In Malone Dies Beckett distorts fiction beyond the boundaries of Molloy. There is less humour to take the edge off that pervasive darkness. Or there is more humour but the gloom is more overwhelmingly. Once again, the impeccably constructed, pared-back sentences are breathtaking.
The story is about nothing, that particular nothingness that lies at either end of our transitory lives. In brief, what Beckett refers to as “the futility and meaningless of the bits in between life and death. Or a slightly longer explication:
I was speaking then was I not of my little pastimes and I think about to say that I ought to content myself with them, instead of launching forth on all this ballsaching poppycock about life and death, if that is what it is all about, and I suppose it is, for nothing was ever about anything else to the best of my recollection.
“Ballsaching poppycock:” almost Joycean, though despite superficial similarities, the two writers could not be more different. Where Joyce layers his construction with allusion and symbolism, Beckett pares back, concealing his intimations to greater effect. Though the sense of motion is strong, the necessity is to slow down, to question and to attempt to understand.
Malone, awaiting death, says, “While waiting, I shall tell myself stories.” With his pencil stub and battered exercise books, fetishistic objects, the narrator writes of his alter-ego Saposcat, the religiously conflicted Macmann of Molloy and Moll, his attendant at the asylum, before he ceases to exist (I think). When the narrator, the writer, ceases to exist, who continues to narrate or write? A good place to move on to the finale part of the Trilogy, The Unnamable
Aside: though customarily referred to as the Trilogy, Simon Critchley qualifies this classification:
It is, at the very least, unclear whether the Trilogy can and should be viewed as a traditional trilogy, a trinitarian, unified – and consequently both theological and dialectical – work, in three discrete but interdependent parts (one-in-three and three-in-one). Such a view helps sustain the questionable belief that the titles of the novels that make up the Trilogy refer simply to the narrative voices in the various books or that the Trilogy can be read teleologically as a narrative of progressive disintegration and purification, a sort of phenomenological reduction to a pure authorial voice.
I’m making my way to Becket. I’ve read a smattering of plays but not his novels so your post is a welcome reminder. Hope you’re having a good weekend. Cheers, K
Thanks, Kevin, this weekend is proving very satisfying. I hope the same applies.
I read around the Trilogy, rightfully daunted. These books are not for everyone, and expose gaping gaps in my understanding of metaphysics and linguistics, but the prose is so beautiful. I think of all the readers I follow you would enjoy the Trilogy immensely.
I recall a comment by Wyatt Mason, when he was still blogging, something to the effect that the most beautiful sentences could be found in Becket. He’s on my shortlist for sure. I just now finished up Vanity Fair, thankfully. I worry about my reaction in part because AR and Bibliophilia are such ardent fans. Anyhow, you’ve probably already read Mitchelmore’s bit on walking, very good, but if you haven’t, give it a gander. Cheers.
I have such high hopes for Vanity Fair that I have two copies awaiting my attention. Pinter said precisely the same things about Beckett’s sentences, and it is what drives me on when I start to flounder.
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