The trilogy has always been considered the central work of Samuel Beckett's fiction, the three novels that have been most admired and have received the greatest amount of critical comment, just as Waiting for Godot
, written in the same period of concentrated creativity between 1947 and 1949, is central to Beckett's drama. After Proust's great many-volumed novel, Joyce's Ulysses
and the masterworks of Kafka, it dominates twentieth-century literature, and much as Beckett's pre-war fiction and the late minimalist novellas are admired, it is on the trilogy that the author's reputation will chiefly depend.
Molloy was a new departure for Samuel Beckett; written in the first person, it consists of two monologues, that of bedridden Molloy on his odyssey towards his mother, lost in town and country and finally emerging from the forest, and that of Moran, a private detective who is sent to find him. The two narrowly miss each other, but the contrast between their characters, and the similarity of their decline give the reader much ground to speculate and much humour towards understanding both the grimness and the comedy of the human situation.
Malone Dies pictures the decrepit Malone, also bedridden, waiting to die and filling his mind and his remaining time with memories, stories and bitter comment, while waiting for 'the throes'. The novel disintegrates as the protagonist dies.
The Unnamable seems to contain and encompass its predecessors and the characters of earlier Beckett novels. Its power of language and breadth of imagination make it a tour de force that recalls Dante as it moves into an ever greater void of despair and panic, a metaphysical work that must take its place among the very greatest works of literature. Its dramatic power has been proved by the successful endeavours of those actors who have specialised in Beckett's work to bring it, and earlier parts of the trilogy, to the stage, or to life on the radio. Patrick Magee, Jack Magowran, Jack Emery, Barry McGovern and Max Wall are only a few of the actors who have become closely associated with all or parts of the trilogy.