Category: Beckett, Samuel

circle of death


this is the kind of book and bookmark combo i live for.

the TRILOGY has lived up to the hype. i can see its influence on Wallace and maybe Saramago, but there’s really nothing else like this. it’s chock full of allusions without the pyrotechnics of encyclopedic narrative, laugh out loud funny, and has simply been one of those kinds of great moments in my reading life, like Dara’s LOST SCRAPBOOK, when the door seems to have opened just a little wider and all these possibilities for prose without drama make an appearance.

Now that we know where we’re going, let’s go there. It’s so nice to know where you’re going, in the early stages. It almost rids you of the wish to go there.

we first meet Molloy in his mom’s room, and then he goes on a journey to find his mom. like those great English 18th c. novels of old, this novel is a manuscript written by the character, though it becomes way more problematic here. Molloy is aware, obsessed even, by his being a construct of language. he has a difficult relationship with his mom, resentful for the horrible crime:

of her who brought me into the world, through the hole in her arse if my memory is correct. First taste of the shit. 

[on the opposite page:]

And at the same time I satisfied a deep and doubtless unacknowledged need, the need to have a Ma, that is a mother, and to proclaim it, audibly. For before you say Mag you say ma, inevitably. And da, in my part of the world, means father. Besides for me the question did not arise, at the period I’m worming into now, I mean the question of whether to call her Ma, Mag or the Countess Caca…

Mag being one of two other women in Molloy’s life, on which he cant help but project his mother. (Molloy’s sex life is hilarious. “Toiled and moiled” til he came or gave up trying, he cant remember.) giving birth and taking a shit amounts to the same thing for Molloy — he’s like a post-Schopenhauer anti-natalist: bringing more human souls into this shit hole of a world without their consent is an ethical catastrophe. perhaps its for the best that voices like Molloy’s are left out of the abortion rights discourse. but it’s all so wonderfully blasphemous.

you cant say Mag without ma, and you cant say Molloy without mol, which im told is the suffix meaning “to soften, liquify,” like in mollify. Molloy’s name melts into Mollose by Moran, a detective or agent sent to track down Molloy in the second part. Vagina and ass hole melt together. it’s possible that Molloy and Moran are the same self, that the two equal parts of MOLLOY are presented in reverse order and show the narrative of one man whose body steadily breaks down.

i havent even talked about the sucking stones. actually there are several amazing set-pieces like it, which work like parodies of those awful math problem sets in grade school. the exact sciences dont appear to be so exact. language is in the way of everything. on the plus side, when understanding is blocked off, the way opens to something else, not understanding, but other.

i admit i found the opening Molloy section hard going, but Moran, despite being a misogynist scumbag, was better company because he’s ridiculous. If part one was about the mother, part two is a story about fatherhood. you can tell because for one thing, the second part has dicks everywhere. my favorite occurrence is late in the novel, when Moran is on the road to find Molloy (the most leisurely thriller plot ever). he encounters a stranger with a face

which I regret to say vaguely resembled my own, less the refinement of course, same little abortive moustache, same little ferrety eyes, same paraphimosis of the nose, and a thin red mouth that looked as if it was raw from trying to shit its tongue.

paraphimosis being a condition of an uncircumsized penis stuck in a particular way. and noses (like Laurence Sterne?) are not the only things that melt with the dingus: Malone in the middle book sees an eye between his legs, sensible enough, given how much he likes to jerk off onto himself.

you could view them as foils. Molloy keeps sucking stones (or rather suckling stones), Moran keeps a ring of all the keys to his house (mastery, penetration). there are sixteen stones to be distributed in Molloy’s four pockets, Moran puts down sixteen funny theology questions.

the novel’s framed by two circular journeys, to find mother Molloy and Molloy himself. their telos is also the origin. but instead of continuity, the circle feels more like a trap. there is only impotence, and human reproduction is abhorrent (have the queer theorists worked on these books yet?). not to mention that the next novel puts incest on the table.

ive already picked up some author hagiography (and Deirdre Bair’s life of him has rocketed to top-priority reading), how Beckett witnessed so many broken bodies from the First War, that Molloy’s consciousness reflects the rise of eugenics, fascism, as well as birth control. Beckett was deeply committed to political engagement, a hero of the Resistance, but in his work everything becomes wrenched at least a quarter of the way, so we could call them “apolitical” if we didn’t know better. but the TRILOGY contains all sorts of intellectual history that was in the air, like the rise of Freudian psychoanalysis — i havent done a long excerpt like this in a while, but see what you can identify in it.