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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beckett's transitional novella, 13 Oct 2011
Paul Bowes (Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mercier and Camier (Paperback)
'Mercier and Camier', a novella, was written in 1946 (in French) but withheld from publication by Beckett and published only in 1970 (with this translation into English by Beckett himself appearing in 1974). One can understand why Beckett first withheld it and then allowed it to be published only with reluctance many years later. It is the first of his substantial works written in French. It is transitional in style between the early novels ('Murphy' and 'Watt') and the later novels ('Molloy', 'Malone Dies', and 'The Unnameable') in a way that is richly suggestive for Beckett's development as a writer but not as fully achieved in either mode.

Nonetheless, there is plenty of interest here. It might be argued that this is the last occasion on which the parallels between the novels of Flann O'Brien and those of Beckett would be so clear. 'The Third Policeman' (1940, but also unpublished at that time) offers a similar mixture of comedy and deeply unsettling existential anxiety.

Beckett's two protagonists, tied together against their will by mutual dependence and forever setting out on an uncertain quest, foreshadow those of 'Waiting For Godot', but there is a savagery underlying their farcical situation - sudden eruptions of unrestrained coarseness and extreme violence - that is largely absent from the dramatic works that would subsequently make Beckett famous. Formally, there is nothing here as difficult as 'The Unnameable' nor as verbally extravagant as 'Murphy'; but 'Mercier and Camier' has its own peculiar atmosphere and a melancholy exhaustion that may reflect the author's difficult experience during the war. Best of all it has Beckett's prose, which alone is worth the price of admission. "What can be said of life not already said? Many things. That its arse is a rotten shot, for example."
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Mercier and Camier
Mercier and Camier by Samuel Beckett
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