Echo’s Bones by Samuel Beckett - review by Seamus Deane

Seamus Deane

Belacqua Returns

Echo’s Bones


Faber & Faber 128pp £20

‘Echo’s Bones’, as the editor Mark Nixon tells us, was received by Samuel Beckett’s editor at Chatto & Windus when he asked Beckett to add to his collection of short stories More Pricks Than Kicks (1934), all ten of which were short indeed, individually and cumulatively. ‘Hooray too if you can manage that extra story,’ the editor, Charles Prentice, told him. Prentice had already rejected Beckett’s first novel, Dream of Fair to Middling Women, in 1932. He was a perceptive and courageous editor, but even his almost surreal politeness did not prevent him from responding to the receipt of ‘Echo’s Bones’ with a horrified candour. ‘It is a nightmare … It gives me the jim-jams … I am sorry, for I hate to be dense, but I hope I am not altogether insensitive. “Echo’s Bones” certainly did land me with a wallop. Do you mind if we leave it out of the book?’ Beckett did mind, but he could do little. He took some material from the rejected story and added it to ‘Draff’, the last story of More Pricks Than Kicks. Prentice welcomed ‘the new little bit at the end’.

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