80 Years Post-Rejection, Samuel Beckett Story to Finally See Publication

April 2, 2014

Samuel Beckett Echo’s Bones, a 13,500-word short story commissioned for More Pricks Than Kicks, Beckett’s anthology published in 1934, was rejected and kept out of the collection. Charles Prentice, the publisher of the anthology, wrote a letter to Beckett saying the story “is a nightmare … It gives me the jim-jams … ‘Echo's Bones’ would, I am sure, lose the book a great many readers. People will shudder and be puzzled and confused; and they won't be keen on analyzing the shudder.” The story was, for the most part forgotten until Faber & Faber picked it up. The new volume, edited by Dr. Mark Nixon of the University of Reading, is slated for release April 17. President of the Samuel Beckett Society, Dr. Nixon writes, “The literary merit of ‘Echo’s Bones’ is evident; moreover, it is a vital document.” The story features Belacqua, the same protagonist that appears in Yellow, the ninth story in the 1934 collection. In Yellow, Belacqua dies as a result of a surgical procedure. In “Echo’s Bones”, Belacqua faces the afterlife.

Nixon believes the story’s failure influenced the author greatly, leading Beckett to write a poem of the same name and entitling his 1935 collection of poetry Echo’s Bones and Other Precipitates. Beckett described the story as one “into which I put all I knew and plenty that I was better still aware of.” He went on to say its rejection “discouraged me profoundly.” Nixon believes that the poem has remained unpublished until now due to the fact that “Beckett was rather negative about most of his works dating from the 1930s, and was reluctant to allow texts published in that decade to be republished.” Edward Beckett, nephew and executor to Beckett’s estate, said, “This is a very important text. It’s good that it is available at long last.”

The following extract from Echo’s Bones was released with permission from the estate of Samuel Beckett: “The dead die hard, they are trespassers on the beyond, they must take the place as they find it, the shafts and manholes back into the muck, till such time as the lord of the manor incurs through his long acquiescence a duty of care in respect of them.”

Beckett received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969.

Source: The Guardian

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