Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Beckett wrote Watt, “the last stuttering in English,” during World War II, the second half while he was living in the village of Roussillon, in the Vaucluse. But it was not published until 1953, after the appearance of his trilogy and of En attendant Godot, all of which had been written in French.

In a letter to George Reavey, Beckett wrote from Foxrock: “It is an unsatisfactory book, written in dribs and drabs, first on the run, then of an evening after the clodhopping, during the occupation. But it has its place in the series, as will perhaps appear in time.”

The novel begins with Watt being thrown off a streetcar. Richard Seaver, in his review of the novel in the Autumn 1953 issue of Nimbus, picks up the storyline as follows:

Rising, Watt proceeds to the railway station, is knocked down by a milkcan porter, gets up, takes a train, alights, goes to the house of Mr. Knott, where he is to work as the ground floor retainer, replacing one Arsene, who had previously replaced one Vincent. In time . . . and after a series of often intriguing experiences and observations, he replaces Erskine as the second floor retainer . . . After another lapse of time . . . and another series of experiences and observations, Watt comes downstairs one morning to find a new retainer seated in the kitchen. It is the signal for Watt’s departure.