Watt. ‘Traveller’s Companion’ edition





Special Collections PR6003 E282 W3



Paris: Olympia Press


Beckett’s ugly duckling, Watt was written ‘in dribs and drabs’ in Roussillon (south-eastern France) during WWII, while Beckett was hiding from the Gestapo. Long thought unpublishable, Watt emerged in 1953, in a hideous magenta cover and riddled with typographical errors, from the Olympia Press. Other ‘unusual’ books from Olympia included Fanny Hill, The Debauched Hospodar, de Sade’s Justine and Nabokov’s Lolita. This 1958 Traveller’s Companion retains the original errors, which took scholars sixty years to correct. Watt, travelling by train to the abode of Mr Knott, encounters Mr Dum Spiro, editor of Crux (‘the popular Catholic monthly’). Spiro ponders the rat that swallows a consecrated wafer: what happens to the Real Body? He cites theological authorities, but Watt, listening to voices that constitute an imperfect paradigm (challenge: find the anomaly), understands little. Many readers (including J.M. Coetzee) consider Watt their favourite Beckett text. The ugly duckling has turned into that rara avis, a black swan.
(Chosen by Chris Ackerley, Emeritus Professor, Department of English and Linguistics, Otago)


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Samuel Beckett, “Watt. ‘Traveller’s Companion’ edition,” ourheritage.ac.nz | OUR Heritage, accessed February 8, 2023, https://otago.ourheritage.ac.nz/items/show/9916.