Molloy, Malone Dies, And the Unnamable: Overview

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Editor: D. L. Kirkpatrick
Date: 1991
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Work overview; Critical essay
Length: 1,523 words

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The trilogy Molloy (1955), Malone Dies (1956), and The Unnamable (1958) is the culmination of Samuel Beckett's experimentation in prose fiction. The aforementioned dates are those of Beckett's own translations of the works into English, though they were originally written in French and published in Paris, the first two in 1951 and the last in 1953. Beckett himself has said that he began writing in French because the language had a softening or weakening effect upon the edge of his prose style, and even further ``en française c'est plus facile d'écrire sans style.'' Whatever the case, the trilogy is certainly a concerted attack upon the conventions of fiction, upon style, narration, character, and closure. To some, it represents the exhaustion of language, since, as the novels evolve, and page piles upon page, language becomes stripped of its properties of both denotation and connotation.

In Molloy, the reader is immediately plunged into uncertainty by a first-person narrator who is not at all sure of his own identity and a narrative that consistently curls about itself and refuses to move forward in any definite direction. It would seem that the speaker is indeed Molloy, sitting in his mother's room and writing, controlled by a sinister man who appears each week to pick up completed pages and leave a designated amount of money, but with none of this can Molloy be completely at ease. The story he tells has to do with a proposed visit to his mother, whom he calls Mag while she calls him Dan, though this is not his name, a mother with whom he communicates by rapping with his fist upon her skull. Though he is never to arrive at his mother's house, Molloy becomes embroiled in a series of adventures on his journey, wheeling himself along with crutches on a chainless bicycle. Soon enough, he runs over and kills a little dog belonging to a woman known only as Lousse, who imprisons him for an indeterminate length of time. The reader clings to details such as these in the hope that the narrative mists will lift, only to find that Molloy will somehow escape to continue on his way, sucking pebbles from the beach, staggering and crawling toward oblivion. ``All I know is what the words know, and the dead...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420000651