling” begins at the bottom the first page of the manuscript and ends on the third. This modified and expanded, yet still incomplete, version of the preceding one contains the basic ideas of the “finished” work. One long addition becomes, with further revision and expansion, the third paragraph of Typescript I. Here Beckett eliminates a key passage from version one but retains in revised form, at the end, the lines “Two pages more. No more. After the last page two more. No more.” Like the first draft, all parts of this draft have been crossed out.

The incomplete third draft of “Ceiling,” on the third page of the manuscript, is a variant of the previous one, differentiated by a few insertions, deletions, revisions, and one long addition. Here Beckett experiments with the format of the piece, regrouping sentences into smaller paragraphs and periodically inserting—in accordance with his instructions to himself in the first autograph draft—the word “on.” Although “Ceiling” here approaches its final version in both content and form, it still varies considerably from the completed work. As before, all parts of this draft have been crossed out.

In the incomplete fourth draft, on the fourth page of the manuscript, Beckett has compressed the material in the previous draft into one paragraph. This version, with several deletions and additions, gives evidence, as well, of a title prior to “Ceiling”—“On coming to”—which has been deleted.

Beckett’s fifth draft begins on the fifth page of the manuscript and concludes on the seventh. This is the last of the drafts written at Courmayeur, Italy, and is complete as far as the work’s overall content is concerned. This fifth version is the most heavily worked-over of the drafts done at Courmayeur and contains material which Beckett deletes in the sixth and final version.

Appearing in this autograph version, but not in the sixth and final one, nor in the subsequent typescript, is the line “A patch of ceiling”—significant in that it is the only passage in which a direct link exists between the text and the title, thus reinforcing Beckett’s emphasis on awakening and consciousness and the sight one generally first encounters upon awakening—the ceiling.

All parts of the draft have been crossed out except for the beginning portion of the third paragraph.

Beckett’s sixth and final autograph draft of “Ceiling” begins on the seventh page of the manuscript. In this version of the complete text, written in Paris and dated July 26, 1981, there is a switch from the past tense to the present, which lends immediacy to the text.


figures 10, 11, 12

These three typescript versions of “Ceiling” are numbered 1, 2, and 3 by Beckett in the upper right-hand corner. The first typescript, which is untitled, is a modified version of the last autograph draft of the work completed at Courmayeur, Italy. Beckett has added word counts in the left-hand margin.

The second typescript, which is titled, corresponds (except for a few changes) to the final corrected autograph version, which was written in Paris. It has several revisions in Beckett’s hand and represents a more advanced, condensed stage of composition.

The third typescript, also titled, reflects the changes Beckett made in the second typescript and has one new revision.

“Ceiling” was published in Arikha (Paris: Hermann, London: Thames and Hudson, 1985) with additional texts by Richard Channin, André Fermigier, Robert Hughes, Jane Livingston, Barbara Rose and interviews by Barbara Rose, Joseph Shannon and Maurice Tuchman.

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