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Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable

Samuel Beckett Becket Trilogy

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#1 OFFLINE   Gryfynn

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Posted 12 February 2017 - 01:14 AM

I probably need to start this topic by pointing out that I listened to the Naxos Audiobook editions of these books. I did not read them myself, I do however think this was the best way.

It's difficult to give a plot summary for the trilogy, barring the first book, which at least has something that seems like a basic plot. However there are all kinds of mysteries wrapped up in the trilogy, which make it all the more enjoyable. Are Malone, Molloy and Moran simply the same person? A satisfactory answer is never really given.

Molloy:

The book tells the story of how Molloy leaves home to go to see his mother and how various events and his own disorientation prevent him from doing so. The second half of the book is told from the perspective of Moran, an agent for an unknown (possibly fictitious) organisation who is sent to find Molloy in the company of his son.

Malone Dies:

The second book picks up the story of an old man by the name of Malone, who is dying in an unknown location with unknown people bringing his food and emptying his chamberpot. He tells a rather rambling disjointed story to pass the time.

The Unnamable:

The unnamable is the most difficult book in terms of text. It's a fragmented, disjointed monologue by a nameless entity who may or may not be any of the above characters who has lost the ability to do anything but speak.

 

I found the whole trilogy in itself very difficult to read, but not because it was badly written. The text is hard going and I did find myself rereading parts of the book to be sure I had understood what had been said. However the tragic way in which Beckett represents the human condition perhaps resonated with me somewhat, since I have a physical disability.

Over the course of each book the circumstances of the characters becomes worse and worse, particularly their own physical condition. Both Molloy and Moran are left almost unable to move at the end of the first book, while Malone is left to starve without the use of his stick, which he has lost and cannot retrieve, and the monolog of the unnamable becomes more and more despairing as the book progresses.

I could see echoes of his later plays in the trilogy too, particularly from Waiting for Godot.

I remember upon finishing the 3rd book feeling a profound sense of despair and hopelessness, but also beauty. Human beings are capable of nastiness, cruelty, kindness and beauty, but you never know what you're going to be on the receiving end of. Above everything it did make me realise that, for the most part, we waste a lot of time in meaningless action, maybe because we don't really want to think about what we should be doing with our time. Maybe this resonates more because so many of us spend so much time online these days, social media and always need to be contactable. It would be harder just to disappear like Molloy or Moran now, but we've come up with so many brilliant ways of distracting ourselves from life and living.

 

I know I had other thoughts, but I still haven't managed to get my head around all of them yet. I definitely feel these were just made to be listened to though. Sean Barret does an incredible job, especially with the Unnamable, its just amazing to listen to the way he performs the text.



#2 OFFLINE   lunababymoonchild

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Posted 12 February 2017 - 08:53 AM

Thanks very much for this Gryfynn, I found your review very interesting. I've never read Becket and did not know that he wrote novels, so I'll check him out.

#3 OFFLINE   Grammath

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 01:09 PM

I've read other Beckett prose, but not this trilogy. I'm not sure enjoyed is the right word for what I got out of reading the four short works collected in the Penguin Modern Classic First Love and other novellas, as, like these, they are dense and difficult works, but worth putting the effort in. 

 

Although Beckett handles large concepts and initially seems bleak and depressing in the work I've either read or seen on stage, he leavens it with lashings of dark and absurd humour, and for me that's what makes his work accessible.   



#4 OFFLINE   lunababymoonchild

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 03:46 PM

I've decided that I'm going to give this one a go, at some point this year



#5 OFFLINE   Gryfynn

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 06:17 PM

Although Beckett handles large concepts and initially seems bleak and depressing in the work I've either read or seen on stage, he leavens it with lashings of dark and absurd humour, and for me that's what makes his work accessible.   

 

This exactly! but it's also the moments of pure tenderness that make his work worth reading too. And the fact that he seems to know just the right amount of bleak hopelessness readers could possibly take before throwing in something completely absurd and terribly amusing. I found myself flicking between a terrible despair and rolling about laughing at some comments.

 

β€œThe blue face! The obscene protrusion of the tongue! The tumefaction of the penis! The penis, well now, that's a surprise, I'd forgotten I had one. What a pity I have no arms, there might still be something to be wrung from it. No, 'tis better thus. At my age, to start manstuprating again, it would be indecent. And fruitless. And yet one can never tell. With a yo heave yo, concentrating with all my might on a horse's rump, at the moment when the tail raises, who knows, I might not go altogether empty-handed away. Heaven, I almost felt it flutter!” Samuel Beckett - The Unnamable

 

 

I have the complete short prose 1929-1989, but after 3 weeks of nothing but Beckett I really need a break, plus the audio for this recording doesn't seem to be as good, but I expect I will put the effort in later in the year.

 

I have only just today managed to pick up another book and start reading. I was literally unable to settle myself to another book after this, there was so much that was going through my brain.



#6 OFFLINE   Dan

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 07:25 PM

Yes, yes ,yes, to all of the above! This trilogy was a pure revelation when I read it 30 odd years ago. And, though I remember very little of it now, except for snapshots of the view when I looked up from the book to ponder, my biggest takeaway was realizing we all live in a solipsistic universe where we can never actually know what anyone else is thinking or experiencing. And that our individual world doesn't necessarily jibe with that of those around us, being a projection of our thoughts, dreams, emotions, and beliefs onto a neutral screen.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one- Albert Einstein

#7 OFFLINE   momac

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 07:55 PM

:lol:  Dan, do you think that is the reason that we have trouble with the alternative universe of Donald Trump.



#8 OFFLINE   Grammath

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 11:22 AM

This exactly! but it's also the moments of pure tenderness that make his work worth reading too. And the fact that he seems to know just the right amount of bleak hopelessness readers could possibly take before throwing in something completely absurd and terribly amusing. I found myself flicking between a terrible despair and rolling about laughing at some comments.

 

Agreed. I can't remember specifically about the book I mentioned above, but in the plays I've seen Beckett can show real compassion for his characters' plights. I'm thinking particularly of Happy Days and Endgame.



#9 OFFLINE   lunababymoonchild

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Posted 17 February 2017 - 05:15 PM

Would somebody please tell me, are these three books meant to be read together i.e. in the one year?

#10 OFFLINE   Gryfynn

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Posted 17 February 2017 - 06:22 PM

the way I feel about it, it's really necessary to read the 3 books together, and because they are so deep, and in some ways complex, it probably does help to read them together. I don't think I could have left great big gaps between the two, but I really did feel wierd after nonstop Beckett for 3 weeks.



#11 OFFLINE   lunababymoonchild

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Posted 17 February 2017 - 07:06 PM

the way I feel about it, it's really necessary to read the 3 books together, and because they are so deep, and in some ways complex, it probably does help to read them together. I don't think I could have left great big gaps between the two, but I really did feel wierd after nonstop Beckett for 3 weeks.

Thank you Gryfynn, that's exactly what I will do.





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