Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

How It Is

by Samuel Beckett

“The absolute sureness of design. . . built phrase by phrase into a beautifully and tightly wrought structure–a few dozen expressions permuted with deliberate redundancy accumulate meaning even as they emptied of it, and offer themselves as points of radiation in a strange web of utter illusion.” –Hugh Kenner

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 128
  • Publication Date October 01, 1965
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5066-0
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $15.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date December 01, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9880-8
  • US List Price $15.00

About The Book

How It Is is a novel by Samuel Beckett first published in French as Comment c’est by Les Editions de Minuit in 1961. Grove Press published Beckett’s English translation in 1964.

The title is Beckett’s literal translation of the French phrase, comment c’est (how it is), a pun on the French verb commencer or ‘to begin’.

The text is divided into three parts:

1. “before Pim” – the solitary narrator journeys in the mud-dark until he encounters another creature like himself thereby forming a “couple”.

2. “with Pim” – the narrator is motionless in the mud-dark until he is abandoned by Pim.

3. “after Pim” – the narrator returns to his earlier solitude but without motion in the mud-dark.

In a letter (April 6, 1960) to Donald McWhinnie at BBC Radio Drama, Beckett explained his strange text as the product of a ” ‘man’ lying panting in the mud and dark murmuring his ‘life’ as he hears it obscurely uttered by a voice inside him… The noise of his panting fills his ears and it is only when this abates that he can catch and murmur forth a fragment of what is being stated within… It is in the third part that occurs the so-called voice ‘quaqua’, its interiorisation and murmuring forth when the panting stops. That is to say the ‘I’ is from the outset in the third part and the first and second, though stated as heard in the present, already over.”

Tags Literary

Praise

“It is one thing to be informed by Shakespeare that life “is a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing”; it is something else to encounter the idea literally presented in a novel by Samuel Beckett.But I am reasonably certain that a sensitive reader who journeys through How It Is will leave the book convinced that Beckett says more that is relevant to experience in our time than Shakespeare does in Macbeth.It should come as no surprise if a decade or so hence How It Is is appraised as a masterpiece of modern literature.This poetic novel is Beckett at his height.” –Webster Schott

“A wonderful book, written in the sparest prose. . . . Beckett is one of the rare creative minds in our times.” –Alan Pryce-Jones

“What is novel is the absolute sureness of design. . . built phrase by phrase into a beautifully and tightly wrought structure–a few dozen expressions permuted with deliberate redundancy accumulate meaning even as they emptied of it, and offer themselves as points of radiation in a strange web of utter illusion.” –Hugh Kenner

Excerpt

1

how it was I quote before Pim with Pim after Pim how it is three parts I say it as I hear it

voice once without quaqua on all sides then in me when the panting stops tell me again finish telling me invocation

past moments old dreams back again or fresh like those that pass or things things always and memories I say them as I hear them murmur them in the mud

in me that were without when the panting stops scraps of an ancient voice in me not mine

my life last state last version ill-said ill-heard ill-recaptured ill-murmured in the mud brief movements of the lower face losses everywhere

recorded none the less it’s preferable somehow somewhere as it stands as it comes my life my moments not the millionth part all lost nearly all someone listening another noting or the same

here then part one how it was before Pim we follow I quote the natural order more or less my life last state last version what remains bits and scraps I hear it my life natural order more or less I learn it I quote a given moment long past vast stretch of time on from there that moment and following not all a selection natural order vast tracts of time

part one before Pim how I got here no question not known not said and the sack whence the sack and me if it’s me no question impossible too weak no importance

life life the other above in the light said to have been mine on and off no going back up there no question no one asking that of me never there a few images on and off in the mud earth sky a few creatures in the light some still standing

the sack sole good sole possession coal-sack to the feel small or medium five stone six stone wet jute I clutch it it drips in the present but long past long gone vast stretch of time the beginning this life first sign very first of life

then on my elbow I quote I see me prop me up thrust in my arm in the sack we’re talking of the sack thrust it in count the tins impossible with one hand keep trying one day it will be possible

empty them out in the mud the tins put them back one by one in the sack impossible too weak fear of loss

no appetite a crumb of tunny then mouldy eat mouldy no need to worry I won’t die I’ll never die of hunger

the tin broached put back in the sack or kept in the hand it’s one or the other I remember when appetite revives or I forget open another it’s one or the other something wrong there it’s the beginning of my life present formulation

other certainties the mud the dark I recapitulate the sack the tins the mud the dark the silence the solitude nothing else for the moment

