Book #64: Mercier and Camier

Mercier and Camier was my first contact with Samuel Beckett. Prior to my reading to this, all I knew about him was from the show Gilmore Girls.

At one point Emily is complaining to Richard about something, but he’s reading and not listening. She whines that he isn’t listening. He says something to the effect of, “Sorry, it takes a minute to emerge from Beckett. He’s a strange man.”

I guess I was expecting something more bizarre than what I got with Mercier and Camier. I’m told, though, that this is one of Beckett’s more accessible works, so maybe that’s the reason. I’ve also heard that people who study Beckett hate this book. They say it doesn’t fit with the rest of his amazing body of work.

I’m not sure what I say.

Though I haven’t read any of Beckett’s other works, I’m fairly comfortable guessing that Mercier and Camier isn’t nearly as profound as other books he’s written.

However, I think that there’s something about the futility of what Mercier and Camier are doing that fits in nicely with (what I imagine) the rest of Beckett’s works. Basically, two men, Mercier and Camier, are compelled to go on a journey. They have to leave. And they have to leave now. Or tomorrow morning. Or after they repeatedly miss each other at the meeting point, as they wait, decide to take a walk and check the meeting point again, and then return to find the other not there.

It’s never clear what, exactly, the men are trying to accomplish or where they’re going. They leave wander around their city, they leave their city, they come back to their city. They never really get anywhere, but it’s dreadfully important that they’re going.

The book is funny (see what I wrote about them repeatedly showing up at the meeting point and just missing each other). The narrator is very dry, and the characters have an odd logic sometimes.

Overall, I think Mercier and Camier is an interesting read. I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t want to accidentally be drawn into contemplating the futility of everything we do, even if we think it’s important, but it’s still pretty interesting.

As to whether it deserves the flack it gets from some scholars, I’ll have to read more Beckett and report back.

Rating: ****
Up Next: The Master


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