Critical Context

Following More Pricks than Kicks (1933), the publication of Murphy in English in 1938 signaled the maturing voice of one of Ireland’s greatest writers. This novel foreshadows Beckett’s great dramatic work, including Waiting for Godot, Endgame (1957), Happy Days (1961), Krapp’s Last Tape (1958), and others, written for the stage, radio, television, and film. It stands as one of the central works of the period that produced Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake (1939) and the best work of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner. In a time of experimentation with form, from which the term “postmodern” would eventually emerge, Murphy is second in Beckett’s prose work only to the trilogy, Molloy (1951), Malone Dies (1951), and The Unnamable (1953). Sophisticated both in its referents and in its form, deeply philosophical yet wildly entertaining to the informed reader, Murphy deserves a place as a milestone on the journey of the novel to its present state.