by Samuel Beckett


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Murphy, Samuel Beckett’s first published novel, is set in London and Dublin, during the first decades of the Irish Republic. The title character loves Celia in a “striking case of love requited” but must first establish himself in London before his intended bride will make the journey from Ireland to join him. Beckett comically describes the various schemes that Murphy employs to stretch his meager resources and the pastimes that he uses to fill the hours of his days. Eventually Murphy lands a job as a nurse at Magdalen Mental Mercyseat hospital, where he is drawn into the mad world of the patients which ends in a fateful game of chess. While grounded in the comedy and absurdity of much of daily life, Beckett’s work is also an early exploration of themes that recur throughout his entire body of work including sanity and insanity and the very meaning of life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802144454
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 01/11/2011
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 246,568
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Samuel Beckett: Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), one of the leading literary and dramatic figures of the twentieth century, was born in Foxrock, Ireland and attended Trinity University in Dublin. In 1928, he visited Paris for the first time and fell in with a number of avant-garde writers and artists, including James Joyce. In 1937, he settled in Paris permanently. Beckett wrote in both English and French, though his best-known works are mostly in the latter language. A prolific writer of novels, short stories, and poetry, he is remembered principally for his works for the theater, which belong to the tradition of the Theater of the Absurd and are characterized by their minimalist approach, stripping drama to its barest elements. In 1969, Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and commended for having "transformed the destitution of man into his exaltation." Beckett died in Paris in 1989.

At the age of seventy-six he said: "With diminished concentration, loss of memory, obscured intelligence... the more chance there is for saying something closest to what one really is. Even though everything seems inexpressible, there remains the need to express. A child need to make a sand castle even though it makes no sense. In old age, with only a few grains of sand, one has the greatest possibility." (from Playwrights at Work, ed. by George Plimpton, 2000)

What People are Saying About This

Anthony Burgess

Samuel Beckett is one of the great controversial playwrights of our age….As a novelist he is just as important. His novels, like all important works of art, has the stamp of the inevitable on them: they had to be written and, though we suffer reading them, we are glad that they have been written.

Richard Seaver

Murphy is very much the forerunner of that remarkable series of works whose protagonists search endlessly for nonexistent answers, each embarked upon a journey that has no end.

Dr. Gierow

Dr. Karl Gierow of the Swedish Academy in the 1969 Commentary on the Award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Samuel Beckett
In the realms of annihilation, the writing of Samuel Beckett rises like a misereie from all mankind, its muffled minor key finding liberation to the oppressed and comfort to those in need.

