Review: ‘Samuel Beckett’s Roman "Watt": eine Untersuchung des gnoseologischen Grundzuges’ by Gottfried Büttner, Carl Winter Universitatsverlag, Heidelberg, 1981.


Konrad Schoetl



This is a very original approach to Watt which should raise interest and discussion far beyond Germany. According to Dr. Büttner Samuel Beckett’s novel allows the reader an extension of consciousness into new realms of being, an insight into the irrational, an entry into the world of the unborn and the dead. The novel reads as a sequence of different states of consciousness and, indeed, of life. Structural analysis is by no means the author’s main interest, but it is used - together with the themes of making love, pregnancy and delivery - to support the inter­pretation of Watt as a novel of rebirth: Watt is shown as a wanderer in the world beyond, crossing the border on entering Mr. Knott’s house. Parts II and III of the novel then take place in the spiritual world, and the beginning of part IV in the uterus before a rather coarse rebirth.


This main thesis, very roughly outlined here, is developed by a method which combines biographical, psychological and anthropological approaches; Dr Büttner, originally a physician, trained in psychology, has far-reaching literary and artistic interests, and he has been a friend of Samuel Beckett’s for at least 15 years. Knowing as we do how scarce are the indications which Beckett chooses to give as to the meaning of his work, we must be glad to find some substantial hints and remarks quoted in this book which should - together with similar material collected by Deirdre Bair - help one day to found something like Beckett’s poetics.