Some books don’t travel well through time. They are of an era, an age. Perhaps those that do – Austen or Conrad, for example – are signs of greatness, of ‘classic’ literature. What, then, might one say about a book that has not travelled well, that is stylistically convoluted and at times feels remarkably self-indulgent? A book you really need to read with an open dictionary at your side if you want to understand every word in it? A book which occasionally feels almost unreadable?
Samuel Beckett’s “Murphy” is one such book. And a rare one at that, I suspect. Littered with words that are difficult to pronounce never mind read and understand, it feels – in part, at least – like the creation of someone who is simply showing off. You would be forgiven for closing it in frustration and never opening it again. At times I was tempted!
And yet… There are undeniable (and unsurprising!) echoes of Joyce here; you get them in the tone, the way the language is constructed sometimes, the ‘voice’. And similarly – though probably less evidently – you also get the sense that there is something ‘special’ going on, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it!
PS: just discovered I read “Murphy” 40 years ago..!