Critical Context (Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The long novels of Beckett’s earlier career, followed in the 1950’s by dramatic work such as Waiting for Godot (1952) and Endgame (1957), were in turn succeeded by shorter and shorter prose pieces, considered by some as mere exercises in anticipation of yet another great prose work. It seemed that Beckett was following the patterns of his fictive counterparts, with longer and longer pauses between shorter and shorter “failures to not express.” Minimalist pieces such as Fizzles (1976), a series of half-starts lasting only a page or two each, seemed to indicate that Beckett was simply emptying his notebooks of previous exercises or intentionally publishing fragments of what was to be a major final masterpiece. Surprisingly, Company, although fairly short, is a three-dimensional, fully articulated work. There is no sense that the piece is a part of something larger; on the contrary, it expresses with considerable economy the whole spectrum of Beckett’s gifts, reflecting the storytelling qualities of Murphy (1938), the exasperating logic of Watt (1953), the ontological forlornness of Waiting for Godot, and the philosophical complexity of The Trilogy (Molloy, 1951; Malone Dies, 1956; The Unnamable, 1958).

Beckett’s prose work is often adapted to radio and the stage. Company was given a reading on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) by Patrick Magee (1980), and staged versions have been attempted at the National Theatre (London, 1980) and Mabou Mines (New York, 1983).