Cover stories: Beckett answers; Arab focus; Penguin tasters

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The Independent Culture

Brigitte Le Juez made a fascinating discovery while at Trinity College Dublin, researching her thesis on Samuel Beckett: a notebook that had belonged to one of his students when he lectured there in 1930-31. The results of her travails will be published on 8 April, by Souvenir Press as Beckett Before Beckett: Samuel Beckett's Lectures on French Literature and will "answer many previously unanswered questions about his work and the writers he studied and was influenced by".

* The second Abu Dhabi Book Fair has just concluded and next month sees a focus on the Arab world at the London Book Fair, where Alaa al-Aswany, author of The Yacoubian Building, will be among the guests. With an eye on financial rewards that may take less time to reap than in China and India, markets where major publishers are now setting out their stalls, media giant Bertelsmann has announced the launch of a new venture, Random House Arabia. It is a savvy move, for as the first in they will be able to set up and hold sway over distribution networks. It is also an intelligent one, for only, by such cultural bridge-building will the problems between the Arab world and the west be solved. Bloomsbury is said to be poised to make a similar announcement.

* In the old days sample chapters were offered to customers in bookshops. Now, if you fancy a taster of what's to come, you can often download it from a publisher's website. Penguin is the latest to join the party, and is offering a series of Tasters to read onscreen or print off, or download to iPhones, Palms and BlackBerrys. As of last week, around 50 titles are available, including work, by new writers and old favourites such as Nicci French and Marina Lewycka the full first chapter and, in some cases, several chapters plus, where appropriate, introductions. New titles will be added weekly. Check out