Mark Byron: Fellowship Recipient

Mark Byron: Fellowship Recipient

I’m here undertaking a transcription of Samuel Beckett’s second novel, Watt. I’m looking at the manuscripts, the six manuscript notebooks, and compiling a full transcription. It’s a not terribly well understood text, I think, in Beckett’s canon and that’s reflected in the relatively small amount of criticism that has been attributed to it. One reason for that is that is has a very uneven surface structure as a published document and taking even a cursory glance at the manuscript it’s very apparent why that might be the case. It’s a visually arresting manuscript full of Beckett’s drawings and doodles and it’s very clear that his composition process was long and far from easy. There are often three or four or even more levels of crossings-out on any one page and learning to distinguish between those and learning not to distinguish between levels that you’re not quite sure about. It’s important to know where to draw the line with that too. So just the legibility of the material that is crossed out, some of it’s crossed out very vigorously so it’s very difficult to read it. Other passages are crossed out very lightly and it’s almost as though they’re not crossed out at all in terms of their legibility. It’s a very straightforward process in one sense. I come in each morning, set myself down with the manuscript, notebook, and my laptop and just proceed page by page. The only point of deflation there might be is when you turn the page and it’s absolutely abundantly full of illustrations, text and crossings-out and that’s when you have to rely upon the aforementioned stoicism and usually halfway through that page you’re as entertained as you are on any other page so it’s that sense of pushing it forward. The more you invest in it, the more you take out. I would hope that my transcription has the effect of sending people to the archive to read the document itself because there is nothing that replaces that experience. Certainly a transcription can aid you and can speed up the kinds of things that would slow you down normally, legibility of handwriting being foremost among them, but I’m hoping that will send people to the archive to explore those relationships further.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

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