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As They Lay Dying “Rotting with Solitude”: Endgame in Beckett’s Trilogy

  • Edward Engelberg

Abstract

Beckett’s treatment of solitude, throughout his work, pushes the issue of the solitary state to its limits: a Self without identity, with crippled or amputated body parts, a consciousness (barely), and words. It is difficult to imagine taking exilic solitude beyond this, except to begin again with variations of previous versions. In Beckett’s three-part novel, Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable—commonly referred to as the “trilogy”—all the narrators lie dying, “rotting with solitude,” or living out what one critic, quoting Husserl, calls “‘das einsame Seelenleben’ [the solitary life of the soul].”1 The Unnamable insists, with bitter wit, that whatever may happen to the body, the soul survives, it “being notoriously immune from deterioration and dismemberment.”2

Keywords

Horse Chestnut Solitary Confinement Solitary Life Sentimental Communalism Solitary State 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Thomas Trezise, Into the Breach: Samuel Beckett and the Ends of Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 66.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Philip Solomon, The Life After Birth: Imagery in Samuel Beckett’s Trilogy (University, MS: Romance Monographs, 1975);Google Scholar
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  6. 4.
    For an excellent discussion of Beckett’s use of “aporia,” see Leslie Hill, Beckett’s Fiction: In Different Words (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 63 ff.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Among the many books and essays that deal with aspects of Beckett and language, one is especially of interest: P. J. Murphy, Reconstructing Beckett: Language for Being in Samuel Beckett’s Fiction (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990).Google Scholar
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    Maire Jaanus Kurrick, Literature and Negation (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), 229, 225.Google Scholar
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    For a philosophical interpretation of the trilogy, see Lance St. John Butler, Samuel Beckett: A Study in Ontological Parable (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
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    Leslie Hill, Beckett’s Fiction: In Different Words (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 115.Google Scholar
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  19. 27.
    For insightful discussions on “repetition” see Rubin Rabinovitz, Innovation in Samuel Beckett’s Fiction (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992), Chapter Five, “Repetition and Underlying Meanings in Beckett’s Trilogy,” 65–105.Google Scholar
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  21. 28.
    A recent poststructuralist study of Beckett is Anthony Uhlman, Beckett and Poststructuralism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  22. 29.
    Maurice Friedman, To Deny Our Nothingness: Contemporary Images of Man (New York: Delacorte Press, 1967), 318, 315, 321.Google Scholar
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    Israel Shenker, “An Interview with Beckett” (1956), reprinted in Samuel Beckett: The Critical Heritage, ed. Lawrence Graver and Raymond Federman (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), 148.Google Scholar
  25. 32.
    Chrisopher Ricks, Beckett’s Last Words (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 3.Google Scholar
  26. 33.
    See Josephine Jacobsen and William R. Mueller, The Testament of Samuel Beckett (London: Faber and Faber, 1966), 78ff.Google Scholar
  27. 34.
    On “couples,” and identity see Enrico Garzilli, Circles Without Center: Paths to the Discovery and Creation of Self in Modern Literature (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972) especially the chapter titled “The Other and Identity: The Couples of Samuel Beckett,” 28–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See John Fletcher, “Samuel Beckett and the Philosophers,” Comparative Literature 17 (Winter 1975): 43–56;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  31. The most recent postructuralist study of Beckett is Daniel Katz’ Saying I No More: Subjectivity and Consciousness in the Prose of Samuel Beckett (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1999).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Edward Engelberg 2001

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  • Edward Engelberg

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