Molloy, by Samuel Beckett
Wow. What a novel.
It’s two chapters. The first chapter is 85 pages long and consists of two paragraphs. (The second paragraph lasts 84 pages.)
Two chapters, two characters, two first-person reports — Molloy and Moran.
Molloy is a tramp. He’s in his mother’s room, confined to her bed, both of his legs paralyzed. And he’s writing his story, as best he can, because a man, who he does not know, keeps giving him fresh paper every week to finish it, for reasons he does not know.
Molloy’s story is such a jarring mixture of high and low. From searing prose:
Even my sense of identity was wrapped in a namelessness often hard to penetrate… when already all was fading, waves and particles, there could be no things but nameless things, no names but thingless names. I say that now, but after all what do I know now about then, now when the icy words hail down upon me, the icy meanings, and the world dies too, foully named.
to hilarious crudities:
I can’t help it, gas escapes from my fundament on the least pretext, it’s hard not to mention it now and then, however great my distaste. One day I counted them. Three hundred and fifteen farts in nineteen hours, or an average of over sixteen farts an hour. After all it’s not excessive. Four farts every fifteen minutes. It’s nothing. Not even one fart every four minutes. It’s unbelievable. Damn it, I hardly fart at all, I should never have mentioned it. Extraordinary how mathematics help you to know yourself.
Moran, a neurotic of an unknown, discreet, and possibly imagined profession, who writes the second chapter, sets out on assignment to deal with Molloy. But will he ever reach him? And will he be the same Moran he was when he set out?
It’s rather impossible to describe their two stories. All I can really say is that reading them is an experience unlike any other I’ve encountered in fiction.