“The humor and tragedy of Murphy’s search for his own self has been set down in the brilliant, highly individual style that also distinguishes Beckett’s more recent work. The dialogue is pungent, often ribald, and the London and Dublin backgrounds are deftly drawn.” Library Journal
978-0-8021-4445-4 • $15.00 • Paperback • Jan. 2011
Murphy, Samuel Beckett’s first published novel, is a rollicking jeu d’esprit in the tradition of philosophical comedy from Cervantes to Rabelais to Fielding and Joyce. A gigantic joke made up of infinite tiny ones, Murphy provides a glimpse into the life of its title character as he attempts to amass a sufficient fortune to support his fiancée, Celia. The worlds of Dublin and London in the early-twentieth century provide the backdrop for Murphy’s days, which remain largely directionless until he lands a job at Magdalen Mental Mercyseat, a mental hospital. As Beckett questions the lines we draw between the sane and the insane, Murphy’s life heads toward a tragic end. Beckett's achievement lies in the brilliantly original language used to communicate this vision of isolation and misunderstanding. The combination of particularity and absurdity gives Murphy’s world its painful definition, but the sheer comic energy of Beckett’s prose releases characters and readers alike into exuberance. Murphy provides an early look at Beckett wrestling with the existentialist themes that would characterize so much of his writing.
Murphy was written in English and published in London in 1938; Beckett himself subsequently translated the book into French, and it was published in France in 1947.