Dialogue on the Threshold

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Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Beckett Bowel Books

Samuel Beckett, letter to Mary Manning Howe, sent from Hamburg on 14 November 1936

... I am exhorted to ablate 33.3 recurring to all eternity of my work (1). I have thought of a better plan. Take every 500th word, punctuate carefully and publish a poem in prose in the Paris Daily Mail. Then the rest separately and privately, with a forewarning from Geoffrey, as the ravings of a schizoid, or serially, in translation, in the Zeitschrift für Kitsch. My next work shall be on rice paper wound about a spool, with a perforated line every six inches and on sale in Boots. The length of each chapter will be carefully calculated to suit with the average free motion. And with every copy a free sample of some laxative to promote sales. The Beckett Bowel Books, Jesus in farto. Issued in imperishable tissue. Thistledown end papers. All edges disinfected. 1000 wipes of clean fun. Also in Braille for anal pruritics. All Sturm and no Drang.

I replied, dear agente provocatrice, that I would not have a finger laid on the section entitled Amor intellectualis etc., nor on the Thema Coeli, nor on Endon's Affence, nor on the last will and fundament, but that so far as the rest was concerned I would willingly remove all ties and supports, dripstones, keystones, cornerstones, buttresses, and, with especial pleasure, the entire foundations, and accept full and entire responsibility for the ensuing detritus. The owls, cats, foxes and toads of the higher criticism could be relied on to complete the picture, a romantic one. ...

(1) The at the time unpublished novel Murphy

The Letters of Samuel Beckett. Volume 1: 1929-1940, eds. Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 382-383

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