Samuel Beckett's Mercier and Camier

An excerpt from Beckett's short and distinctive novel
Samuel Beckett Manuscript, 'Mercier and Camier'
No sooner was he alone than Mercier went. His path crossed, at a given moment, that of an old man of weird and wretched aspect, carrying under his arm what looked like a board folded in two. It seemed to Mercier he had seen him somewhere before and he wondered as he went on his way where that somewhere could have been. The old man too, on whom for a wonder the transit of Mercier had not been lost, was left with the impression of a scarecrow encountered elsewhere and busied himself for a space with trying to recall in what circumstances. So, as with laboured steps they drew apart, each occupied the other's thoughts in vain. But the least little thing halts the Merciers of this world, a murmur coming to its crest and breaking, a voice saying how strange the autumn-tide of day no matter what the season. A new beginning, but with no life in it, how could there be? More manifest in town than in the country, but in the country too, where slowly over the vast empty space the peasant seems to stray, so aimless that night must surely overtake him far from the village nowhere, the homestead nowhere to be seen. There is no time left and yet how it drags. Even the flowers seem past their time to close and a kind of panic seizes on the tired wings. The hawk stoops always too soon, the rooks rise from the fallows while it is still light and flock to their places of assembly, there to croak and squabble till nightfall. Then, too late, they agitate to set out again. Day is over long before it ends, man ready to drop long before the hour of rest. But not a word, evening is all fever, a scurrying to and fro to no avail. So short it is not worth their while beginning, too long for them not to begin, that is the time they are pent up in, as cruelly as Balue in his cage. Ask the hour of a passer-by and he'll throw it at you over his shoulder at a venture and hurry on. But you may be easy in your mind, he is not far wrong who every few minutes consults his watch, sets it by official astronomic time, makes his reckonings, wonders how on earth to fit in all he has to do before the endless day comes to an end. Or with furious weary gesture he gives the hour that besets him, the hour it always was and will be, one that to the beauties of too late unites the charms of prematurity, that of the Never! without more of an even dreader raven. But all day that is how it is, from the first tick to the last tack, or rather from the third to the antepunultimate, allowing for the time it needs, the tamtam within, to drum you back into the dream and drum you back out again. And in between all are heard, every millet grain that falls, you look behind and there you are, every day a little closer, all life a little closer. Joy in saltspoonfuls, like water when it's thirst you're dying of, and a bonny little agony homepathically distilled, what more can you ask? A heart in the room of the heart? Come come. But ask on the contrary your way of the passer-by and he'll take your hand and lead you, by the warren's beauty-spots, to the very place. It's a great grey barracks of a building, unfinished, unfinishable, with two doors, for those who enter and for those who leave, and at the windows faces peering out. The more fool you to have asked.

Samuel Beckett, Mercier and Camier
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