I see me on my face close my eyes not the blue the others at the back and see me on my face the mouth opens the tongue comes out lolls in the mud and no question of thirst either no question of dying of thirst either all this time vast stretch of time

life in the light first image some creature or other I watched him after my fashion from afar through my spy-glass sidelong in mirrors through windows at night first image

saying to myself he’s better than he was better than yesterday less ugly less stupid less cruel less dirty less old less wretched and you saying to myself and you bad to worse bad to worse steadily

something wrong there

or no worse saying to myself no worse you’re no worse and was worse

I pissed and shat another image in my crib never so clean since

I scissored into slender strips the wings of butterflies first one wing then the other sometimes for a change the two abreast never so good since

that’s all for the moment there I leave I hear it murmur it to the mud there I leave for the moment life in the light it goes out

on my face in the mud and the dark I see me it’s a halt nothing more I’m journeying it’s a rest nothing more

questions if I were to lose the tin-opener there’s another object or when the sack is empty that family

abject abject ages each heroic seen from the next when will the last come when was my golden every rat has its heyday I say it as I hear it

knees drawn up back bent in a hoop I clasp the sack to my belly I see me now on my side I clutch it the sack we’re talking of the sack with one hand behind my back I slip it under my head without letting it go I never let it go

something wrong there

not fear I quote of losing it something else not known not said when it’s empty I’ll put my head in it then my shoulders my crown will touch the bottom

another image so soon again a woman looks up looks at me the images come at the beginning part one they will cease I say it as I hear it murmur it in the mud the images part one how it was before Pim I see them in the mud a light goes on they will cease a woman I see her in the mud

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

that’s not all she stoops to her work again the needle stops in midstitch she straightens up and looks at me again she has only to call me by my name get up come and feel me but no

I don’t move her anxiety grows she suddenly leaves the house and runs to friends

that’s all it wasn’t a dream I didn’t dream that nor a memory I haven’t been given memories this time it was an image the kind I see sometimes see in the mud part one sometimes saw

with the gesture of one dealing cards and also to be observed among certain sowers of seed I throw away the empty tins they fall without a sound

fall if I may believe those I sometimes find on my way and then make haste to throw away again

warmth of primeval mud impenetrable dark

suddenly like all that was not then is I go not because of the shit and vomit something else not known not said whence preparatives sudden series subject object subject object quick succession and away

take the cord from the sack there’s another object tie the neck of the sack hang it from my neck knowing I’ll need both hands or else instinct it’s one or the other and away right leg right arm push pull ten yards fifteen yards halt

in the sack then up to now the tins the opener the cord but the wish for something else no that doesn’t seem to have been given to me this time the image of other things with me there in the mud the dark in the sack within reach no that doesn’t seem to have been put in my life this time

useful things a cloth to wipe me that family or beautiful to the feel

which having sought in vain among the tins now one now another in obedience to the wish the image of the moment which when weary of seeking thus I could promise myself to seek again a little later when less weary a little less or try and banish from my thoughts saying true true think no more about it

no the wish to be less wretched a little less the wish for a little beauty no when the panting stops I hear nothing of the kind that’s not how I’m told this time

nor callers in my life this time no wish for callers hastening from all sides all sorts to talk to me about themselves life too and death as though nothing had happened me perhaps too in the end to help me last then goodbye till we meet again each back the way he came

all sorts old men how they had dandled me on their knees little bundle of swaddle and lace then followed in my career

others knowing nothing of my beginnings save what they could glean by hearsay or in public records nothing of my beginnings in life

others who had always known me here in my last place they talk to me of themselves of me perhaps too in the end of fleeting joys and of sorrows of empires that are born and die as though nothing had happened

others finally who do not know me yet they pass with heavy tread murmuring to themselves they have sought refuge in a desert place to be alone at last and vent their sorrows unheard

