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In 1933, Chatto & Windus agreed to publish Samuel Beckett's More Pricks Than Kicks, a collection of ten interrelated stories, which was his first published work of fiction. At his editor's request, Beckett penned an additional story, "Echo's Bones", to serve as the final piece. However, he had already killed off the protagonist, Belacqua, and had to resurrect them from the dead. Despite Beckett's efforts, the story was turned down by his editor and excluded from the collection, as it was considered too imaginatively playful, too allusive, and too undisciplinedqualities now recognized as quintessentially Beckett. As a result, "Echo's Bones" (not to be confused with the poem and collection of poems of the same title) remained unpublisheduntil now, eight decades later.
It begins with the antihero returned to life, sitting on the cemetery fence and smoking cigars. There, he encounters a macabre triumvirate: a prostitute; an infertile baron who requests Belacqua's assistance in securing the future of his estate; and a groundskeeper who attempts to rob Belacqua's grave. The phantasmagoric events that ensure encapsulate Beckett's burgeoning preoccupation with the tragicomedy of existence that suffuses his later writings.
In the introduction and critical notes, Mark Nixon situates this little-known text in terms of its biographical context, its textual references, its Joycean influences, and he examines how it is a vital link in the evolution of Beckett's early work. Beckett confessed that he included "all I knew" in the story, harnessing an immense range of subjects, from science and philosophy to religion and literature, combining fairy tales, gothic dreams, and classical myth. The posthumous publication of Echo's Bones marks the unexpected and highly exciting return of a literary legend.
Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), one of the leading literary and dramatic figures of the twentieth century, was born in Foxrock, Ireland and attended Trinity College in Dublin. In 1969, Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and commended for having "transformed the destitution of man into his exaltation."
Mark Nixon is Reader in Modern Literature at the University of Reading, where he is also the Director of the Beckett International Foundation. He has published widely on Samuel Beckett’s work, and is an editor of the Journal of Beckett Studies, a member of the editorial board of Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui, and Co-Director of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project. He is the current President of the Samuel Beckett Society.