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Paperback Molloy Book

ISBN: 039417027X

ISBN13: 9780394170275

Molloy

(Book #1 in the The Trilogy Series)

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

Molloy, the first of the three masterpieces which constitute Samuel Beckett's famous trilogy, appeared in French in 1951, followed seven months later by Malone Dies (Malone meurt) and two years later by The Unnamable (L'Innommable). Few works of contemporary literature have been so universally acclaimed as central to their time and to our understanding of the human experience.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

trips into a wall

Where the human will finishes, the absurd begins. It is also the start of the death of humanity. The task of narrating this disintegration is Beckett's purpose in this novel. It is a purposeless task. "The truth is I haven't much will left", says Molloy. How can a novel ever be sustained on that? The disappearrance of mankind leaves the lonely self, a bag of bones, in front of God's mystery. and God's silence. With their lack of will, it becomes difficult to distinguish one person from another. Consciousness becomes impossible. It has to be filled with stories. Any kind of stories; true, false, meaningful or not. The writer is somebody standing at an observation post. His mother is the breeder of a foul race, humankind, now nearly extinct. Man is now neither man nor beast. And the writer merely observes this and tries to understand. Which is difficult, because things become nameless just as names describe nothing. What to make with words which are not meanings or references but particles of an ever disintegrating reality? "And even my sense of identity was wrapped in a namelessness often hard to penetrate". The narrator wonders about his reality, both as an author and as a human being. His lack of command over words destroys the world, which becomes unnamable or "foully named". One solution, if one is passionate about truth, is to speak little. Can it be that we are not free, not free to speak? If human life is a burial ground, the narrator, like the author, has chosen to be a mere spectator. The thing to contribute to life is merely our "presence", only. We can study while we are here: anthropology, astronomy, magic... it is just a manner of killing time. If man is alone, then the world may be at an end. Still, all things in it hang together, as if by mystery. And this, instead of proving a solution, only adds to our sense of wonderment. And it can never be spoken, but there it is. In this state, thinking is asking oneself questions merely for the sake of looking at them. This is the spirit of the "incurious seeker", the one who is finally prepared to learn. In Part Two we meet Jacques Moran, a private detective who is to narrate his own experience of pursuing Molloy. Knowing that he has been chosen to perform a unique task, he becomes anxious. As different from Molloy, the detective seems to be an ordered, rational man. Nevertheless, he is beset by the same kind of questions that rouble Molloy. For instance, he is engaged to accomplish a mission that he cannot fully understand. Like Molloy, he has a problem with the purposefulness of life. But while Molloy has surrendered his will completely to the absurd, Moran's is a rationality which is just about to crack, and his process of psychic disintegration is started as he first gets in touch with the Molloy affair. Life becomes inenarrable. People become multiple. Two Molloys Morgan has to follow: the one inside himself and the one outside. Life becomes a stage of mirrors. Which is the tru

Molloy (Audiobook version)

This is a fabulous dramatic interpretation and realization of Beckett's greatest novel (really two loosely connected monologues). The actors are superbly in character and have the appropriate voices to convey the self-satisfied bewilderment of Molloy and bewildered self-satisfaction of Moran. It's a fitting cliche that this Audiobook brings the novel vividly to life. My only quibble is the recording quality, which is good, but does not attain Naxos' highest standard of transparency.

