In 1958, Samuel Beckett wrote to his confidante Barbara Bray that in his “new moan” he was “trying to find the syntax of extreme weakness, penury perhaps I should say.” To the writer Leslie Daiken he wrote that composition was “like trying to make a shape with dust & not much of it” (214). Out of that dust and stylistic indigence emerged Comment c'est, which he translated as How It Is. Its unpunctuated discrete paragraphs that report at second hand the purgatorial regimen of a train of beings—of Being, too—through ceaseless moistened dust, are monosyllabic, monadic, and monotonous, despite a lurid road tale of bespattered sadistic scapegraces and masochistic scapegoats slouching toward Bethlehem to be born. Then trading places to slouch again.

Echoing the French atrocities committed during the current Algerian War, the novel's Sadism is universal and unrelieved by comedy or salacity, a mechanistic alternation of reflexive...

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