Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Final and Posthumous Works

Manuscripts | Publications

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figures 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

In seven consecutive manuscript versions of a work provisionally titled “The Way,” Beckett describes the nature of a journey whose route circumscribes the figure 8.

The first four drafts, which Beckett has dated 14 May 1981, from Ussy, describe “the way” as it “[winds] up from foot to peak” (or “From bottom to top”) and crosses midway without retracing its path, thus forming the figure 8 in its normal position.

The text of the last three drafts, dated by Beckett “Ussy may 1981,” differs from that of the first four, and describes the journey when its route traces an 8 lying on its side, a journey diagrammed with accompanying calculations on the first page of this manuscript sequence.

The fact that Beckett began two of the last three drafts with “or” raises the question of whether he may have been considering an alternative text.

figure 13

This first complete draft, titled or subtitled “8” in a different ink at an apparently later date, has one false start and extensive revisions, additions, and deletions. The text varies markedly from the final typescript version but contains the essential ideas of the work. The entire draft has been crossed out.

figure 14

Untitled as in the preceding draft, most of the work’s ideas are present, but in rough form, with a number of additions and deletions. The draft has been crossed out.

figure 15

Beckett wrote the third and fourth drafts on the same page of his manuscript. The text of the untitled, complete third draft varies substantially from both the final autograph version and the third and final typed one. The entire draft has been crossed out.

The fourth draft of “8,” at the bottom of the page, is complete and is now so titled. In the earlier, untitled drafts, Beckett seemed to be making, within the text itself, an explicit correlation between the journey he describes and the figure 8. In this version, he deletes those references, uses the figure 8 as a title, and lets the reader discover the relationship. This autograph version has only two deletions and one revision and is the draft on which the first typescript is based.

figure 16

The untitled, incomplete draft of the “alternative” text—“∞”—is essentially a jotting down, in several lines, of the work’s central idea, quickly abandoned for fuller development in the subsequent draft. The diagram on page 1, referred to earlier, relates to this text and the two that follow. The correlation between the figure 8 lying on its side and the mathematical sign for infinity is one that Beckett introduces explicitly in the early drafts (“From figure of 8 unbroken infinitely. A legend.”) and implicitly in the later ones.

figure 17

Beckett wrote his sixth and seventh versions of “∞” on the last page of the manuscript. The sixth draft of “∞,” so titled and visible toward the top of the page, varies somewhat from the final autograph version and, like its immediate predecessor, has been crossed out.

Except for a few variants, the final draft of “∞,” at the center of the page, is the draft which appears in the third typescript. The margin contains a reference to “Gideon,” not incorporated into the text.


figures 18, 19, 20

The first of these three successive typescripts of the work Beckett provisionally titled “The Way” is a typescript in modified form of the fourth autograph version of “8,” with a substantial number of revisions in red and black inks.

The second typescript, also of the “8” section, incorporates the changes made in Typescript I and has two additional corrections and one organizational change, in black ink.

The third typescript contains both “8” and “∞,” suggesting that the two pieces, rather than being “alternative” texts, are, in fact, companion pieces which describe a single journey from two perspectives: two views that finally converge on a single conclusion, stated identically in the closing sentence of each piece (“no one ever before so—”).

In Typescript III, the “8” passage does not reflect the organizational change (and repeats one of the typographical errors) made in Typescript II. The “∞” segment of Typescript III is, indeed, derived from the final autograph version of that segment but shows evidence of an intermediate revision between the final manuscript version and the typescript. The fact that Typescript III alone is a carbon copy and without markings would suggest the presence, elsewhere, of the ribbon copy of Typescript III with, very likely, additional revisions by the author.

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