if they see me I am a monster of the solitudes he sees man for the first time and does not flee before him explorers bring home his skin among their trophies

suddenly afar the step the voice nothing then suddenly something something then suddenly nothing suddenly afar the silence

life then without callers present formulation no callers this time no stories but mine no silence but the silence I must break when I can bear it no more it’s with that I have to last

question if other inhabitants here with me yes or no obviously all-important most important and thereupon long wrangle so minute that moments when yes to be feared till finally conclusion no me sole elect the panting stops and that is all I hear barely hear the question the answer barely audible if other inhabitants besides me here with me for good in the dark the mud long wrangle all lost and finally conclusion no me sole elect

and yet a dream I am given a dream like someone having tasted of love of a little woman within my reach and dreaming too it’s in the dream too of a little man within hers I have that in my life this time sometimes part one as I journey

or failing kindred meat a llama emergency dream an alpaca llama the history I knew my God the natural

she would not come to me I would go to her huddle in her fleece but they add no a beast here no the soul is de rigueur the mind too a minimum of each otherwise too great an honour

I turn to the hand that is free draw it to my face it’s a resource when all fails images dreams sleep food for thought something wrong there

when the great needs fail the need to move on the need to shit and vomit and the other great needs all my great categories of being

then to my hand that is free rather than some other part I say it as I hear it brief movements of the lower face with murmur to the mud

it comes close to my eyes I don’t see it I close my eyes something is lacking whereas normally closed or open my eyes

if that is not enough I flutter it my hand we’re talking of my hand ten seconds fifteen seconds close my eyes a curtain falls

if that is not enough I lay it on my face it covers it entirely but I don’t like to touch myself they haven’t left me that this time

I call it it doesn’t come I can’t live without it I call it with all my strength it’s not strong enough I grow mortal again

my memory obviously the panting stops and question of my memory obviously that too all-important too most important this voice is truly changeable of which so little left in me bits and scraps barely audible when the panting stops so little so faint not the millionth part I say it as I hear it murmur it to the mud every word always

what about it my memory we’re talking of my memory not much that it’s getting better that it’s getting worse that things are coming back to me nothing is coming back to me but to conclude from that

to conclude from that that no one will ever come again and shine his light on me and nothing ever again of other days other nights no

next another image yet another so soon again the third perhaps they’ll soon cease it’s me all of me and my mother’s face I see it from below it’s like nothing I ever saw

we are on a veranda smothered in verbena the scented sun dapples the red tiles yes I assure you

the huge head hatted with birds and flowers is bowed down over my curls the eyes burn with severe love I offer her mine pale upcast to the sky whence cometh our help and which I know perhaps even then with time shall pass away

in a word bolt upright on a cushion on my knees whelmed in a nightshirt I pray according to her instructions

that’s not all she closes her eyes and drones a snatch of the so-called Apostles’ Creed I steal a look at her lips

she stops her eyes burn down on me again I cast up mine in haste and repeat awry

the air thrills with the hum of insects

that’s all it goes out like a lamp blown out

the space of a moment the passing moment that’s all my past little rat at my heels the rest false

false that old time part one how it was before Pim vast stretch of time when I drag myself and drag myself astonished to be able the cord sawing my neck the sack jolting at my side one hand flung forward towards the wall the ditch that never come something wrong there

and Pim part two what I did to him what he said to me

false like that dead head the hand alive still the little table tossing in the clouds the woman jumping to her feet and rushing out into the wind

no matter I don’t say any more I quote on is it me is it me I’m not like that any more they have taken that away from me this time all I say is how last how last

part one before Pim before the discovery of Pim have done with that leaving only part two with Pim how it was then leaving only part three after Pim how it was then how it is vast tracts of time

my sack sole variable my days my nights my seasons and my feasts it says Lent everlasting then of a sudden Hallowmas no summer that year if it is the same not much real spring my sack thanks to my sack that I keep dying in a dying age

my tins all sorts dwindling but not so fast as appetite different shapes no preference but the fingers know no sooner fastened at random

dwindling in what strange wise but what is strange here undiminished for years then of a sudden half as many

