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Molloy Malone Dies the Unnamable by Samuel…

Molloy Malone Dies the Unnamable (original 1951; edition 1965)

by Samuel Beckett

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Title:Molloy Malone Dies the Unnamable
Authors:Samuel Beckett
Info:GROVE PRESS (NY) (1965), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:20th century, irish literature, modernism

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Molloy; Malone Dies; The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett (1951)

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
i feel like all bernhard emanated from molloy, and kinbote too. ( )
  wensley | Dec 20, 2013 |
To try and review the Three Novels separately would require far too many words for here. These stories are masterpieces and Beckett was at the top of his game. Readers looking for any semblance of a plot, happy endings, strict narrative, or answers to any questions should probably opt for something in their local aeroports. Beckett has provided those who tag along an epistemological breakdown of life and its intricacies, failures, and rejections of desire and appeal. Each voice or creation (use of the term "character" is far too simplistic) strives for an end. The end can be viewed as death, a change of location, being given answers, or finding purpose. However, Beckett refuses to give readers an ending. Each novel leaves off with a consciousness in a position of continuing against its will. This decision by Beckett is either to further his usually humanist perspective of ending silence or wishing readers to come to terms with their own uncontrollable entropy. He was never clear, so it is up to readers to infer what these 'M' fellows wish to communicate.

When reading, one should not try to ascribe any conventional means of interpretation, however. By this, I mean labelling the novels as commentary on a particular historical event or somehow deciding Beckett is a Science Fiction writer. Beckett knew exactly what he was doing when he sought to sever the mind from its weak body and by the last sentence of The Unnameable, we might not be able to conclude what exactly has transpired over the past several hundred pages, but we know something -- what we just read has ever happened before in literature. Indeed, I highly doubt it will ever happen again. You're flipping through the pages of genius when reading these novels and if you don't walk away feeling a bit queasy or as if your world has been rattled a bit... you might want to try again. ( )
  hovercraftofeels | Oct 1, 2013 |
Molloy might be my favourite novel at the moment, especially the second part. I really like all the talk about bees. Very beautiful and funny. ( )
  motleystu | Sep 7, 2013 |
(The Grove Companion to Samuel Beckett, by C. J. Ackerley and S. E. Gontarski and the 1970 monograph Samuel Beckett: a new approach, a study of the novels and plays by G. C. Barnard, have been invaluable in preparing this essay.)

Molloy embarks on a quest to find his mother. Moran undertakes an investigation to find Molly. An old man named Malone lies on his deathbed, telling himself stories. A legless man in a jar talks and talks. As far as plots go, the storylines of Samuel Beckett's Trilogy* remain rather thin. But before embarking on an examination of these three groundbreaking novels, it helps to understand the literary and global situation of the time. Written shortly after the devastation of World War 2, Beckett wrote these three novels in a period of feverish creativity he called "the siege in the room," roughly from 1946 to 1950. What followed were the three novels, Molloy and Malone Dies in 1951, followed by The Unnamable and the play Waiting for Godot in 1953.

What these novels attempt to do is wrestle with the ideas of existence, identity, and writing. Beckett wrote these spare, sparse, pessimistic works in reaction to Ulysses and Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, a major influence and early mentor to Beckett. As a novelist, what could Beckett do after Joyce's two novels? What he did was push the novel further than it had ever gone, stripping away character, plot, and setting. This is why critic William Gass has placed these three novels in what he calls "the permanent avant-garde." Regardless of the ebbs and flows of artifice and authenticity, formalism and naturalism, and the mainstream and the underground, The Trilogy will always be groundbreaking and will always be relevant.

In my introduction to this series, I asserted that Samuel Beckett was a science fiction writer. On the surface, this sounds like heresy, or at least grounds to start a flame war. But how is Beckett any different in investigating the riddles of identity than, say, Philip K. Dick? Both thrived as Mid-Century Modernists. The diptych of Molloy, with Moran searching for Molloy until Moran comes to resemble Molloy, reads like a variant of Dick's A Scanner Darkly, with Agent Fred and the drug user Bob Arctor swirling about each other in a dystopian California.

The story gets an added layer of complexity with Malone Dies, since Malone's stories may or may not be fictitious. He also refers to Molloy, Moran, Murphy, and Mercier, the latter two protagonists in earlier Beckett novels. When Malone finally dies, the narrative trails off into nothingness, with a few unfinished sentences that peter out on the page. In The Unnamable Beckett attempts to erase existence itself, the story, if one can call it that, a hallucinatory parade of images and scenarios. Stylistically, it reads like a novel-length version of the Molly Bloom soliloquy at the end of Ulysses, but that was easy: the reader knows who is talking and about whom she is talking. Beckett uses stream-of-consciousness but negates the "I", along with constantly shifting pronouns. There are no referential anchors to guide the reader, but the reader is inexorably pulled along. The propulsive nature of the prose forces the reader to read on. The third novel finally ends, after a tour de force of paragraphless pages that eventually shed full stops (.) with the famous words, "I can't go on. I'll go on."

