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Samuel Beckett: Molloy (Molloy)

Molloy is the first in the trilogy that also includes Malone Dies and The Unnamable. All three were originally written in French and translated into English by the author. In this trilogy, the main characters move more and more away from being real people with real senses to becoming merely ideas of people, culminating in the final novel where the main character has no name and barely any conception of the physical. This novel is in two parts. In the first part, Molloy is in his mother’s room, he tells us, giving a complex description of how he got there, how he was arrested and then taken home by a Mrs. Lousse, who owns a dog he ran over. When he leaves the Lousse house, he gets around on crutches and, after assaulting a charcoal burner, collapses in a ditch. The key scene may well be the one where he picks up sucking stones from a beach and determines, in a long and complex narrative, how to order them, before throwing them away in disgust. It’s all pointless, Beckett tells us. However we may strive to put an order on the world and our environment, it does not really matter.

The second part is about how a detective called Jacques Moran (Molloy’s first name is also Jacques) sets out to look for Molloy under the orders of his boss, Gaber. He takes his son with him but they soon get lost, he forgets his instructions and his health deteriorates. He kills a man who may or may not be Molloy. Gaber finally turns up and tells them to go home and Moran starts to write a narrative which is in contradiction with Molloy’s. Beckett’s message is clear – the uncertainty of self, our relations to our surroundings and others, the conception of reality, our attempt to put a structure on the world, all of these and more are the themes he is concerned with. In short, there is no point.

Publishing history

First published in French 1950 by Editions de Minuit