Rejected Beckett story published 80 years on

A lost story by Irish writer Samuel Beckett will go on sale next month — 80 years after it was rejected by his publisher for being a “nightmare” read.

Rejected Beckett story   published   80 years on

Echo’s Bones was originally commissioned as the final tale of More Pricks Than Kicks, Beckett’s collection of inter-related stories that was published in 1934.

But the Dublin writer’s then publisher, Charles Prentice at Chatto & Windus, rejected the 13,500 -word story for being too obscure and baffling.

In a blunt letter, Prentice told the famed writer: “It’s 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 be confused; and they won’t be keen on analysing the shudder.”

He then added: “I hate having to say this.”

The story has remained hidden in American archives ever since, even receiving little interest from Beckett scholars. And its rejection is known to have upset Beckett himself, who told of his disappointment in a letter to a friend.

But Dr Mark Nixon, president of the Samuel Beckett Society, said he can partly sympathise with the publisher’s decision to turn it down.

Writing in the introduction to the new volume, which he edited, he admitted it was “a difficult, at times obscure, story”.

But, he added: “If the story is rather wild and undisciplined, it is also quite brilliantly so... Echo’s Bones is, without doubt, more densely allusive, more Joycean, than any of Beckett’s early writings.

“Blending fairy tales, gothic dreams and classical myth, Echo’s Bones is in parts a fantastical story replete with giants, tree- houses, mandrakes, ostriches and mushrooms, drawing on a tradition of folklore as popularised by WB Yeats and the Brothers Grimm.”

In an interview with The Observer, Dr Nixon, who is based at the University of Reading, described the story as a “vital document”.

He added: “During his lifetime, 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.

“We would not be publishing this text had it simply been abandoned during the writing process.

“Beckett clearly wanted it to be published, which is why he wrote it and submitted it to Chatto, at their behest.”

Echo’s Bones, published by Faber & Faber, will be released on April 17.

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