A stew of tongues, English, French, German, whathaveyou, in an overrich slumgullion or Irish mulligatawny, with a faint tang of urine. Young Sam Beckett (1906-83) wrote this autobiographical first novel at 26, for money he hoped, knocking out the earliest draft in a few weeks. But no publisher would accept it, and so for the rest of his life he withheld it from publication and cannibalized many passages that showed up in later better works. Would he be humiliated now by its utter bombast? Well, he seldom liked anything he wrote, so most of what he published was an act of self- mortification.... The ``principal boy'' here is Belacqua, or Beckett (a Mr. Beckett tells the story), whom we meet masturbating on the end of a dock while dreaming of his German girlfriend Smeraldina-Rima. His family arises and fades from the page almost at once and is ever after mentioned only as ``the clean blue eyes of home''--or ``a distant dog in the evening barking.'' The satire on everyone herein is pitiless, when you can make it out as such, for to say that the novel has a plot and characters is to say too much about Bel's wanderings, ruined feet, and worse love life. As Mr. Beckett tells us, any unity in this novel is ``involuntary'': ``The blown roses of a phrase shall catapult the reader into the phrase that follows. The experience of my reader shall be between the phrases, in the silence communicated by the intervals, not the terms of the statement...'' To be sure, glorious plums pop up: ``The night firmament is abstract density of music, symphony without end, illumination without end, yet emptier, more sparsely lit, than the most succinct constellations of genius.'' All ends in a stupendous uproar at a literary musicale with Belacqua soaking drunk (```Here,' he said rudely, `I float'''), followed by his ulcerous hangover and a Hamletic disquisition about his hand. A clump, a clot, a coagulum--an unspeakable miracle of words held together by spit.