these words of those for whom and under whom and all about the earth turns and all turns these words here again days nights years seasons that family

the fingers deceived the mouth resigned to an olive and given a cherry but no preference no searching not even for a language meet for me meet for here no more searching

the sack when it’s empty my sack a possession this word faintly hissing brief void and finally apposition anomaly anomaly a sack here my sack when it’s empty bah I’ve lashings of time centuries of time

centuries I can see me quite tiny the same as now more or less only tinier quite tiny no more objects no more food and I live the air sustains me the mud I live on

the sack again other connexions I take it in my arms talk to it put my head in it rub my cheek on it lay my lips on it turn my back on it turn to it again clasp it to me again say to it thou thou

say say part one no sound the syllables move my lips and all around all the lower that helps me understand

that’s the speech I’ve been given part one before Pim question do I use it freely it’s not said or I don’t hear it’s one or the other all I hear is that a witness I’d need a witness

he lives bent over me that’s the life he has been given all my visible surface bathing in the light of his lamps when I go he follows me bent in two

his aid sits a little aloof he announces brief movements of the lower face the aid enters it in his ledger

my hand won’t come words won’t come no word not even soundless I’m in need of a word of my hand dire need I can’t they won’t that too

deterioration of the sense of humour fewer tears too that too they are failing too and there another image yet another a boy sitting on a bed in the dark or a small old man I can’t see with his head be it young or be it old his head in his hands I appropriate that heart

question am I happy in the present still such ancient things a little happy on and off part one before Pim brief void and barely audible no no I would feel it and brief apostil barely audible not made not really for happiness unhappiness peace of mind

rats no no rats this time I’ve sickened them what else at this period part one before Pim vast stretch of time

the hand dips clawing for the take instead of the familiar slime an arse on his belly he too before that what else that’s enough I’m going

not the shit not the vomit something else I’m going the sack tied to my neck I’m ready first thing free play for the leg which leg brief void and barely audible the right it’s preferable

I turn on my side which side the left it’s preferable throw the right hand forward bend the right knee these joints are working the fingers sink the toes sink in the slime these are my holds too strong slime is too strong holds is too strong I say it as I hear it

push pull the leg straightens the arm bends all these joints are working the head arrives alongside the hand flat on the face and rest

the other side left leg left arm push pull the head and upper trunk rise clear reducing friction correspondingly fall back I crawl in an amble ten yards fifteen yards halt

sleep duration of sleep I wake how much nearer the last

a fancy I am given a fancy the panting stops and a breath-clock breath of life head in the bag oxygen for half an hour wake when you choke repeat five times six times that’s enough now I know I’m rested my strength restored the day can begin these scraps barely audible of a fantasy

always sleepy little sleep that’s how they’re trying to tell me this time sucked down spewed up yawning yawning always sleepy little sleep

this voice once quaqua then in me when the panting stops part three after Pim not before not with I have journeyed found Pim lost Pim it is over I am in part three after Pim how it was how it is I say it as I hear it natural order more or less bits and scraps in the mud my life murmur it to the mud

I learn it natural order more or less before Pim with Pim vast tracts of time how it was my vanished life then after then now after Pim how it is my life bits and scraps

I say it my life as it comes natural order my lips move I can feel them it comes out in the mud my life what remains ill-said ill-recaptured when the panting stops ill-murmured to the mud in the present all that things so ancient natural order the journey the couple the abandon all that in the present barely audible bits and scraps

I have journeyed found Pim lost Pim it’s over that life those periods of that life first second now third pant pant the panting stops and I hear barely audible how I journey with my sack my tins in the dark the mud crawl in an amble towards Pim unwitting bits and scraps in the present things so ancient hear them murmur them as they come barely audible to the mud

part one before Pim the journey it can’t last it lasts I’m calm calmer you think you’re calm and you’re not in the lowest depths and you’re on the edge I say it as I hear it and that death death if it ever comes that’s all it dies

it dies and I see a crocus in a pot in an area in a basement a saffron the sun creeps up the wall a hand keeps it in the sun this yellow flower with a string I see the hand long image hours long the sun goes the pot goes down lights on the ground the hand goes the wall goes

rags of life in the light I hear and don’t deny don’t believe don’t say any more who is speaking that’s not said any more it must have ceased to be of interest but words like now before Pim no no that’s not said only mine my words mine alone one or two soundless brief movements all the lower no sound when I can that’s the difference great confusion

