The Unnamable (novel)

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The Unnamable
L'Innomable - 1st Edition Cover.jpg
First edition (French)
AuthorSamuel Beckett
Original titleL'Innommable
TranslatorSamuel Beckett
PublisherLes Éditions de Minuit
Preceded byMalone Dies 

The Unnamable is a 1953 novel by Samuel Beckett. It is the third and final entry in Beckett's "Trilogy" of novels, which begins with Molloy followed by Malone Dies. It was originally published in French as L'Innommable and later adapted by the author into English. Grove Press published the English edition in 1958.

The Unnamable consists entirely of a disjointed monologue from the perspective of an unnamed (presumably unnamable) and immobile protagonist. There is no concrete plot or setting – and whether the other characters ("Mahood" [formerly "Basil"] and "Worm") actually exist or whether they are facets of the narrator himself is debatable. The protagonist also claims authorship of the main characters in the two previous novels of the Trilogy and Beckett's earlier novels Murphy, Mercier and Camier, and Watt. The novel is a mix of recollections and existential musings on the part of its narrator, many of which pertain specifically to the possibility that the narrator is constructed by the language he speaks.

Musical settings[edit]

Luciano Berio's musical work Sinfonia uses sections of The Unnamable, along with the music of Gustav Mahler and quotes from many other famous compositions for its third movement.

Earl Kim's musical work, "Exercises en Route," composed 1963-70, sets passages from "The Unnamable" in its final movement, "Rattling On." [1]

BBC broadcast[edit]

A reading of selected passages from The Unnamable was broadcast on the BBC Third Programme on 19 January 1959, and repeated on 10 February. Beckett selected the passages, which were read by the actor Patrick Magee, and incidental music for strings was composed by Samuel's cousin John S. Beckett. The producer was Donald McWhinnie.[2]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Gannon, Charles: John S. Beckett – The Man and the Music, p. 122. Dublin: 2016, Lilliput Press. ISBN 9781843516651.

External links[edit]