This novel by Maylis Besserie, the first of her Irish trilogy, showsÂ 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 oneÂ of his own stage productions, peopled with strange, unhingedÂ individuals, waiting for the end of days.
Yell, Sam, If You Still Can is filled with voices. From diary notes to clinical reportsÂ to daily menus, cool medical voices provide a counterpoint toÂ Beckett himself, who reflects on his increasingly fragile existence.Â He remains playful, rueful, and aware of the dramatic irony that hasÂ brought him to live in the room next door to Winnie, surroundedÂ by grotesques like Hamm or Lucky, abandoned by his wife SuzanneÂ who died before him.
Besserie delights in Beckett’s bilingualism and plays back and forthÂ between the francophone and anglophone properties of language, summoning James Joyce as Beckett reminisces about evenings theÂ two spent together singing, talking and drinking. Largely writtenÂ in the library of the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Besserie has kept theÂ hum of Irish voices throughout this work.
Yell, Sam, If You Still Can won the “Goncourt du premier roman”, the prestigiousÂ French literary prize for first time novelists, just before the country went into lockdown. Besserie is now planning a further two novelsÂ that will explore the links between Ireland and France and is toutedÂ as the new star of the French literary world.
Financial Times Book of the Year 2022