Khethil
 
Reply Mon 28 Sep, 2009 03:33 pm
The Unnamable
Samuel Beckett
ISBN: 0-8021-5091-8
Publisher: Grove Press

OVERVIEW: This is the third and final part of the trilogy that had as its first two parts "Malloy" (review) and "Malone Dies" (review). In this final installment, there is no plot - no story that's obvious. We are taken on a journey of thoughts, ideas and feelings (many quite disjointed) that are, ostebsibly, how a mind might react if suddenly disembodied; without any sense perception or reliable memories intact, yet with the ability - the need - to 'speak' to itself. Fragments of the last few hours of life left are disturbing and are left unexplained. Yes, it sounds a bit terrifying; and it is. This is a difficult read and could rightly be taken in a number of allegorical fashions. For 114 pages we're taken through his blackness, unable to understand, grasp or reason. Under this lies a rattling sense of sanity being lost. The philosophical implications of any number of passages are vast and, despite its difficulty, make it a worthwhile read. I'll leave these to you to discover on your own

PRO'S:

  • A work of genius in capturing a mood without us knowing that's precisely taken place
  • Very realistic in how I might imagine my abruptly-disconnected consciousness continuing without the host-body
  • Crafty insinuations towards characters created and stories told that pique the user to think about the other two novels in this set
  • As with the other parts, he pulls no punches; yes, they cussed quite well in 1951
  • Creative and insightfulness folded into the form of how a desparate mind thinks

CONS:

  • Painful to read; as a non-traditional 'work' (can't be called a story), it will not follow our rules of form
  • Painful to read; if I, for eternity, could do nothing other than ramble in desperation, might you want to hear it?
  • The reader yearns for something detailed; something concrete to be described - yet none can be. Although this is purposefully not done (I'm guessing), even so - throw us a bone!

HIGHLIGHTS:
Very difficult to try and pick these out - given its nature. I'll here give you an excerpt which is typical of how this novel plays out..
[INDENT] "...I have passed by here, this has passsed by here, thousands of times, its turn has come again, it will pass on and something else will be there, another instant of my old instant, there it is, the old meaning that I'll give myself, that I won't be able to give myself, there's a god for the damned, as on the first day, today is the first day, it begins, I know it well, I'll remember it as I go along, all adown it I'll be born and born, births for nothing, and come to night without having been. Look at this Tunis pink, it's dawn. If I could only shut myself up, quick, I'll shut myself up, it won't be I, quick, I'll make a place, it won't be mine, it doesn't matter, I don't feel any place for me, perhaps that will come, I'll make it mine, I'll put myself in it, I'll put someone in it, I'll find someone in it, I'll put myself in him..."
[/INDENT]NOTABLE QUOTES:

pp306 - Along the line of 'lessons'[INDENT]"...Under the skies, on the roads, in the towns, in the woods, in the hills, in the plains, by the shores, on the seas, behind my mannikins, I was not always sad, I wasted my time, abjured my rights, suffered for nothing, forgot my lesson. Then a little hell after my own heart, not too cruel, with a few nice damned to foist my groans on, something sighing off and on and the distant gleams of bity's fires biding their hour to promote us to ashes..."
[/INDENT]pp386 - Anger, lonliness? I'm not quite sure[INDENT]"... I'm mute, what do they want, what have I done to them, what have I dont to God, what have they done to God, what has God done to us, nothing, and we've done nothing to him, you can't do anything to him, he can't do anything to us, we're innocent, he's innocent, it's nobody's fault, what's nobody's fault, this state of affairs, what state of affairs, so it is, so be it, don't fret, so it will be, how so, rattling on, dying of thirst, seeking determindedly, what do they want, they want me to be, this, that, to howl, stir, crawl out of here... I'm something quite different, a quite different thing, a wordless thing in an empty place, a hard shut dry cold black place, where nothing stirs, nothing speaks, and that I listen, and that I seek...."

