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How It Is [Paperback]

Samuel Beckett , Edouard Magessa O'Reilly
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Nov 2009

Published in French in 1961, and in English in 1964, How It Is is a novel in three parts, written in short paragraphs, which tell (abruptly, cajolingly, bleakly) of a narrator lying in the dark, in the mud, repeating his life as he hears it uttered - or remembered - by another voice. Told from within, from the dark, the story is tirelessly and intimately explicit about the feelings that pervade his world, but fragmentary and vague about all else therein or beyond.

Together with Molloy, How It Is counts for many readers as Beckett's greatest accomplishment in the novel form. It is also his most challenging narrative, both stylistically and for the pessimism of its vision, which continues the themes of reduced circumstance, of another life before the present, and the self-appraising search for an essential self, which were inaugurated in the great prose narratives of his earlier trilogy.

she sits aloof ten yards fifteen yards she looks up looks at me says at last to herself all is well he is working my head where is my head it rests on the table my hand trembles on the table she sees I am not sleeping the wind blows tempestuous the little clouds drive before it the table glides from light to darkness darkness to light

Edited by Edouard Magessa O'Reilly

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (5 Nov 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571243746
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571243747
  • Product Dimensions: 1.7 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Samuel Beckett was born in Dublin in 1906. He was educated at Portora Royal School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated in 1927. His made his poetry debut in 1930 with Whoroscope and followed it with essays and two novels before World War Two. He wrote one of his most famous plays, Waiting for Godot, in 1949 but it wasn't published in English until 1954. Waiting for Godot brought Beckett international fame and firmly established him as a leading figure in the Theatre of the Absurd. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. Beckett continued to write prolifically for radio, TV and the theatre until his death in 1989.

Product Description

Book Description

The first time this novel has been published by Faber, with a brand new introduction and edited by Edouard Magessa O'Reilly.

About the Author

Samuel Beckett was born in Dublin in 1906 and graduated from Trinity College. He settled in Paris in 1937, after travels in Germany and periods of residence in London and Dublin. He remained in France during the Second World War and was active in the French Resistance. From the spring of 1946 his plays, novels, short fiction, poetry and criticism were largely written in French. With the production of En attendant Godot in Paris in 1953, Beckett's work began to achieve widespread recognition. During his subsequent career as a playwright and novelist in both French and English he redefined the possibilities of prose fiction and writing for the theatre. Samuel Beckett won the Prix Formentor in 1961 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969. He died in Paris in December 1989.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars are not enough 8 April 2010
Concerning visual art, Beckett once said "I used never to be happy with a picture till it was literature, but now that need is gone". How It Is is the culmination of this development reflected in his own work.
For those not familiar with much of his output, I would suggest a long term approach... start with All Strange Away (Calderbooks) to ascertain if you have a taste for Beckett's later style. Try the more conventional early novel Murphy followed by Watt as a halfway house. Reward yourself with the How It Is peak. Take as long as you need to read it first time round. Thereafter, try reading it in a week... then read it in one day. How It Is can be revisited again and again. Immerse yourself in the way one approaches a painting (as when the need to convert a picture to literature has gone).
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, it defintely is 7 Jan 2011
You've read the puffs about an unnamed narrator lying in mud, bereft of light, searching the shards of his shattered memory for something, anything, to explain himself and his predicament - now buy it, read it, then read it again. And again. The prose and its reggae-like rhythms will grow on you, literary dub for the existential posse. This is pretty much how it is. Isn't it? Of course it is and it doesn't come much better.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great quality book for book club! 7 Feb 2012
"How is it?" by Samuel Beckett came quickly and in fantastic condition (and took a minimal amount of time to come!). A fantastic read that I only wish I could pass onto others (sadly I can't because my notes are all over the book!). Thank you for a speedy delivery though!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars stranger than nothing 27 Aug 2011
It is a very strange book. Beckett describes a journey, a journey to Pim. The book is separated into three parts. The first part is the way to Pim. All what he had is a bag with his belongings. He lies in the mud and crawl his way to him. The second part is close by Pim. He is beating him and enjoys it very much. The third part is the time after Pim. It is the instalment of the unnameable. It is a flush of words. The words are spoken to the reader. It had no direct meaning. The person speaks it just as he hears it. You can read it with astonishment and you can't see a plot. It shows the existence of man to me. All what you are, is symbolised in this little person who lies in the mud and wants someone to hang on. A person to speak with. Toescape from the solitariness. The process is the way ahead. The book is like clockwork. Every word hangs on the other and in the end you can see the whole concept. It is the rhythm of the words that shows his concept.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An eerie, original novel 11 May 2000
By "elljay" - Published on
Once again, that poet of despair Samuel Beckett puts the reader through purgatory--or, in this case, an endless tract of mud, which our narrator muddles through for about 150 pages. Written entirely without punctuation, and sometimes a little obscure as to exactly what is going on, this book does not make for easy reading. It's worth the effort, though.
I almost didn't get through it myself. "Post-modern hocus-pocus," I thought sourly, as I read the first third. But it becomes oddly compelling, even poetic. Beckett's severely minimalistic style is fascinating; there's nothing in this book except the eerily dehumanized voice of its narrator, a lonely monologue that generates real poignancy. The effect is like hearing a voice from beyond the grave, and it haunts the mind like few conventionally written novels do.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whither the well-wrought novel? 12 Mar 2001
By Perry So - Published on
Beckett mastered standing on both sides of the borderline between convention and experiment. How It Is, both immediate in poignancy and resistant to a straight-forward reading, is wonderful testimony to this incredible ability. What is most wonderful about How It Is, and Beckett's late prose works in general, is how the form of the works speak just as loudly as the meanings of the words, if not louder. If anyone is heralding the death of the well-wrought novel, Beckett has demonstrated a controversal but brilliant way forward. We might baulk at its strangeness, but Beckett's is a very generous strangeness, one that requires work on the reader's part but will give the reader a unique experience of what a literary work can do.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Proto-literature 7 Feb 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Beckett does not move past the novel: he predates it. How It Is is a work trapped in the space before language: in the "primordial mud" from which life emerges: from which suffering takes shape. Our Reader from Philadelphia, has only jargon with which to approach a form of literature which can not be read, but experienced, sensed as the torment of having begun.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars what it is(n't) 23 Dec 2009
By caramelizeme - Published on
I've always thought Beckett's prose has been the treasure of his oeuvre. Beyond his meticulously structured plays or his mysterious narratives, his prose work stands out as solitary entities. Perhaps that's the best way to put it in describing a "novel" like this. He has created a new being, divested of character and author. At most, it's a meditation on all things known and unknown, directly looking inward, reflecting whatever gloss there is on the mirror of what we are (or think ourselves to be), and then seeing beyond that. And yet, one can barely decipher a line of thought, a passage through which all mortals go, a journey. In our days, it's rare for a simple book to do that. Beckett gives himself the liberty of living in the land of illusion, constructed only by language. In doing so, unveiling the fabric of consciousness to its- i'd hate to say it again- primordial essence (if there is one). For all those who love to ask questions, the stream of questioning is multiplied in this perilous work. Hardly will you reconsider ever having been in a state of internal crisis.

Thank you, Samuel Beckett
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential! 16 Aug 2003
By "mike26999" - Published on
This is final statement about the meaning of life in the 20/21 st centuries: I can't go on; I must go on; I can't go on; I'll go on. You must deal with this, and you can't live without it.
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