Fail Better






"Fair Better": What It Means. Your Thoughts Wanted.


Possibly the most famous passage in all of Beckett outside of Waiting for Godot is this snippet from Worstward Ho: "All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
Let us note first off here that this quotation is often given in a truncated form, most typically "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." However, it is not clear that this makes self-contained syntactical sense without the two preceding sentences: "All of old. Nothing else ever."
What the statement means, not even philosophically but at a basic syntactic and semantic level, is open to interpretation. The intuition, correctly, is that it is possible to restate these clipped propositions less ambiguously, less impressionistically, without loss of meaning.
For example, Colin Greenlaw's "elaboration" reads as follows: "Everything is as it was of old. There's never been anything else. I've never tried anything else, never failed at anything else. But it doesn't matter: I'll try again, I'll fail again. I'll fail better than I did before."
Do you agree with this reading? In particular, it seems hard to accept that "Ever tried. Ever failed." stands for "I've never tried anything else, never failed at anything else." Does not the original seem to imply that things have indeed been tried, not 'untried'?
Then again, I think we must assume that the "ever" in "ever tried" and "ever failed" is meant to be, syntactico-semantically, the same "ever" as in the preceding sentence: "Nothing else ever." Which may suggest that Colin Greenlaw may have a point after all?
What do you think? How would you rephrase the quote best to clarify its meaning?

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