B.O.S.S. Eccentrically Erudite Exercise #24
. . . I must feel something, yes, I feel something, they say I feel something, I don’t know what it is, I don’t know what I feel, tell me what I feel and I’ll tell you who I am, they’ll tell me who I am, I won’t understand, but the thing will be said, they’ll have said who I am, and I’ll have heard, without an ear I’ll have heard, and I’ll have said it, without a mouth I’ll have said it, I’ll have said it inside me, then in the same breath outside me, perhaps that’s what I feel, an outside and an inside and me in the middle, perhaps that’s what I am, the thing that divides the world in two . . .
- Samuel Beckett - The Unnamable (1953)
For if we shall choose to bifurcate, to not go on, but also go on, to be two in one or at least one of the two—too much for some, to which some may say—all the while unpacking the puzzle of sanity and purpose while not necessarily guaranteeing a sane purpose, only then will our existence be or our being exist together, within:
Watt by Samuel Beckett
And reading Watt is going to be cool for the following reasons:
Samuel Beckett was intensely prolific, penning novels, short fiction, plays, poetry, letters—all in high quantity and quality—throughout his lifetime. Whatever we choose to read will barely scratch the surface! How can one really ever read it all? This dilemma, of course, fits well with the theme of confronting one’s own mortality that runs through much of his work.
In addition to continually showcasing ways to laugh at the emptiness and absurdity of death and/or existence, the arc of Beckett’s work displays the author’s own personal development as an artist. Early works like Murphy (1938) were written in English and delivered quirky, scholastic humor steeped in philosophical introspection. After having relocated to Paris and transitioning to writing in the French language, Beckett moved deeper into the avant-garde — though it should be noted that his goal of writing in French was to avoid “style” altogether. His three novels of Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable — arguably the same novel, rewritten each time in increasingly expansive, noisy streams —are often regarded as his fiction masterworks.
Right on the cusp of this Beckett transition is his 1953 novel Watt, a highly metaphysical journey with philosophical and mathematical underpinnings. Dear reader, it has both fun and bleak, unanswerable questions. Beckett himself said that he wrote it merely as an exercise. Let the games begin!
Let’s shoot for a halfway meet-up around the end of August and a finale in late September.
Nick -B.O.S.S. Department of Unwinnable Existence
Post-script: If you are seeking some extra curriculars, grab a copy of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, too. We’ll be doing a podcast on the play in August.
Post-post-script: Artwork for this round was created by B.O.S.S. mainstay and game designer Travis Schau and printed by Nathan Sharp.