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Murphy 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Murphy works as a novel, up to a certain point. Like most Joycean influenced works, this novel sometimes loses itself in vague obscurities. The key to this work is the main character and how closely the reader can identify with him determines whether the novel succeeds or not. Murphy, like most people of the twentieth century, is disillusioned with modern life, especially the part of it that requires us to work. The problem at times is that Murphy and Celia, his lover, are well drawn, but the other characters seem to be just hastily assembled scenery. The phraseology the book uses is interesting at first but becomes distracting towards the end. All in all, the book is very prophetic of the present, with its search for meaning in a capitalist society. It almost plays like a 1938 'American Beauty'. This is a book that you read partly to enjoy and partly to gain wisdom from.
m.gilbert on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The plot of Murphy (1938) is relatively simple: Murphy, a character who likes to be bound and tied to his rocking chair naked and to rock himself into a state of catatonia, decides to leave Ireland for London to find work. He leaves behind Miss Counihan, his fiancee, who later has an affair with Neary, Murphy's former teacher. In London and in search of work, Murphy meets a prostitute named Celia, and they fall in "love". Murphy, however, avoids expressing his feelings and commitment while Celia shows her concern for him by insisting he find a job. Murphy eventually finds a job at a mental hospital, where he "befriends" Mr. Endon and eventually abandons Celia. Neary, joined now by an alcoholic he has hired to find Murphy named Cooper, another former student Wylie, and Miss Counihan, goes to London to find Murphy and moves in with Celia. The end of the novel ends absurdly and sadly, but the final scene, which includes the lowly prostitute Celia, suggests something hopeful. If the novel sounds extremely confusing, it is meant to be. Read on.Typical of Beckett's novels is the apparent "anti-journey" theme. Characters seek and never find. Along the way they suffer and lose their way, sometimes forgetting what it is they set out for. The novel is an "anti-novel" in the way that there is little, if any, conflict--no progression, no involvement, no emotions. In a chess game between Murphy and Mr. Endon in the mental hospital, and according to the game which Beckett actually describes move by move, no piece crosses the center line. The opponents do not oppose; instead, they circle around each other. Black ultimately wins and white surrenders, since Endon, who must always play black, does not "check" Murphy nor indicate in any way that Murphy's king is being attacked. For me, this is one of the most entertaining parts of the book--it's an "anti-chess" game. The most moving parts of this "unmoving" novel are the scenes between Celia and Murphy and Murphy's experiences at the mental hospital, where he develops a connection with the patients and regards it a "sanctuary" rather than a place of banishment. He sees the patients "as escaped from a colossal fiasco" which, of course, is existence and life. The scenes between Celia and Murphy are much like the chess game, with Murphy avoiding every means of contact with her, be it conflict or affection. The situation is saddest for Celia, who tries and tries to reach Murphy; he, however, continually withdraws from and evades her through oblique words and gestures. Beckett is a special writer for me and Murphy is a special book--it's dark, disturbing, confusing, and complex, not to mention funny enough to make you pee your pants. There is no one like Beckett. His novels are difficult to read--the words spin and stop and sway and stumble. There are shards of Western Civilization dispersed throughout and parodies of such mack daddies of philosophy as Spizona, Descartes, and Berkeley. His works are the dissonant music of post-modernity, and I hope people will listen to it, whether it be in his novels, short prose, plays, or poems, at least once in their lives.
lriley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This--Beckett's first novel to be published in 1938 follows the wanderings of one 'Murphy' a solipsist in the finest sense. Murphy born and raised in Dublin and living in London cannot see a meaning beyond his own meaning and is not even sure about that. What other people might do with their time and their lives striking him as senseless--he is one day picked up by Celia Kelly--a prostitute and another Irish emigre. Celia would push him out into the flotsam and mainstream of life--something that Murphy objects to--but eventually reluctantly gives in on. As many other of Murphy's friends from Ireland are trying to reconnect with him he is wandering the streets of London--almost a lost puppy until a former acquaintance of his bumps into him and hooks him up at his workplace--a lunatic asylum out in the suburbs. Almost immediately upon beginning his first job ever he finds an affinity for the inmates of this institution that he doesn't feel from the world outside. His connection and love affair with Celia ends abruptly and shortly thereafter as Celia and his other friends finally track him down--they find only his burnt corpse--a victim of accident or suicide--a do-it yourself gas line to his room having exploded. All ends with Celia wheeling her wheelchair bound kite-obsessed grandfather out of a London park at closing time.The prose here is definitely indebted in part to his friendship with James Joyce. In some ways it is more conventional--not nearly stripped as bare as much of his later work will be--which is not to say it is not experimental--because it definitely is. In another respect one can see a connection of Beckett to his main character--musing about the meaning(lessness) of existence. It definitely belongs on a short list of most important existential works. Anyway like all of Beckett's work--at least for this reader you can't go wrong and this is an important one since it was his first published novel and it is highly recommended from this source.
charlie68 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book a tough read. Well-written densely so at times, but the plot left me mystified as to where the story was going and what it was about. Lots of classical references too, and to those uninitiated, maybe a little baffleling.
richardderus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Scintillating, superb, fractal geometry in words.Yeah, that verdict stands too.Rating: 5* of fiveThe Book Report: This is always hard when describing Beckett. Murphy loves Celia, the prostitute. Miss Counihan, surprisingly anthropoid for an Irishwoman, loves Murphy. Neary, a philosopher, comes to love Murphy as his best friend. Then there's this guy Murphy plays chess with in the mental hospital where Murphy goes to work.Okay, it can't really be this hard. Murphy, an Irish depressive, has to get a job because Celia, his petite amie, thinks it will do him good. So he leaves Ireland, goes to London and starts working at a mental hospital. All sorts of Irish problems follow him, but Murphy finds himself escaping them among the mad, who have abdicated their responsibilities to the staff and lead lives of unencumbered irresponsibility that Murphy envies. Mr. Endon, the wisest madman, lures Murphy into playing a game of chess with him, and it's that game that forms the spine of the book. It's described in loving, and to me incomprehensible, detail, but if you're patient and willing to educate yourself with a chess reference source as you read, you'll come to realize that this game is the novel you're reading, and the novel is the chess game.How do chess games end? Think on that for a moment. The novel's ending will then be clear to you.My Review: It's not the easiest read on the shelf. It's well worth your time and effort to engage with, because it's gorgeously wrought...there's a line about owls in the zoo, their joys and sufferings not starting until dark, that I wish I could find so as to quote exactly, but it's...well...perfect, and at the moment it comes in the narrative, so startlingly apt that it makes my hair stand up to remember it.Beckett hated Ireland for its conformist, dead-spirited religiosity. He abhorred any and all forms of hypocrisy, and this (I think, could be wrong about this) is the last novel he wrote in English because he regarded the language as the carrier (think Typhoid Mary) of hypocrisy. (So what did he do? He wrote in FRENCH! Oh the irony.) Murphy is the soul-scream of an angry lover. It caustically throws in your face every unkind or unworthy thought you've ever had, every casually cruel deed you've ever done, and makes you weep and smile and sigh with pleasure as it alternately berates and caresses you.Yes, this book is a bad love affair with a beautiful man put between hard covers. It's brilliant, it's beautiful, and it's never to be forgotten, even when you wish you could.
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