Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Mercier and Camier

Manuscripts | Publications | Reviews


figures 2, 3

Signed autograph manuscript of “Mercier et Camier,” 1946, 329 pp., with many revisions and numerous doodles and diagrams throughout. The last page of the second notebook has a draft of a letter to Simone de Beauvoir concerning Beckett’s short story “Suite.”

The cover of Notebook I is lettered: “La Forêt de Bondy / Camier et Mercier / I / Autour du pot / Les Bosquets de Bondy,” and is signed “Samuel Beckett,” with the note: “One of first writings in / French, circa 1945, / unpublished / jettisoned.” The manuscript’s beginning date is shown 5 July 1946.

figure 4

The cover of Notebook II is lettered: “Voyage / de / Mercier et Camier / Autour du pot / Dans / Les Bosquets de Bondy / Paris et compagnons.” The final date, at the beginning of Chapter X, is given as “Sept. 26.” But the preliminary pages of the notebook containing the manuscript of Beckett’s story “L’Expulsé” include the end of Mercier et Camier, and there the actual date of completion is given as 3 October 1946. Although Richard L. Admussen states in The Samuel Beckett Manuscripts: A Study (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1979) that the manuscript is “complete only through Chapter 10 (out of 12 [in the published text]),” in reality it corresponds closely to the published text and is, in fact, a complete autograph version of Mercier et Camier.

Confusion about the manuscript’s completeness arises from two sources: (1) the manuscript is continued in a third notebook—the one containing the manuscript of “L’Expulsé,” which Beckett began three days after finishing Mercier et Camier and (2) Beckett wrote “résumés” of groups of chapters which are organized in a slightly different fashion in the autograph manuscript from their arrangement in the typed manuscript and in the published book. The view becomes even cloudier as a result of Beckett’s unconventional system of numbering these résumés as chapters. In the autograph manuscript Beckett summarizes the eight “conventional” chapters in three résumés (which in themselves constitute three additional chapters and bring the total chapter count to eleven). In the typed manuscript and the published version he summarizes those same eight chapters in four résumés (which bring the total chapter count to twelve).

Contrary to Admussen’s statement in his description of “L’Expulsé” (The Samuel Beckett Manuscripts: A Study, pp. 47-48), the preliminary pages of that manuscript are not “notes pertaining to Mercier et Camier,” but are the résumés for the two preceding “conventional” chapters and thus form the final chapter of both the manuscript and the book.


figures 5, 6

Photocopy of typed manuscript of “Mercier et Camier,” 151 pp.

An autograph note on the cover in Samuel Beckett’s hand reads: “Written 1947? / Never attempted English translation. / This [hand-written title page] is Judith Schmidt’s hand- / writing I think. / No idea where original type- / script and ms. / Limited or normal edition / probably eventually. / Samuel Beckett / March 1969.”

The original manuscript is now at the Ransom Center and the “limited or normal edition” was published in 1970 by Les Editions de Minuit.