I see all sizes life included if that’s mine the light goes on in the mud the prayer the head on the table the crocus the old man in tears the tears behind the hands skies all sorts different sorts on land and sea blue of a sudden gold and green of the earth of a sudden in the mud

but words like now words not mine before Pim no no that’s not said that’s the difference I hear it between then and now one of the differences among the similarities

the words of Pim his extorted voice he stops I step in all the needful he starts again I could listen to him for ever but mine have done with mine natural order before Pim the little I say no sound the little I see of a life I don’t deny don’t believe but what believe the sack perhaps the dark the mud death perhaps to wind up with after so much life there are moments

how I got here if it’s me no question too weak no interest but here this place where I begin this time present formulation part one my life clutch the sack it drips first sign this place a few scraps

you are there somewhere alive somewhere vast stretch of time then it’s over you are there no more alive no more then again you are there again alive again it wasn’t over an error you begin again all over more or less in the same place or in another as when another image above in the light you come to in hospital in the dark

the same as which which place it’s not said or I don’t hear it’s one or the other the same more or less more humid fewer gleams no gleam what does that mean that I was once somewhere where there were gleams I say it as I hear it every word always

more humid fewer gleams no gleam and hushed the dear sounds pretext for speculation I must have slipped you are in the depths it’s the end you have ceased you slip you continue

another age yet another familiar in spite of its strangenesses this sack this slime the mild air the black dark the coloured images the power to crawl all these strangenesses

but progress properly so called ruins in prospect as in the dear tenth century the dear twentieth that you might say to yourself to a dream greenhorn ah if you had seen it four hundred years ago what upheavals

ah my young friend this sack if you had seen it I could hardly drag it and now look my vertex touches the bottom and I not a wrinkle not one

at the end of the myriads of hours an hour mine a quarter of an hour there are moments it’s because I have suffered must have suffered morally hoped more than once despaired to match your heart bleeds you lose your heart drop by drop weep even an odd tear inward no sound no more images no more journeys no more hunger or thirst the heart is going you’ll soon be there I hear it there are moments they are good moments

paradise before the hoping from sleep I come to sleep return between the two there is all all the doing suffering failing bungling achieving until the mud yawns again that’s how they’re trying to tell me this time part one before Pim from one sleep to the next

then Pim the lost tins the groping hand the arse the two cries mine mute the birth of hope on with it get it over have it behind me feel the heart going hear it said you’re nearly there

be with Pim have been with Pim have him behind me hear it said he’ll come back another will come better than Pim he’s coming right leg right arm push pull ten yards fifteen yards you stay quiet where you are in the dark the mud and on you suddenly a hand like yours on Pim two cries his mute

you will have a little voice it will be barely audible you will whisper in his ear you will have a little life you will whisper it in his ear it will be different quite different quite a different music you’ll see a little like Pim a little life music but in your mouth it will be new to you

then go for good and no goodbyes that age will be over all the ages or merely you no more journeys no more couples no more abandons ever again anywhere hear that

how it was before Pim first say that natural order the same things the same things say them as I hear them murmur them to the mud divide into three a single eternity for the sake of clarity I wake and off I go all life part one before Pim how it was leaving only with Pim how it was leaving only after Pim how it was how it is when the panting stops bits and scraps I wake off I go my day my life part one bits and scraps

asleep I see me asleep on my side or on my face it’s one or the other on my side it’s preferable which side the right it’s preferable the sack under my head or clasped to my belly clasped to my belly the knees drawn up the back bent in a hoop the tiny head near the knees curled round the sack Belacqua fallen over on his side tired of waiting forgotten of the hearts where grace abides asleep

