Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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The title of this group of short pieces, written originally (with one exception) in French over a period of fifteen years, is a characteristically self-deprecating gesture on Beckett’s part, to wit:

Foirade: (a) squitters; (b) jitters; (c) disaster, flop

Harrap’s New Standard French and English Dictionary
(London and Paris: Harrap, 1981)


fizzle: 1: archaic: the act of breaking wind quietly 2. hiss, sputter, fizz 3. an abortive effort: failure, fiasco

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary
(Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam, 1971)

Beckett’s first suggestion, when a collaboration with Jasper Johns was proposed to him, was that Johns do something with Waiting for Godot. But Johns preferred to work with an unpublished text: hence Fizzles. The edition consists of five texts by Samuel Beckett which he wrote in French in 1972. He translated them into English in 1974 for the purposes of this edition.

Johns’s etchings, based on a four-panel painting he did in 1972 called “Untitled,” provide a very subjective counterpoint to Beckett’s texts. And yet there is a kind of logic in pairing Beckett with Johns in this enterprise. In the work of each there is a constant renewal of the means, a continuing inner search that brings forth an unending series of statements or images that explore but never exhaust the questions implicit in the memory or the visual stimulus to which the writer and artist are—each in his own way—responding.