Mercier and Camier, written in 1946, first published in Paris in 1970, is a sort of Ur-Godot, with its two old men -- a hank of a Mutt and a dumpling of a Jeff -- wandering hand in hand in the perpetual rain among the pubs and bogs of an Irish abstraction and exchanging terse, bouncy repartee. It's not anywhere as distilled as the later, vintage Beckett -- the ""nothing"" that happens is more erratic than metaphysical, the duets are more colloquial and up-front funny (the baiting of policemen, for instance), and the descriptive passages more richly poetic and Joycean. To paraphrase the punning original French title, this is the journey of Mercier and Camier's detours in the den of thieves. (Like Didi and Gogo, these guys represent the two thieves flanking Jesus' crucifixion.) After a farce of missed meetings at the appointed square, the plot depends on the loss/ theft/mysterious disappearance of their clownish props -- one raincoat, one umbrella, one sack, one bicycle -- and the quest for shelter. Minor characters, including Watt, drop in from earlier Beckett creations; and every few chapters, there's an outline ""summary"" that re-focuses while reducing events. Camier is the weaker sister, but finally it is he that severs the symbiosis (thus concluding their mission) in a fade-out of surpassing poignancy. Beckett's way with the language -- raffish street slang coupled with freely worked, sonorous literary prose -- make it incredible that this novel could have been written in French. . . . Of more than critical interest, despite those 30 years in the closet; a beauty.