Home > Book Reviews > Book Review – Molloy by Samuel Beckett

Book Review – Molloy by Samuel Beckett

You have to be in the right mood for reading Beckett. What that right mood is, I’m not exactly sure, but Beckett’s ‘novels’ are about as far away from the conventions of characterisation and narrative as you can get. Molloy (first in a trilogy including Malone Dies and The Unnameable) seems to be one of his more accessible works, all things being relative. I say accessible, and yet the first part of this short novel consists of two paragraphs only, the second of which goes for more than eighty pages. No chapters, no line breaks, no relief.

And yet Molloy isn’t such a difficult book to read, if one has the requisite determination. We are introduced to a decrepit, invalid man by the name of 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. Molloy is on a quest of sorts, a journey at least, but I can scarcely imagine a less appealing journey than this one. Molloy 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.

And therein is the allure of the novel Molloy. Decrepit, vagrant and infirm, not to mention callous, forgetful and timorous, Molloy is a novellistic anti-hero. The ‘quest’ involves searching for his elderly mother to obtain money. Molloy’s mother is blind and deaf, and thus Molloy communicates with her by knocking on her skull. He has a plethora of ‘sucking stones,’ which he transfers from one pocket to another in the hope of periodically sucking all sixteen stones in his possession. He sleeps in the street, in caves on the beach, and for a time in the house of a woman (or maybe a man – Molloy can’t be sure) by the name of Lousse. In one passage, Molloy describes that he once counted how many times he farted in a day – the number is over three hundred, a rate of once every four minutes. But that’s insignificant, Molloy assures us.

And on it goes. Part one ends after eighty pages or so, toward the end of which Molloy is literally crawling through a forest. I suppose that’s as down as you can get. Part two is told from the perspective of a different character whose job, for some reason, is to search for Molloy. I’ve read this before, but I confess that I stopped reading here. Beckett is unique and irreplaceable but also very easy to put down. If life is without meaning, then why should we bother reading about it? Beckett’s ‘novels’ have no beginning or end, just an interminable middle.

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  1. apologia pro sua vita
    February 20, 2012 at 3:53 am

    Surprised you put it down halfway. The second part is masterly and hilarious too. Funnier even than the Molloy section, actually. All the stuff with the son – gorgeously absurd.

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