Yell, Sam, If You Still Can
Le Tiers Temps
Publication Date: 9 June 2022
Yell, Sam, If You Still Can by Maylis Besserie, the first of her Irish trilogy, shows us Samuel Beckett at the end of his life in 1989, living in Le Tiers-Temps retirement home. It is as if Beckett has come to live in one of his own stage productions, peopled with strange, unhinged individuals, waiting for the end of days.
This novel is filled with voices. From diary notes to clinical reports to daily menus, cool medical voices provide a counterpoint to Beckett himself, who reflects on his increasingly fragile existence. He remains playful, rueful, and aware of the dramatic irony that has brought him to live in the room next door to Winnie, surrounded by grotesques like Hamm or Lucky, abandoned by his wife Suzanne who died before him.
Besserie delights in Beckett’s bilingualism and plays back and forth between the francophone and anglophone properties of language, summoning James Joyce as Beckett reminisces about evenings the two spent together singing, talking and drinking. Largely written in the library of the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Besserie has kept the hum of Irish voices throughout this work.
Yell, Sam, If You Still Can won the “Goncourt du premier roman”, the prestigious French literary prize for first time novelists, just before the country went into lockdown. Besserie is now planning a further two novels that will explore the links between Ireland and France and is touted as the new star of the French literary world.
PRAISE FOR YELL, SAM, IF YOU STILL CAN (LE TIERS TEMPS)
‘If the small detail can reveal the large life, and the tiny reveal the epic, then Maylis Besserie has uncovered the gem of an expansive life. This beautifully translated book is an evocation of Beckett’s last days, told from a variety of angles, all of which add up to a portrait of great humanity. Beckett goes on, even in spite of it all, with humour and grace and his own form of deep belief.’ COLUM MCCANN
‘The author uses her radio-producing skills to create a polyphonic world with a collage of distinct and interweaving documents and voices.’ KATHLEEN SHIELDS, DUBLIN REVIEW OF BOOKS
‘The last months of Samuel Beckett’s life are tested by the inner voice of the writer in the retirement home where he ended his life. Lunar and poignant.’ ANTOINE PERRAUD, LA CROIX
‘Recounting the last days of a writer whose main subject was finitude is a challenge. Maylis Besserie pulls off the exercise with finesse.’ VIRGINIE BLOCH-LAINÉ, ELLE
Listen to Maylis Besserie on RTÉ Arena here (interview begins at 20:10)
‘Remarkable … [Besserie] carries it off so convincingly, with such elan and poetic force … she evokes, subtly and with great skill, a fitting intensity, bleak lyricism and black humour … Yell, Sam, If You Still Can is the work of a writer already in command of a resonant style and a broad artistic reach’ JOHN BANVILLE, THE GUARDIAN
‘Besserie generates a pleasing mixture of black humour and occasional lyrical intensity. Credit here must also go to Clíona Ní Ríordáin, for her adroit translation … [a] provocative, intriguing, rewarding and audacious act of imagination’ EOGHAN SMITH, BOOKS IRELAND
FINANCIAL TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR
‘Imaginative, informed, magnificently written book about Samuel Beckett’s last days in a Parisian nursing home … full of Beckettian gallows humour’ ANNE CUNNINGHAM, MEATH CHRONICLE
‘Genuinely impressive … heartfelt emotion and sincerity are alternated with bathetic absurdity to dizzying but wonderful effect … experimental, bold, and polyphonic … a thought-provoking and powerful achievement.’ EVA WALL, CURIOUSER BOOKS
‘Remarkable’ SUNDAY INDEPENDENT
‘Seriously impressive … the action bounces between Paris and Ireland and is remarkably evocative … this exquisite, moving, and ambitious book would be a great present for any fiction reader in your life.’ SARAH HARTE, IRISH EXAMINER
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maylis Besserie was born in Bordeaux and now lives in Paris. She works as a producer for the radio channel France Culture. Besserie’s connection with Ireland started when her family sent her to spend summers in Ireland to learn English. Yell, Sam, If You Still Can (Le Tiers Temps) is her first novel. Read more.
ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR
Clíona Ní Ríordáin is Professor of English at the University Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3, where she teaches Irish literature and translation studies and convenes the Master’s programme in Irish Studies. Her most recent book is English Language Poets in University College Cork 1970-1980 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).
|Dimensions||136 × 216 mm|
9 June 2022
Paperback with flaps, 192pp.