When I Was A German and All That Spring
Responses to
Our Reviews of
When I Was A German
All That Spring

To: poo@cts.com
Subject: All That Spring

Hello, Ralph,

Say, can you give me a bit more information about Samuel Beckett's "All That Spring" which you briefly touch on here:


None of the bookstores I searched (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, books.com, alt.bookstore) have any information about it.

If I can find a page with a more complete description, I might add a link to that page here:



Don Wilson
San Francisco


>Dear Don:

>Thanks for your note.

>It's a totally spurious review of a nonexistent book, put together by someone who loves Beckett's radio play
All That Fall, done with what he believed was Beckett's sense of the ridiculous.

The joke's on me, but I had a good laugh, too. I should have realized that the humor is a spoof, actually, of some of Beckett's more well known scenes. Some of the one liners ("Brazil nut") sound like they're right out of M.A.S.H.

>I looked at your Beckett website, and it is generally quite excellent. However I notice that you don't have any mention of the BBC's radio production of All That Fall --- the one done by Donald McWinnie. It came out in 1957 or 1958. When I was a volunteer at KPFA, it was scheduled, and I was the one who put it on the air.

I remember hearing All That Fall on KPFA, but I can't remember when. It might have been as recently as ten years ago and it might have been the Billie Whitelaw version. I was quite disappointed when Maddy laughed. It sounded to me like the laugh of a mean, skinny old witch -- a horrible loud cackle -- rather than the hearty full laugh of a jolly (albeit rather pained) plump lady.

Since I already knew the play well, I was listening for the title line (The Lord upholdeth...) and, especially, the stage direction that followed (Silence. They join in wild laughter.) For me, Maddy's laugh ruined what should have been a very funny in-joke.

Anyhow, this is definitely not the 1958 BBC version. And I guess you must have decided that the other one I have a link to isn't, either. (1971, produced by Dean Stockwell; doesn't list the actors).

>I got an interesting call from a woman who had heard the same play over RDF (the French Broadcasting System). Evidently Beckett translated it into French. She said that the English version merely hinted at the fact that the heavy, Mr. Rooney, had murdered a child --- pushed him out of the window of the train; this fact, she said, was far more specific in the French text.

It's fairly specific in English, too, isn't it?

    (Pause. Children's cries.) Mr. Rooney: What was that?

    Mrs. Rooney: The Lynch twins, jeering at us.

    Mr. R: Will they pelt us with mud today?

    Mrs. R: Let us turn and face them.

    Mr. R: Did you ever wish to kill a child? (Pause.) Nip some young doom in the bud? (Pause.) Many a time at night, in winter, on the black road home, I nearly attacked the boy [Jerry, who was leading him].

>If you have never heard the BBC's version of the play, you should move heaven and earth to do so.

I will certainly try. At least earth.

>I was in community radio for many years, and of all the plays I heard, All That Fall was by far the most subtle, funny, wry, almost diabolical. I think it is probably the best thing that Beckett ever did.

It was certainly his best radio play. Real people doing real things and even a little bit of a plot.

>As you know, it is ostensibly a day going to the railroad station to meet her blind husband, and walk home with him. She meets other characters coming and going, and their comments make it damn near an Existential Allen's Alley.

Great metaphor.

>Now, years later, lines from the play keep turning up in my head. It is Everyman (or Everywoman) making the Journey of Life --- and, as with everything that Beckett does, the simplest acts become complex, soul shaking, eternal. "What are you doing Mr. Tyler?" "Looking through the windscreen, Mrs. Rooney, into the void." The BBC was very prissy back then, so Beckett stuck quite a few slightly off-color references --- just to push a few executive BEEB buttons.

I love the double entendres, including even the names (Mr. Slocum, Miss Fitt).

>Best of all are the sound effects that Donald McWinney created.

Beckett's plays launched the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, I believe, which reached its peak with The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

>If you can ever find a copy of the BBC version, please let me know. My tape finally fell apart after so many playings, and I'd love to have another.

Last time I looked, nothing by Beckett was available at the BBC Shoppe. I've emailed them a couple of times asking why, but they've never replied. If I have time, I'll try and pursue it, and I'll certainly get back to you if I discover a tape of All That Fall.

>I wrote to Beckett shortly before he died, and asked if he could get a release for me so I could play it over some of our other stations. He wrote me an aerogramme that I could barely read --- his handwriting was as obscure as some of his philosophical concepts --- but I think he said that the Queen's Charter prevented him from getting such a release.

I thought the Beeb was independent of Queen and country. Maybe you can get permission now, if you're still interested in doing so. Here's two people that might be able to assist you:


>Sorry if I gave you a start with my fake review.

Hey, I love a practical joke as much as the next guy. Congratulations on your faked level of veracity.

--- Don Wilson


In reference to your review of When I Was A German at


Has my old friend Lolita Lark confused Northcliffe with Beaverbrook?

I look forward to reading the book.

--- HGG1932@aol.com

Our reviewer responds:

Good point, but we were as confused as was Herr Lange of the SS. He said, in the chapter entitled "Interrogation,"

    "I understand you are the niece of Lord Bayarferbrook," he said. I had been wishing he would not bring that one up. The one word which has not been written quite clearly on Peter's note [a note smuggled to her from Ravensbruck]. Had he written "thinks Chris niece Beaverbrook" or "thought." Had he left Lange in his error or had he corrected his mistake?

    There were advantages in claiming relationship with either one or the other. Lord Bayarferbrook was Minister of Aircraft Production in England and if I had to offer Lange post-war help [she was thinking that in order to save her husband, she might have to help Lange later on] in exchange for the destruction of Peter's file, then the Beaver was the better bet. On the other hand my uncle Rothermere was a candidate of some merit. He had visited Hitler in the early thirties, had been immensely impressed and had for some time insisted on holding high the Daily Mail banner on the wrong crusade. Better of course if I could adopt them both, but what was it I had said? Blood will tell. I settled for Rothermere and, in my eagerness to please, I almost pronounced it Rozzermere.

We need more alert readers like you.

--- Your friends at Ralph

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