I know not what insect wound round its treasure I come back with empty hands to me to my place what to begin with ask myself that last a moment with that

what to begin my long day my life present formulation last a moment with that coiled round my treasure listening my God to have to murmur that

twenty years a hundred years not a sound and I listen not a gleam and I strain my eyes four hundred times my only season I clasp the sack closer to me a tin clinks first respite very first from the silence of this black sap

something wrong there

the mud never cold never dry it doesn’t dry on me the air laden with warm vapour of water or some other liquid I sniff the air smell nothing a hundred years not a smell I sniff the air

nothing dries I clutch the sack first real sign of life it drips a tin clinks my hair never dry no electricity impossible fluff it up I comb it that can happen there’s another object straight back there’s another of my resources was once not now any more part three there’s another difference

the morale at the outset before things got out of hand satisfactory ah the soul I had in those days the equanimity that’s why they gave me a companion

it’s still my day part one before Pim my life present formulation the very beginning bits and scraps I come back to me to my place in the dark the mud clutch the sack a tin clinks I make ready I’m going end of the journey

to speak of happiness one hesitates those awful syllables first asparagus burst abscess but good moments yes I assure you before Pim with Pim after Pim vast tracts of time good moments say what I may less good too they must be expected I hear it I murmur it no sooner heard dear scraps recorded somewhere it’s preferable someone listening another noting or the same never a plaint an odd tear inward no sound a pearl vast tracts of time natural order

suddenly like all that happens to be hanging on by the finger-nails to one’s species that of those who laugh too soon alpine image or speluncar atrocious moment it’s here words have their utility the mud is mute

here then this ordeal before I go right leg right arm push pull ten yards fifteen yards towards Pim unwitting before that a tin clinks I fall last a moment with that

enough indeed nearly enough when you come to think of it to make you laugh feel yourself falling and hang on with a squeak brief movements of the lower face no sound if you could come to think of it of what you nearly lost and then this splendid mud the panting stops and I hear it barely audible enough to make you laugh soon and late if you could come to think of it

escape hiss it’s air of the little that’s left of the little whereby man continues standing laughing weeping and speaking his mind nothing physical the health is not in jeopardy a word from me and I am again I strain with open mouth so as not to lose a second a fart fraught with meaning issuing through the mouth no sound in the mud

it comes the word we’re talking of words I have some still it would seem at my disposal at this period one is enough aha signifying mamma impossible with open mouth it comes I let it at once or in extremis or between the two there is room to spare aha signifying mamma or some other thing some other sound barely audible signifying some other thing no matter the first to come and restore me to my dignity

passing time is told to me and time past vast tracts of time the panting stops and scraps of an enormous tale as heard so murmured to this mud which is told to me natural order part three it’s there I have my life

my life natural order more or less in the present more or less part one before Pim how it was things so ancient the journey last stage I come back to me to my place clutch the sack it drips a tin clinks loss of species one word no sound it’s the beginning of my life present formulation I can go pursue my life it will still be a man

what to begin with drink to begin with I turn over on my face that lasts a good moment I last with that a moment in the end the mouth opens the tongue comes out lolls in the mud that lasts a good moment they are good moments perhaps the best difficult to choose the face in the mud the mouth open the mud in the mouth thirst abating humanity regained

sometimes in this position a fine image fine I mean in movement and colour blue and white of clouds in the wind sometimes some days this time as it happens this day in the mud a fine image I’ll describe it it will be described then go right leg right arm push pull towards Pim he does not exist

sometimes in this position I fall asleep again the tongue goes in the mouth closes the mud opens it’s I who fall asleep again stop drinking and sleep again or the tongue out and drink all night all the time I sleep that’s my night present formulation I have no other I wake from sleep how much nearer to the last that of men of beasts too I wake ask myself how much nearer I quote on last a moment with that it’s another of my resources

the tongue gets clogged with mud that can happen too only one remedy then pull it in and suck it swallow the mud or spit it out it’s one or the other and question is it nourishing and vistas last a moment with that

I fill my mouth with it that can happen too it’s another of my resources last a moment with that and question if swallowed would it nourish and opening up of vistas they are good moments

rosy in the mud the tongue lolls out again what are the hands at all this time one must always try and see what the hands are up to well the left as we have seen still clutches the sack and the right

the right I close my eyes not the blue the others at the back and finally make it out way off on the right at the end of its arm full stretch in the axis of the clavicle I say it as I hear it opening and closing in the mud opening and closing it’s another of my resources it helps me

it can’t be far a bare yard it feels far it will go some day on its four fingers having lost its thumb something wrong there it will leave me I can see it close my eyes the others and see it how it throws its four fingers forward like grapnels the ends sink pull and so with little horizontal hoists it moves away it’s a help to go like that piecemeal it helps me

and the legs and the eyes the blue closed no doubt no since suddenly another image the last there in the mud I say it as I hear it I see me

