Beckett wrote Watt during WWII, while working in Paris for the French resistance until his group was betrayed to the Gestapo and he went into hiding in Roussillon. Somehow, such a suspenseful existence didn’t really seem to make its way into this, Beckett’s last novel length work written in English. Instead, the story of Watt, a strange, strange man and servant to the reclusive Mr. Knott is filled with some of Beckett’s funniest writing. We get permutations obsessively played out, the most straight faced slapstick ever written, and a brilliant, and I mean brilliant send up of Beckett’s old academic life at Trinity College, Dublin in a strange, extended scene.
If one is new to reading Beckett’s prose, I think this might be the best place to start. His earlier work, while wonderful, tends toward an absurdity of erudition. Still under the spell of Joyce, books like Murphy and More Pricks than Kicks are fantastic but they are still the work of a writer who, while incredibly intelligent and witty, is maybe a little unsure about the whole writing thing. He seeks to impress a little too much. Which is not say that I don’t recommend those books heartily, just maybe not to start with. My humble opinion places the trilogy, Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnameable, at the apex of Beckett’s oeuvre and near the apex of western literature. There is really nothing like those three books. However, they are a commitment, and while they ease one into the rapid breathless prose of The Unnameable, it might be a little much for some. So, Watt. It has all the best bits of Beckett, and we have a gorgeous copy.
Watt was written, as mentioned during the Second World War, but it was not published until after Beckett’s amazingly productive period after the war. He wrote some his most famous works, including Waiting for Godot, Endgame, the above mentioned trilogy. With the success of Godot and co. making publishing much easier for Beckett, this novel appeared only to be somewhat over-shadowed by the postwar work written in French. It is a brilliant work, though.
We have a great collection of Beckett’s works at Bibliohead, including the reason behind this post. Watt. We also have a cheap, pocket edition of the above mentioned trilogy and more. Come check it out!