The Promise

Molloy is a novel that influenced the writing of novels to come after it. Samuel Beckett was among many of the writers after World War II who experienced "the anxiety of influence" and the shadow of Modernism. It was among many novels written in the 1940's that defined a space for new literature to exist in, where it had never been quite before. Modernism on the whole was perhaps not as experimental as we would like to think, and actually most of its authors were conservatives and reactionaries. James Joyce was not though, that is why he is the most influential writer of the 20th century. Joyce's main contribution was radical literary activity, using some Modernist techniques, creating his own language, and bringing all of history and science and literature into one book. Samuel Beckett on the other hand was concerned with language itself, its ability to express ideas or to mirror reality, and those concerns have become our own. Molloy is both about the writing of the novel and the search of a character, and perhaps by the end of the novel we still do not know what has happened. Beckett introduces new elements into the serious novel such as the detective story and the self-reflexive narrative. And like a mystery story, Molloy is a search for the self, for truth, for a modern idiom, but unfortunately without arriving there. Going back further than Joyce, to the 19th century where the bourgeois novel form was more or less firmly established by writers such as Dickens and Eliot, it would be interesting to compare that literary institution with what I will call "the Post-Modern novel" or Beckett's novel. In a standard 19th century novel we look for such conventions and characteristics such as plot, characterization, time, place, linear narrative, character motivation, and excellent use of the English language. If a novel does not live up to these expectations, we refer to it a bad novel or a novel which prattles. These conventions of the novel have fooled us into thinking it mirrors reality and experience. Modernism's achievement in such writers such as Joyce and Proust is to go beyond the 19th century novel and exist as a work of hyper-reality. One can use such a work as Ulysses to be directed through the city of Dublin since it is more real than "real." But one should not make the mistake of "Academic criticism, . . . (which) uses the word "realism" as if reality were already completely established (Robbe-Grillet 155)." Experience is both fictional discourse and fact "and it is never possible to decide which of the two possibilities is the right one (De Man 23)." If Joyce is going beyond realism, Beckett goes the other way with his literature, which can be called the literature of disappointments. Rather than plot, there is storytelling without progression; instead of characterization, there is lack of character depth; there is no specific time or place, we often wonder where we are, whether months or days or hours have passed; instead of a l

Tinkering with the Hinder-Side of Language

Having disposed of the third person narrative in Watt, Beckett focused on the difficulties of articulating personal experience in the first person. Beckett is disengaged from the narratives of Molloy by giving them to the character's to write, but is present throughout the text because he doesn't have the answers to give to the characters to explain who they are and what they are to write. The structure that results is an empty frame in that it considers one explanation for a historical occurrence as valid as the next. The space in which Molloy exists is highly ambiguous and therefore the language he uses to narrate does not provide any comfort at all, but aggravates him to the point where he can extract no meaning at all from his existence. Moran begins his narrative in an ordered space and so many of the statements he makes at the beginning are simple, declarative and create a comfortable area for him to inhabit. This is where Beckett finds it necessary to impose the structure of a genre model, but it is only the proposition of a detective plot because the "case" isn't carried out in any intelligible fashion. Moran's task to find Molloy eventually becomes clear to be only an internal one. A separate physical being called Molloy may very well exist within the story, but numerous cross-connections between the characters of Molloy and Moran are illuminated in the structure. This is seen in the similarity of their names and the manner in which Moran takes on many of the characteristics of Molloy. For example, they are similar in their physical disintegration, lack of understanding for their environment and complex internal processes of reasoning which leave them with no clear understanding of reality. This results in a mystification of anything actual in the character's lives because language cannot support the fictional character's lack of substantial being.If language presupposes a set of initial limitations it is necessary to find a method to breach them. Molloy examines a kind of ontological condition of narrative that suggests more is being left unwritten than is actually being written: Not to want to say, not to know what you want to say, not to be able to say what you think you want to say, and never to stop saying, or hardly ever, that is the thing to keep in mind, even in the heat of composition. He suggests that it is a human condition to be unable to really express oneself as well as being a fault of language. Rather than see language as a smooth path towards self-expression he sees numerous irregular bumps, the nots, which cut away at the original intended thought. Instead of trying to find an ulterior mode of expression he suggests that expression should simply be conscious of these limitations of language. In this way language is able to delete itself in the midst of its expression. Words are not deleted on the paper, but expressed and then claims are made afterward that the intention of the word does not inhabit the content. A conclu

After Ulysses, the greatest novel of the twentieth century.

"Molloy" is the best of the Beckett trilogy, the whole of which has been sadly ignored by readers in lieu of the (inadequate) texts of Beckett's plays. In summary of the "plot" of "Molloy" I prefer the critic who calls it "a grim revery of empty progress through time and space." The book is a glory. Playful within its leadenness, parodically plotted, it is the perfect and ultimate expression of everything in human experience unencompassed by joy, light, hope, and faith. What remains, however,is, nevertheless, humanity, warmth and...the darkest, keenest, most mordant utterances ever set to the page. Let readers not be deceived by the note that the book has been "translated" from the French. This is a masterpiece of the English language, translated by Beckett himself, who was generous enough to let a youngster have a byline. If it really is better in the French, they sure are lucky.
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