Molloy by Samuel Beckett
Review by S. D. Stewart
All I know is what the words know.
Molloy, the man, is a sexually ambiguous homeless wanderer with mother issues. Notwithstanding his lack of interest in sex, he is keenly tuned to the sensual. He is partially educated in a formal sense, while a little more so in an informal one. He also has a bad leg and uses crutches, yet somehow manages to ride a bicycle. Molloy is struggling and, as a reader, one participates in this struggle.
I wandered in my mind, slowly, noting every detail of the labyrinth, its paths familiar as those of my garden and yet ever new, as empty as the heart could wish or alive with strange encounters.
Molloy, the book, is a labyrinth. It’s divided into two parts. The first section is narrated by Molloy himself. The second section, which starts about halfway through the book, is narrated by someone else. I won’t say who it is because that’s part of the fun. It’s useful to know about this shift in narration before reading the book because Molloy’s narration can try one’s patience. It’s not so much that he is unreliable as he is confusing and easily distracted. Ah, but perhaps that’s the point, Beckett, you sly old dog! Anyway, I had just about had my fill of Molloy when along came the second part of the book and rescued me from the mental quagmire I felt I’d stepped into. Or did it. I would be lying if I said I didn’t go back to the beginning when I got to the end. Damn you, Beckett.
There is no doubt one sometimes meets with strangers who are not entire strangers, through their having played a part in certain cerebral reels.
Beckett is an atmospheric writer. He has a way of placing the reader inside a world entirely of his own making. It could be anywhere…or nowhere. I felt comfortable, yet uncertain of where I was. I have found that reading his fiction is a completely different experience from reading his dramatic work. While many of the themes remain the same (existentialism, alienation, isolation, death, interior life, etc.), in his fiction they exist in richer layers, appearing less stark and, to me, more complete, yet still tempered with his well-timed absurd humor.