[/INDENT]MY RATING: 7.8
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Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 07:59 pm
@Khethil,
Khetil, having read it as a trilogy, how would you assess and rate it overall?

I read it right after finishing Ulysses by Joyce, maybe 10 years ago. The whole thing is an amazing read, and I thought the Unnamable was flabbergasting. It may be a while before I read it again, but some day I'll have to go back to it.

I think that it's at the end of a continuum of modernist novel structure that began with the incredible Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky, in which plot is subordinate to the mental wranglings of characters.

The last lines of The Unnamable still stick in my head, I mean how unbelievably poetic is this?

Quote:
I'll go on. You must say words, as long as there are any - until they find me, until they say me. (Strange pain, strange sin!) You must go on. Perhaps it's done already. Perhaps they have said me already. Perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story. (That would surprise me, if it opens.)

It will be I? It will be the silence, where I am? I don't know, I'll never know: in the silence you don't know.

You must go on.

I can't go on.

I'll go on.




By the way, if you're into modernism, the next novel you have to pick up is The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch. Just a ridiculously rich, lurid novel. The entire last chapter is the singular moment of Virgil's death, with a wild stream of consciousness, filled with vivid allusions about ships going to sea.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2009 12:06 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;94353 wrote:
Khetil, having read it as a trilogy, how would you assess and rate it overall?


That's a good question. I fear I've been the victim of over-hype; all I'd seen said that this trilogy was profoundly important, unique and one of the best combined works of literature in the western world. Thus, in my mind, expectations were likely over-elevated. I'd say it was GOOD; and definitely unique - the weave between each of the three parts, once all is read, is singular in that one can "take it" many different ways. It's implications for self-definition through language, what is consciousness - as well as in-the-mind existential themes - are really quite amazing. Even so, I'd have to say GOOD - my personal experience; however, says Not Great.

Aedes;94353 wrote:
I read it right after finishing Ulysses by Joyce, maybe 10 years ago. The whole thing is an amazing read, and I thought the Unnamable was flabbergasting. It may be a while before I read it again, but some day I'll have to go back to it.

I think that it's at the end of a continuum of modernist novel structure that began with the incredible Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky, in which plot is subordinate to the mental wranglings of characters.


Yea, I'd agree. I get the feeling that during that entire timeframe there was a large 'push' to deconstruct the typical novel or treatise; break the mold as it were. I thoroughly enjoyed Notes from the Underground and Ulysses was sheer genius in its overall structure.

Aedes;94353 wrote:
The last lines of The Unnamable still stick in my head, I mean how unbelievably poetic is this?


Yea, a bit terrifying in a way; telling in another. I had difficulty reading it - mainly because it *appeared* he spent the greatest bulk of the book hammering away at the perpetual-ness of the character's condition; that it had no direction without it's corporeal senses - hell, I got THAT point two pages in. Perhaps my impatience with this aspect caused me to lose some of the finer, subtler substance; I hope not.

Excellent comments, thanks.
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Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2009 08:16 pm
@Khethil,
Certainly as compared with Waiting for Godot (the only other thing I've read by Beckett), the Molloy Trilogy moved me a lot more. Godot is just too emotionless for me. Narrative length really makes a difference with some of these modernist works, they're just so driven by human psychology that you need length to invest yourself in them.
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 11:56 pm
@Khethil,
I love Beckett, but I couldn't get into this trilogy. I read enough to be dissapointed. Perhaps I lacked patience. But then some of Beckett is engrossing. His short stories seem better to me. Mercier and Camier is Beckett less gloomy and more compact. Worstward Ho is interesting for its form, if not really very human.
Arghiani
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Jan, 2011 05:15 pm
@Reconstructo,
I love beckett too. I know that his works are disappointinting but they are wonderfully full of mysteries that are dismantling our standards. his deconstruction or reconstruction is my interest because it opens new horizons of interpretation in human life.
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