Abstract

Samuel Beckett's novel Murphy (written 1935–6, published 1938) is an extensive and satirical attack on the work ethic and the postwar recovery in London. This critique is delivered obliquely by way of a series of playful observations about astrology, which was becoming more widely accepted in 1930s London despite being prosecutable under The Vagrancy Act (1824). Although there is no direct influence there are many parallels between Beckett's stance towards astrology in Murphy and Theodor Adorno's The Stars Down to Earth (written 1952–3). It was likely Beckett's encounter with the work of Tommaso Campanella that led to the use of astrology as a plot device. The novel's plot is best read in terms of Murphy's changing attitude to astrology—the star-chart is the field in which the protagonist wrestles with work as a social obligation. The book also contrasts labor relations in London, as depicted in Murphy, to those of China, as depicted in André Malraux's La Condition humaine (1933).

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1464
Print ISSN
0022-281X
Pages
pp. 62-74
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-03
Open Access
No
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