- Expected 31 Mar 2020
Beckett's first 'literary landmark' (St Petersburg Times) is a wonderfully savoury introduction to the Nobel Prize-winning author. Written in 1932, when the twenty-six-year-old Beckett was struggling to make ends meet, the novel offers a rare and revealing portrait of the artist as a young man. When submitted to several publishers, all of them found it too literary, too scandalous or too risky; it was only published posthumously in 1992. As the story begins, Belacqua - a young version of Molloy, whose love is divided between two women, Smeraldina-Rima and the little Alba - 'wrestles with his lusts and learning across vocabularies and continents, before a final "relapse into Dublin"' (New Yorker). Youthfully exuberant and Joycean in tone, Dream is a work of extraordinary virtuosity.
Although perhaps more accessible, Beckett's previously unpublished first novel features characters, themes, and the unique style characteristic of his later prose works ( More Pricks Than Kicks , Molloy , etc.). Written in English in 1932 when Beckett was 26 and living in Paris, the clearly autobiographical Dream was roundly rejected by publishers. Beckett put it aside, later entrusting it to O'Brien for posthumous publication in order not to offend friends and peers caricatured therein. Main character Belacqua, a writer and teacher, is clearly Beckett himself, although a ``Mr. Beckett'' also appears later in the work. The fair to middling women of the title range from ditzy to abrasive, while one male friend is described as ``a persecution'' and an ``illegitimate cretin.'' Moving from Ireland to France to Germany (and from English to French to German, not to mention Italian and Latin), the novel is a literary smorgasbord. Discussions of music and writing jockey with tantalizing references to Hesse, Dmitiri Karamazov and ``George Bernard Pygmalion'' interrupted by the occasional aside from the narrator--``(Query: why do professors lack the gusts to get sons? Elucidate.)'' Compared to the Nobel Prize winner's later exquisite fiction, poetry and plays, some of the writing in this book seems immature, but it does stand on its own as a lively and thought-provoking read. ( May)