Tuesday, December 15, 2009

302. Malloy – Samuel Beckett

History: It was written in Paris, along with the other two books (Malone Dies and The Unnamable) of 'The Trilogy', between 1946 and 1950. The novel is set in an indeterminate place, most often identified with the Ireland of Beckett's birth.
Plot: The plot, what little there is of it, is revealed in the course of the two interior monologues that make up the book. The first monologue is split into two paragraphs. The first paragraph is less than a page long, the second paragraph lasts for over eighty pages.
The first is by a former vagrant named Molloy. He’s an extremely unreliable narrator, prone to forgetting, at various times: his own name; his mother’s name; the town he lives in; and just about everything else that ‘happens’ in this narrative. He is now living "in [his] mother's room" and writing to "speak of the things that are left, say [his] goodbyes, finish dying." He describes a journey he had taken some time earlier, before he came there, to find his mother. He spends much of it on his bicycle, gets arrested for resting on it in a way that is considered lewd, but is unceremoniously releasedMolloy gets around by way of a bicycle, across which he rests his crutches. In one amusing incident, he is accosted by the local constabulary, demanding to see his papers. Molloy replies that the only papers he is in the habit of keeping are the ones he uses to wipe himself after he takes a shit. Not that he wipes himself all the time, mind you. From town to anonymous town and across anonymous countryside, he encounters a succession of bizarre characters: an elderly man with a stick; a policeman; a charity worker; a woman whose dog he kills running over it with a bike (her name is never completely determined: "a Mrs Loy... or Lousse, I forget, Christian name something like Sophie"), and one whom he falls in love with ("Ruth" or maybe "Edith"); He abandons his bicycle (which he will not call "bike"), walks in no certain direction, meeting "a young old man"; a charcoal-burner living in the woods, whom he murders with a hard blow to the head; and finally a character who takes him in, to the room.
The second is by a private detective by the name of Jacques Moran, who is given the task by his boss, the mysterious Youdi, of tracking down Molloy. He sets out, taking his recalcitrant son, also named Jacques, with him. They wander across the countryside, increasingly bogged down by the weather, decreasing supplies of food and Moran's suddenly failing body. He sends his son to purchase a bicycle and while his son is gone, Moran encounters a strange man who appears before him. Moran murders him (in manner comparable to Molloy's), and then hides his body in the forest. Eventually, the son disappears, and he struggles home. At this point in the work, Moran begins to pose several odd theological questions, which make him appear to be going mad. Having returned to his home, now in a state of shambles and disuse, Moran switches to discussing his present state. He has begun to use crutches, just as Molloy begins the novel with. Also a voice, which has appeared intermittently throughout his part of the text, has begun to significantly inform his actions. The novel ends with Moran delineating how the beginning of his report was crafted. He reveals that the first words of the section were told to him by this nascent voice, which instructed him to sit down and begin writing.
Moran forsakes reality, beginning to descend into the command of this "voice" which may in fact mark the true creation of Molloy.
Due to the succession of the book from the first part to the second the reader is led to believe that time is passing in a similar fashion, however some readers believe that the second part is the prequel to the first.
Review: Beckett’s ‘novels’ are about as far away from the conventions of characterisation and narrative as you can get. There is no real plot to the story. The two never meet like word and meaning never quite meet. They are separated which, in turn, engenders multiple meanings, diversity. Is this the mind-body separation (Molloy being the body and Moran the mind)? I personally think both of them are the same character, Malloy as a later manifestation after brain deterioration of Moran. In his movement towards Molloy, Moran gradually turns into a being suffering and continually perishing like the object of his search. The two narratives gradually move towards each other, always stopping short of totally merging into each other. I think Moran must be the worst father in literary history, however.
Opening Line: “I am in my mother’s room.”
Closing Line: “It was not raining.”
Quotes: “I tried to pull myself together. In vain, I should have known.”
Rating: Very Good.

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