While he is best known as a playwright, Samuel Beckett’s devotion to fiction and the novel predates by many years his involvement with the theater and has proceeded in tandem with it, giving to his entire output a unity and continuity which his plays, when taken alone, do not provide. It may be argued that the serious student must confront Beckett’s fiction in order to attain full exposure to the intellectual and aesthetic range and challenge of this twentieth century master.

Evidence of his commitment to fiction is perhaps most impressively provided by the series of works written in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The term “series” is used here merely for descriptive convenience: The author himself does not apply it to his later fiction, for reasons which readers familiar with the Beckett persona will readily understand. Having come to an apparent standstill imaginatively in his fiction with Comment c’est (1961; How It Is, 1964), and having conducted a number of crucial fictional experiments thereafter, notably in Imagination morte imaginez (1965; Imagination Dead Imagine, 1965), Beckett inaugurated the series in question with Pour finir encore et autres foirades (1976; Fizzles, 1976).

Ill Seen Ill Said is typical of the author’s later work in a number of ways, and these ways in turn constitute the critique of fiction which is an underlying preoccupation of these works and...

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