While The Trilogy has been analyzed and critiqued from a highbrow literary perspective, I want to look at these three novels from the perspective of a science fiction fan. Molloy is about a quest (Molloy's for his mother) and a detective story (Moran for Molloy), but the Molloy-Moran pairing can be seen in the Tyler Durden-Narrator pairing in David Fincher's Fight Club. With The Unnamable and its shifting perspectives, we have a novel very relevant to our hyper-mediated, app-obsessed, avatar-laden post-9/11 lives. One sees this with Zoe's avatar in Caprica, a personality created by collecting her online data. The premise of The Unnamable is a twist on old Cartesian assertion, "I speak, therefore I am." Beckett's profoundly pessimistic, occasionally physically disgusting passages are a prescient harbinger to the blather, word-vomit, and more-noise-than-signal tsunamis that populate Internet discussion threads and Facebook posts on an hourly basis. Internet users create and discard avatars in much the same way Malone creates stories and delusions. "Where now? Who now? When now? Unquestioning. I, say I. Unbelieving. Questions, hypotheses, call them that. Keep going, going on, call that going, call that on." When there is no narrator and there is no "I" to attach to a speaker, what is left? In the shadow of the World War 2's devastation and James Joyce's verbal excess, Beckett wrote The Trilogy to see what was left of humanity when it was stripped of its possessions (as in Molloy), its life (in Malone Dies), and its ability to speak (in The Unnamable).

* Beckett disavowed the use of the word "trilogy" in reference to these works, opting for Three Novels instead.



http://driftlessareareview.com/2012/10/19/cclap-fridays-on-being-human-the-trilo... ( )
  kswolff | Oct 19, 2012 |
Wow, this was hard work. Such a weird turn of phrase. Difficult to read but rewarding but I am still not sure if I enjoyed it or not. I found myself looking at the page numbers working out how many pages were left - not a good sign. The first story about Molly has only two paragraphs - one is less than a page long and the next is about 80 pages long, mad. I haven;t the energy or will to move on to the next story - maybe later, life is too short. ( )
  martymojito | Dec 29, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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Beckett, Samuelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bowles, PatrickTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Josipovici, GabrielIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I am in my mother's room.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802150918, Paperback)

Samuel Beckett's brilliance as a dramatist--as the creator of Waiting for Godot, Krapp's Last Tape, and that despairing pas de deux Endgame--has tended to overshadow his gifts as a novelist. Yet he's unmistakably one of the great fiction writers of our century. As a young man he took dictation (literally) from James Joyce, and absorbed everything that myopic maestro had to offer when it came to Anglo-Irish prosody. Still, Beckett's instincts would ultimately steer him away from Joyce's delirious play with high and low diction, toward a more concentrated, even compulsive style. His earlier novels, like Murphy or Watt, give us a taste of what was to come. But Beckett truly hit his stride with a trilogy of early-1950s masterpieces: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable. Here he dispenses with all the customary props of contemporary fiction--including exposition, plot, and increasingly, paragraphs--and turns his attention to consciousness itself. Nobody has ever evoked the pain of existence, or the steady slide toward nonexistence, with such poetic, garrulous accuracy. And once you've attuned yourself to the epistemological vaudeville of Beckett's prose, he turns out to be the funniest writer on the planet--ever.

None of the three entries in the trilogy is exactly amenable to summary. It's fair to say, though, that Molloy is the easiest to read, with at least a bare-bones narrative and an abundance of comical set pieces. In one famous episode, the narrator spends page after page figuring out how to vary the sucking stones he carries in his pockets:

And while I gazed thus at my stones, revolving interminable martingales all equally defective, and crushing handfuls of sand, so that the sand ran through my fingers and fell back on the strand, yes, while thus I lulled my mind and part of my body, one day suddenly it dawned on the former, dimly, that I might perhaps achieve my purpose without increasing the number of my pockets, or reducing the number of my stones, but simply by sacrificing the principle of trim. The meaning of this illumination, which suddenly began to sing within me, like a verse of Isaiah, or of Jeremiah, I did not penetrate at once, and notably the word trim, which I had never met with, in this sense, long remained obscure.
This nutty ratiocination goes on for much, much longer, until the narrator loses patience and throws the stones away. And that's a fair encapsulation of Beckett's philosophy: he argues for the essential pointlessness of life--the solitary, wretched splendor of human existence--but does so in a comic rather than a tragic register, which ends up softening or even overpowering the bleakness of his initial premise. So Malone Dies opens with a typically morbid mood-lifter ("I shall soon be quite dead at last in spite of it all") and then makes endless comedic hay out of Malone's failure to keel over. And by the time we hit The Unnamable, we're forced to wonder whether the narrator actually exists: "I, say I. Unbelieving. Questions, hypotheses, call them that. Keep going, going on, call that going, call that on." Happily, Beckett worried these same questions and hypotheses to the end of his career, with increasingly minimalistic gusto. But he never topped the intensity or linguistic brilliance of this mind-bending three-part invention. --James Marcus

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:48 -0400)

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