An exciting new collection of novels, poetry and plays edited by Beckett scholars
Tim Martin on the new editions of Samuel Beckett's work, presented by Faber & Faber:
[...] Faber & Faber celebrates its own 80th anniversary, and marks the 20th year since Beckett’s death with a wholesale republication of his plays and prose.
The history here is complicated. For many years, the British rights to Beckett’s prose works were held by the London publisher John Calder, one of the last great independent publishers in Britain. Calder befriended Beckett in the Fifties, and after the success of Waiting for Godot in London, he added him to what reads like a VIP list of mid-century European or Europhile talent. Among Calder’s writers were Eugène Ionesco, Heinrich Böll, William Burroughs, Alexander Trocchi, Fernando Arrabal, Henry Miller, Hubert Selby, Jr and Marguerite Duras.
When Calder retired in 2007, he passed almost his entire catalogue to Oneworld Publications. But after much negotiation, Faber obtained the rights to Beckett’s poetry and prose. Adding them to the plays it already publishes, Faber, for the first time, brought all Beckett’s English work under the same roof and salved its conscience for having turned down the non-dramatic work in the first place. It also provided the opportunity to address several of the editing errors and textual corruptions in the Calder texts, especially those published after Beckett’s death. (“There is little that is new here, either as to poems or to the publisher’s incompetence,” wrote Christopher Ricks in a review of the latest Calder edition of Beckett’s poems, advising readers to “take the book with more than a grain of salt, since the whole thing is peppered with errors”.)
Faber’s new editions have no scholarly apparatus – a treat, one imagines, reserved for future years – but each boasts a cleaned-up text and a perceptive new introduction from a Beckett scholar. Appearing in bursts from now to next year, they offer affordable and correct editions of one of the deepest and strangest talents of modern literature.
Faber’s excellent new edition of the late novellas also collects several pieces of the late prose that have been impossible to find between covers: a short piece called The Way, written at the same time as Beckett’s bewildering stage piece Quad, and a vignette called Ceiling, a chilling and minimal evocation of waking up wordless in hospital: “No knowledge of where gone from. Nor of how. Nor of whom. Nor of whence come to. Partly to.” The reissue of this peerless and haunting body of work in rigorous editions is long overdue. With luck, if the famously protective Beckett estate wills it, the next step will be an annotated complete edition. [Read More]