Friday, December 14, 2012

Wobbly times number 160

MolloyMolloy by Samuel Beckett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the funniest books ever written. Unlike CATCH22 or THE GOOD SOLDIER SCHWEIK,Beckett's humour in MOLLOY is centered on his favourite modern archetypes: vapid cowards, obsessive compulsive casualties of bourgeois dominance, petty sadists and self-crippled misfits leading ordinary lives,ever obedient to the official authorities.

On the whole, I think MOLLOY is even funnier than CATCH22. IMO, a lot of the problem with reading Samuel Beckett lies with his liberal interpreters (conservatives--forget it). People wonder what Beckett's on about and they go for advice from many of the very sorts of people he's targeting with his humour. I think the key to reading MOLLOY is grasping how Beckett must have felt in Occupied France, being a member of the Resistance, surrounded by people more concerned with petty matters of everyday obedience to official authority than imagining ways to do anything meaningful to stop the Nazis. His characters' obsessive-compulsive concerns and narrow individualist focus make them (literally their bodies) corrode before yours and their eyes. Once that's understood, the reader can mine pages and pages of black humour from Molloy's and Moran's journeys to find security and approval from authority on their roads to becoming helpless heaps.

View all my reviews
Of course, we all end up dead.  What's the point?

Well, the point sure as hell isn't the way Samuel Beckett's Molloy and Moran go about living their lives.  Both protagonists insist on a kind of castration of sensuous existence, as living beings--subjects, to use the language of philosophy. Molloy and Moran are both 'subjects' and the essential question in philosophy is how the subject relates to that which is outside of themselves, including the objects they create and produce.  All of this is intertwined with how the subject achieves freedom within the realm of necessities which prevail. 

But onward with the particular cases of Molloy and Moran. Both share a strong preference for the asexual, indeed; they seem capable of little else in that department.  They describe monkish living patterns to the point where you have no doubts about how stunted their libidos are or their social relations for that matter.

Consciously/unconsciously (as usual, he forgets which), Molloy makes himself into a physical cripple--a real 'mind over matter' Idealist. One discovers this through a close reading of how Molloy sleepwalked one night, having no physical difficulties at all doing tasks he would 'normally' find physically impossible. Molloy's mind also is dying, of short term memory loss combined with long term amnesia. This could be related to his incessant focus on the mundane.  And, while having a sometimes extraordinary command (breadth and depth) of the English language, Molloy and Moran concern themselves mostly with the minutia of their lives, which many, many times turn into black comedic scripts or, on a larger canvass, demonstrations of bourgeois culture's utter vacuity. Surprisingly though, at other times, genuine poetic bursts emerge from Molloy's observations!

Molloy lives his life as the anticipation of his death.  Molloy operates under the assumption that we live in the best of all possible worlds--there is no alternative.  One gets the impression that Molloy would think the same way in Occupied France.  His failing memory affects his logic and vice versa. And so, we follow Molloy's monologue as he journeys to find his mother, to return to the womb and fall in his grave or ditch.  I can't remember which.

While Molloy literally pushes himself toward a complete surrender to the worms, 'Part II' of MOLLOY begins with Moran being given orders by his employers to find said Molloy.  Ah Moron...I mean, Moran. The good petit bourgeois minder is under the illusion that by going to church and tending his own garden, he'll be right with his masters and safe in his home. The cultural/ideological domination of the bourgeoisie is complete in the world of Moran and really, much of the world around him.  His extremely narrow individualism serves to sever him from almost every human being, except his son and within that social relationship, we continue to see Moran as, the 'hollow man, the stuffed man' vainly nurturing his son on empty.

'Men'? You caught me.  Yes, I could just as easily written, 'men'. Like most of his fellow subalterns-for-tiny-lives, Moran will follow orders; but he will not be any the wiser in his decision making capacities.  He will never be happy because, he cannot be anything--he cannot connect his being with what he does. Methinks his employer reports to Godot.

BTW, this is actually a very funny novel.  Excuse me, if I laugh now and again. I really can't help it, no matter how many times I read it. 

And now, I'll read you some passages from MOLLOY:


  1. Well, I don't really get the point of Beckett's story, but great reading. You should have a show.

  2. I think the point of most of Beckett's stories is tied to the modern tendency to be so wrapped up in abstraction as to lose touch with sensuousness existence. His protagonists tend to focus on the inane and mundane.

    Thanks for listening. Really, Beckett is hilarious. I may do a couple more sections of MOLLOY to demonstrate that, if I can keep from totally cracking up. I mean, his protagonists are SO pathetic and it's not like they're brainless. They're pathetic because, as I hinted in my introduction, they have a castrated subjectivity, one which embraces a kind of 'death culture', indeed, one which relishes what Freud termed 'Thanatos'.

  3. To understand Beckett's work is necessary, in my opinion and foremost, get rid of prejudices, concepts and habits ingrained throughout life. Beckett is not as cryptic as he may seem. Moreover, it is the least cryptic of all writers I've ever read. But, before reading any of his works, you reader, please take a look around and ask yourself, where am I really?
    I would have liked to express myself better, but English is not my native language.