A Pearl of Consciousness in an Oyster of Physicality

Book reviewer David Gates crafts this marvelous phrase in summarizing a scene from Samuel Beckett’s Molloy:

Early in Samuel Beckett’s trilogy of novels, the inwardly articulate but outwardly brutish derelict Molloy, used to being immured in his own lurching, stinking body — a pearl of consciousness in an oyster of physicality — tells of finding himself “reduced to confabulation” with a policeman. “What are you doing there? he said. I’m used to that question, I understood it immediately. Resting, I said. Resting, he said. Resting, I said. Will you answer my question? he cried.” The encounter ends in Molloy’s being taken into custody, as a crowd gathers to watch the spectacle. “Was there one among them,” Molloy wonders, “to put himself in my place, to feel how removed I was then from him I seemed to be, and in that remove what strain, as of hawsers about to snap?”

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