A long-forgotten addendum to More Pricks Than Kicks, restored 81 years after Beckett (The Complete Short Prose, 1996, etc.) wrote this strange, allusive tale.
As Mark Nixon (Univ. of Reading) notes in his introduction, when Chatto & Windus took on More Pricks—a slim book of interrelated stories about a goofball named Belacqua—its editor suggested that an 11th story be added to it, if for no other reason than to bulk it out. He almost certainly didn’t reckon on what Beckett delivered, a Joyce-lite reimagination of Dante’s descent that was full of subtle shaggy dog–isms, with plenty of sexual suggestion: “Can you think of any thing existing, God or Gonococcus, lower than the creature, his three score years and ten of hot cockles?” One sympathizes with Chatto’s decision to pass, though one also wonders if John Lennon somehow got hold of the manuscript before penning A Spaniard in the Works; especially the very last page, with its resonant line, “[s]o the submarine departed, very cross indeed.” Beckett’s sardonic surrealism, so Anna Livia Plurabelle–istic, is on full display here, and whatever its effects on the publisher, it’s clear he was having a good time setting his nightmarish scenario in motion, having killed off its main character earlier and now being forced to come up with some plausible reason to place him once again “up and about in the dust of the world.” But never mind plausibility: Read this as an extended prose poem, an exercise in beautiful language and striking image (“Belacqua, crazed with compassion, rolling about in a maffick of grief in his cauldron or basket, felt it incumbent upon him to hazard a kind word”), and this short text finds its rightful place among Beckett’s novels, plays and poems.
A welcome exercise in literary archaeology, especially for students of modernism and 20th-century literature.