Samuel Beckett
Digital Manuscript Project

Writing Sequence of L'Innommable

This visualization offers a hypothesis on how Beckett filled the pages of the two notebooks he used for his first draft of L'Innommable, sentence by sentence. Using the BDMP's sentence numbers for the work as a starting point, it (1) shows where each sentence is written (i.e. on which page in which notebook); (2) indicates where each sentence would eventually end up (in the published text); and (3) visualizes an editorial hypothesis on the sequence in which these sentences were written. These goals are achieved by a sequence of five different visualizations, the last of which (STEP 5) offers an animated interpretation of the writing sequence.

Please be advised that although STEPS 1 to 4 should work on most browsers, using Firefox will offer the best results. The animation in STEP 5, on the other hand, only works correctly in Firefox.

STEP 1: Retracing each sentence to the notebooks

In this table, each sentence is visualized as a single square: the left column contains all the sentences on the verso pages in the two notebooks, the right column contains those on the recto pages (mostly drafts for sentences that also appear on the facing leaf). Hovering over a square will show you the relevant sentence's number (as used in the BDMP). Clicking on the square will bring you to the Synoptic Sentence View of that sentence.

STEP 2: Cross-referencing the published edition

Starting from the table of STEP 1, we have cross-referenced the sentences in the notebooks (i.e. the table on the left) to their position in the published text (i.e. the grid on the right). In this visualization, the sentences are colour coded to represent the different 'sections' in the book as they were discerned in Van Hulle and Weller's The Making of Samuel Beckett's L'Innommable / The Unnamable. In the left column, transparent squares represent sentences that are not yet in the manuscript, but that will appear in the published book, and dark grey squares represent sentences that can be found in the manuscript, but no longer in the published book. In other words: the transparent sentences were added at a later stage in the writing process, and the dark grey sentences were deleted somewhere along the way. Like in STEP 1, you can hover over the sentences to display their numbers, and click on a sentence to visit its Synoptic Sentence View. As an added advantage, hovering over each sentence in the manuscript now also shows you where that sentence occurs in the published book (and the other way around).

STEP 3: Distorted mirror

This visualization transforms the table from STEP 2 into a grid, to make the relation between the manuscript and the published version clearer. This third visualization shows you at a glance how alike the manuscript and the book really are. There is a large section in the beginning that was added later on (the transparent area); a few sentences here and there were later deleted (the dark grey dots); and some passages were shuffled around (the first pink streak), but otherwise the manuscript and the published text are quite similar. Like in the STEP 2, hovering over the sentences will display their number and equivalent sentences, and clicking on a sentence will direct you to its Synoptic Sentence View.

STEP 4: More detail

By reducing the manuscript's sentences to a grid, some crucial information was lost in STEP 3. The main disadvantage of the previous visualization is that it no longer made clear which sentences were written on which page in the manuscript. As a result, the sentences are all presented in their 'documentary' order. This means that a draft version on page 05r of a sentence on the facing leaf will only occur after all the sentences that were written on page 04r - regardless of where that sentence belongs from a textual perspective. This may cause some confusion as to the exact sequence in which these sentences appear in the notebook. To resolve this and similar issues, STEP 4 offers a more nuanced visualization that uses diacritical signs for sentences that require more explanation. Here, plus signs (+) represent draft versions of sentences on the facing leaf; crosses (X) represent sentences that are already deleted in the manuscript; and arrows (← and →) point in the direction where a sentence will be moved at a later stage in the writing process. Like in the STEP 3, hovering over the sentences will display their number and equivalent sentences, and clicking on a sentence will direct you to its Synoptic Sentence View.

STEP 5: Animated writing sequence

This last visualization displays an animation that shows each sentence in the notebook in the sequence in which we think Beckett wrote them. Click on 'Animate!' to start the animation. The animation conveys the editor's hypothesis that Beckett started writing on page 01r, continued for a while, and then went back to write what will become the beginning of the novel. It also conveys our interpretation that the two loose leaves that were attached to the back cover of the first notebook were written around the time that Beckett had reached page 22v of that notebook. Like in the STEP 4, hovering over the sentences will display their number and equivalent sentences, and clicking on a sentence will direct you to its Synoptic Sentence View.

REMEMBER: This animation only works correctly in Firefox.