I look to me about sixteen and to crown all glorious weather egg-blue sky and scamper of little clouds I have my back turned to me and the girl too whom I hold who holds me by the hand the arse I have

we are if I may believe the colours that deck the emerald grass if I may believe them we are old dream of flowers and seasons we are in April or in May and certain accessories if I may believe them white rails a grandstand colour of old rose we are on a racecourse in April or in May

heads high we gaze I imagine we have I imagine our eyes open and gaze before us still as statues save only the swinging arms those with hands clasped what else

in my free hand or left an undefinable object and consequently in her right the extremity of a short leash connecting her to an ash-grey dog of fair size askew on its hunkers its head sunk stillness of those hands

question why a leash in this immensity of verdure and emergence little by little of grey and white spots lambs little by little among their dams what else the bluey bulk closing the scene three miles four miles of a mountain of modest elevation our heads overtop the crest

we let go our hands and turn about I dextrogyre she sinistro she transfers the leash to her left hand and I the same instant to my right the object now a little pale grey brick the empty hands mingle the arms swing the dog has not moved I have the impression we are looking at me I pull in my tongue close my mouth and smile

seen full face the girl is less hideous it’s not with her I am concerned me pale staring hair red pudding face with pimples protruding belly gaping fly spindle legs sagging knocking at the knees wide astraddle for greater stability feet splayed one hundred and thirty degrees fatuous half-smile to posterior horizon figuring the morn of life green tweeds yellow boots all those colours cowslip or suchlike in the buttonhole

again about turn introrse at ninety degrees fleeting face to face transfer of things mingling of hands swinging of arms stillness of dog the rump I have

suddenly yip left right off we go chins up arms swinging the dog follows head sunk tail on balls no reference to us it had the same notion at the same instant Malebranche less the rosy hue the humanities I had if it stops to piss it will piss without stopping I shout no sound plant her there and run cut your throat

brief black and there we are again on the summit the dog askew on its hunkers in the heather it lowers its snout to its black and pink penis too tired to lick it we on the contrary again about turn introrse fleeting face to face transfer of things swinging of arms silent relishing of sea and isles heads pivoting as one to the city fumes silent location of steeples and towers heads back front as though on an axle

suddenly we are eating sandwiches alternate bites I mine she hers and exchanging endearments my sweet girl I bite she swallows my sweet boy she bites I swallow we don’t yet coo with our bills full

my darling girl I bite she swallows my darling boy she bites I swallow brief black and there we are again dwindling again across the pastures hand in hand arms swinging heads high towards the heights smaller and smaller out of sight first the dog then us the scene is shut of us

some animals still the sheep like granite outcrops a horse I hadn’t seen standing motionless back bent head sunk animals know

blue and white of sky a moment still April morning in the mud it’s over it’s done I’ve had the image the scene is empty a few animals still then goes out no more blue I stay there

way off on the right in the mud the hand opens and closes that helps me it’s going let it go I realize I’m still smiling there’s no sense in that now been none for a long time now

my tongue comes out again lolls in the mud I stay there no more thirst the tongue goes in the mouth closes it must be a straight line now it’s over it’s done I’ve had the image

that must have lasted a good moment with that I have lasted a moment they must have been good moments soon it will be Pim I can’t know the words can’t come solitude soon over soon lost those words

I have had company mine because it amuses me I say it as I hear it and a little girl friend’s under the sky of April or of May we are gone I stay there

way off on the right the tugging hand the mouth shut grim the staring eyes glued to the mud perhaps we shall come back it will be dusk the earth of childhood glimmering again streaks of dying amber in a murk of ashes the earth must have been on fire when I see us we are already at hand

it is dusk we are going tired home I see only the naked parts the solidary faces raised to the east the pale swaying of the mingled hands tired and slow we toil up towards me and vanish

the arms in the middle go through me and part of the bodies shades through a shade the scene is empty in the mud the sky goes out the ashes darken no world left for me now but mine very pretty only not like that it doesn’t happen like that

