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.
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.
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 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.
davidtheherring 27th March 2005 09:01 PM
i think that's the smiley that Sam would have chosen, had he chosen one, which, on balance is unlikely - he's not renowned for being a smiley kind of guy...
I think of Beckett's work as scribblings in the marginalia of our lives. At least, I think that for the purposes of this thread, which is a summary of stuff I myself scribbled in the margins of my Calder copy of MPTK.
I see from my green a white fronted copy, 1993 edition, that i last read MPTK on a train sitting next to a woman reading a review called the "Manual of classical erotology" - I was so intrigued by the title that I scribbled it down in the margin of p89 of Sam's book and, that day, I may not have gone much further - cos I then copied down passages of the review that I must have read over this lady's shoulder, trying, no doubt, to determine if it was a serious work of scholarship or some tatty porn. You be the judge from the quote I transcribed, "the fiery red of clitoris glowing and sticking out of its black mass of curls".
Other annotations of my copy of MPTK show all the words that Beckett uses that I didn't then have in my personal lexicon*, for example, fulcrate, aliquots, ebriety, joxers (and that's just pages 44-45)
* and, I have to admit, my personal lexicon is still bereft of this foursome...
Yet more scribblings I used to underline the punchlines of Beckett's jokes. Cos, yes! Sam is as funny a geezer on the page as anyone alive or dead (withthe possible exceptions of Mark Twain and Pam Ayres). So on p41, at the end of a 10 line paragraph that starts "Not the least charm of this pure blank movement..." Sam adds the sentence. "But very nearly the least". A classic which I commend to your closer attention. Or, then again... *
* ah, I was looking for another example, but alas there is none. None I underlined that is; for Beckett is one of the funniest, mordant and unflinchingly witty writers there is. Don't trust me on this. Go read his stuff. It's funny!
The final category of annotation I included in my reading of MPTK was to highlight passages that quote Dante, or latin, or obscure philosophers - again an admission of personal ignorance I have failed to rectify, but also the recognition of a CLUE to understaning Sam. Cos Beckett, here in his juvenilia (he wrote MPRK in 1934), gives more of his source material away than in his later works where, if you're lucky, the best you can guess without years studying him for your doctorate, is "that sounds a bit like the Bible".
All in all then, MPTK was a good book to write in the margins of and I highly recommend that you write in yours. You get a copy from Amazon's auction pages (with the odd note written in the margins!)