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Cover of Grove's 1977
English paperback version
AuthorSamuel Beckett
PublisherGrove Press
Publication date

The "fizzles" are eight short prose pieces written by Samuel Beckett:

  • Fizzle 1 [He is barehead]
  • Fizzle 2 [Horn came always]
  • Fizzle 3 Afar a Bird[1]
  • Fizzle 4 [I gave up before birth][2]
  • Fizzle 5 [Closed place]
  • Fizzle 6 [Old earth]
  • Fizzle 7 Still
  • Fizzle 8 For to end yet again

Some fizzles are unnamed and are identified by their numbers or first few words, which appear above in brackets.

Except for Still, which he wrote in English (1972), Beckett wrote the rest in French (1960) and translated them into English later. Hardback (1976) and paperback (1977) English versions were published by Grove Press.[3] The fizzles are also included in Grove's collection The Complete Short Prose 1929-1989. In 1976, a French version, Pour finir encore et autres foirades, was published by Editions de Minuit[4] and another English version by Calder Publications.[5] Because Beckett felt that the order of presentation was unimportant, each of the three publishers adopted a different one.[6] However, the order chosen by Grove Press, in which they appear above, has become standard.


In 1972, Vera Lindsay, who was working as an editor at Petersburg Press,[7] conceived of a collaboration of Beckett with Jasper Johns. In 1973, Johns met Beckett in Paris, where they agreed to work together on a version of Fizzles, with the understanding that Beckett would translate his French texts into English.[8] Because Beckett gave Johns free rein to design the book, he decided to include only five fizzles, but in both languages. In order of appearance, Johns chose fizzles: 2, 5, 1, 6, and 4.[9]

In Paris, Johns made etchings for the book, with the aid of Aldo Crommelynck. They used a variety of intaglio techniques, to create 33 images. In addition, end papers, designed by Johns, were printed as four-color lithographs by William Law at Petersburg Press. Johns took much of the imagery from his painting Untitled 1972,[10] but he also created numerals that introduce the fizzles and a "table of contents", which incorporates stenciled letters from his repertoire.[11] In 1976, Petersburg Press published the resulting artist's book under the title Foirades/Fizzles, in an edition of 250 copies, signed by both creators.[11]

In 1977, shortly after it was published, the book was exhibited, from October 11 to November 20, at the Whitney Museum of American Art.[11] Since then it has appeared in numerous shows,[12] including the landmark Museum of Modern Art exhibit: A Century of Artists’ Books, which ran from October 23, 1994 to January 24, 1995.[13] The exhibit catalog includes an essay, Artists’ Books in the Modern Era 1870-2000, whose authors, Johnson and Stein, referring to Foirades/Fizzles, state:

This cerebral volume that provokes more questions than it answers is considered one of the greatest artist's books of the second half of the twentieth century.[14]

In popular culture[edit]

The fizzles have had a significant impact, not only on literature, but also on music and the visual and performing arts. They have been the subject of scholarly works,[15] and academic theses.[16] Fizzles has inspired theatrical performances.[17] So has the artist's book,[18] which has also inspired modern paintings.[19]

The English composer and musician Barry Guy released in 1993 his interpretation on the eponymous CD Fizzles (Maya Recordings) playing chamber bass and double bass. His ordering of pieces is as follows (with the timings):

1 Free Fall 6:32 2 Fil Rouge 2:33 3 Hilibili Meets...The Brush 10:45 4 Five Fizzles (For S.B.) 10:40 5 Invention - The Bird Of Infinity 8:18 6 Afar 2:50 7 ...But The Clouds... 5:54 8 Tout Rouge 2:59 9 Still 8:09 10 Toujours Rouge 1:46 11 She Took The Sacred Rattle And Used It (To Ray A. Bear).

On June 15, 2012, Spitalfields Music presented the world premier of Old Earth.[20] Sets for this production were designed by Lucy Wilkinson,[21] it was directed by Jonathan Holmes, and Beckett's words were spoken by Alan Howard. The score was written by Alec Roth[22] and performed by The Sixteen directed by Harry Christophers.


  1. ^ Beckett, Samuel. "Text of Fizzle 3". Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  2. ^ Beckett, Samuel. "Text of Fizzle 4". Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  3. ^ Beckett, Samuel (1977). Fizzles. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 9780802111937. Retrieved 2012-05-19.
  4. ^ Beckett, Samuel (1976). Pour finir encore et autres foirades. Paris: Editions de Minuit. pp. 53. ISBN 978-2707301123.
  5. ^ Beckett, Samuel (1976). For to End Yet Again and other Fizzles. London: Calder Publications. p. 54. ISBN 9780714536002.
  6. ^ Johnstone, Patrick. "A note on the order of the Fizzles and their titles". Birkbeck University of London. Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  7. ^ Cornwall-Jones, Paul; Tamie Swett. "Petersburg Press website". Artnet. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  8. ^ White, Edmund (October 1977). "Jasper Johns and Samuel Beckett". Christopher Streer. 20 (2): 48–55. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  9. ^ Perloff, Marjorie (1983). "6". The Space of a Door (PDF). The Poetics of Indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. p. 201. ISBN 0-8101-1764-9. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  10. ^ Johns, Jasper (1997). "Untitled. 1972". Museum Ludwig, Ludwig Donation, Cologne. The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2012-05-21. Oil, encaustic, and collage on canvas with objects (four panels)
  11. ^ a b c Goodman, Judith (1977). Foirades/Fizzles: Catalog for an Exhibition October 11, - November 20, 1977. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  12. ^ "Harvard Art Museums Present Exhibition of Jasper Johns's "Crosshatch" Works of the 1970s". Harvard Art Museums. April 20, 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-28.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Riva Castleman (October 23, 1994). "A Century Of Artists Books" (PDF). See p3 of this press release. The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
  14. ^ Tranter, Rhys (August 2009). "Rare edition of Beckett's Foirades/Fizzles". A Piece of Monologue. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
  15. ^ Pireddu, Nicoletta Pireddu (1998). "Sublime Supplements: Beckett and the Fizzling Out of Meaning". In Cathleen Culotta Andonian (ed.). The Critical Response to Samuel Beckett. Westport, Conn. and London: Greenwood Press. pp. 391–401. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
  16. ^ Hager, Stephen R. (2010). ""For to End Yet Again": Continuity and Closure in Samuel Beckett's Fizzles". Honors Thesis;Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Emory University. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
  17. ^ Gussow, Mel (December 16, 1984). "Drama: Beckett Pieces". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
  18. ^ Klein, Alvin (May 9, 1993). "Exploring Essentials Of Life And Death". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
  19. ^ Crockett, Alan (2012). "Fizzles (for Beckett)". Large, colorful abstract paintings. Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
  20. ^ "Old Earth: Summer Festival 2012". Spitalfields Music. June 15–16, 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-06-17. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  21. ^ "Biography of Lucy Wilkinson". Bush Theatre. Archived from the original on 2013-04-19. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  22. ^ "Biography of Alec Roth". Signum Classics. Archived from the original on 2012-06-20. Retrieved 2012-06-18.