I wait for us perhaps to come back and we don’t come back for the evening perhaps to whisper to me what the morning had sung and that day to that morning no evening

find something else to last a little more questions who were they what beings what point of the earth that family whence this dumb show better nothing eat something

that must have lasted a moment there must be worse moments hope blighted is not the worst the day is well advanced eat something that will last a moment they will be good moments

then if necessary my pain which of my many the deep beyond reach it’s preferable the problem of my pains the solution last a moment with that then go not because of the shit and vomit something else it’s not known not said end of the journey

right leg right arm push pull ten yards fifteen yards arrival new place readaptation prayer to sleep pending which questions if necessary who they were what beings what point of the earth

they will be good moments then less good that too must be expected it will be night present formulation I can sleep and if ever I wake

and if ever mute laugh I wake forthwith catastrophe Pim and end of part one leaving only part two leaving only part three and last

the panting stops I am on my side which side the right it’s preferable I part the mouth of the sack and questions what my God can I desire what hunger to eat what was my last meal that family time passes I remain

it’s the scene of the sack the two hands part its mouth what can one still desire the left darts in the left hand in the sack it’s the scene of the sack and the arm after up to the armpit and then

it strays among the tins without meddling with how many announces a round dozen fastens who knows on the last prawns these details for the sake of something

it brings out the little oval tin transfers it to the other hand goes back to look for the opener finds it at last brings it out the opener we’re talking of the opener with its spindle bone handle to the feel rest

the hands what are the hands at when at rest difficult to see with thumb and index respectively pad of tip and outer face of second joint something wrong there nip the sack and with remaining fingers clamp the objects against the palms the tin the opener these details in preference to nothing

a mistake rest we’re talking of rest how often suddenly at this stage I say it as I hear it in this position the hands suddenly empty still nipping the sack never let go the sack otherwise suddenly empty

grope in a panic in the mud for the opener that is my life but of what cannot as much be said could not as much be always said my little lost always vast stretch of time

rest then my mistakes are my life the knees draw up the back bends the head comes to rest on the sack between the hands my sack my body all mine all these parts every part

mine say mine to say something to say what I hear in Erebus in the end I’d succeed in seeing my navel the breath is there it wouldn’t stir a mayfly’s wing I feel the mouth opening

on the muddy belly I saw one blessed day saving the grace of Heraclitus the Obscure at the pitch of heaven’s azure towering between its great black still spread wings the snowy body of I know not what frigate-bird the screaming albatross of the southern seas the history I knew my God the natural the good moments I had

but last day of the journey it’s a good day no surprises good or bad as I went to rest so back I came my hands as I left them I shall lose nothing more see nothing more

the sack my life that I never let go here I let it go needing both hands as when I journey that hangs together ah these sudden blazes in the head as empty and dark as the heart can desire then suddenly like a handful of shavings aflame the spectacle then

need journey when shall I say weak enough later later some day weak as me a voice of my own

with both hands therefore as when I journey or in them take my head took my head above in the light I let go the sack therefore but just a moment it’s my life I lie across it therefore that hangs together still

through the jute the edges of the last tins rowel my ribs perished jute upper ribs right side just above where one holds them holds one’s sides held one’s sides my life that day will not escape me that life not yet

if I was born it was not left-handed the right hand transfers the tin to the other and this to that the same instant the tool pretty movement little swirl of fingers and palms little miracle thanks to which little miracle among so many thanks to which I live on lived on

nothing now but to eat ten twelve episodes open the tin put away the tool raise the tin slowly to the nose irreproachable freshness distant perfume of laurel felicity then dream or not empty the tin or not throw it away or not all that it’s not said I can’t see no great importance wipe my mouth that without fail so on and at last

take the sack in my arms strain it so light to me lay my cheek on it it’s the big scene of the sack it’s done I have it behind me the day is well advanced close the eyes at last and wait for my pain that with it I may last a little more and while waiting