A Creepy Cut Out Animation of Samuel Beckett’s 1953 Novel, The Unnamable

Morn­ing, friend! Ready to kick off your week with a Beck­et­t­ian night­mare vision?

Samuel Beck­ett schol­ar Jen­ny Trig­gs was earn­ing a mas­ters in Visu­al Com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Edin­burgh Col­lege of Art when she cre­at­ed the unset­tling, cut out ani­ma­tion for his 1953 nov­el, The Unnam­able, above. (Her PhD exhi­bi­tion, a decade lat­er, was a mul­ti-screen video response to Beckett’s short sto­ry, Ping.)

The wretched crea­tures haunt­ing the film con­jure Bosch and Gilliam, in addi­tion to Ire­land’s best known avant-garde play­wright.

Trig­gs seem to have drawn inspi­ra­tion from the name­less narrator’s phys­i­cal self-assess­ment:

I of whom I know noth­ing, I know my eyes are open because of the tears that pour from them unceas­ing­ly. I know I am seat­ed, my hands on my knees, because of the pres­sure against my rump, against the soles of my feet? I don’t know. My spine is not sup­port­ed. I men­tion these details to make sure I am not lying on my back, my legs raised and bent, my eyes closed.

Despite the narrator’s effort to keep track of his parts, Trig­gs ensures that some­thing will always be miss­ing. Her char­ac­ters make do with rods, bits of chess pieces or noth­ing at all in places where limbs should be.

Are these birth defects or some sort of wartime dis­abil­i­ty that pre­cludes pros­thet­ics?

One char­ac­ter is described as “noth­ing but a shape­less heap… with a wild equine eye.”

The nar­ra­tor steels him­self “to invent anoth­er fairy tale with heads, trunks, arms, legs and all that fol­lows.” Mean­while, he’s tor­ment­ed by a spir­i­tu­al push-me-pull-you that feels very like the one afflict­ing Vladimir and Estragon in Wait­ing for Godot:

Where I am, I don’t know, I’ll nev­er know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

Trig­gs describes The Unnam­able as a book that begs to be read aloud, and her nar­ra­tors Louise Milne and Chris Noon are deserv­ing of praise for pars­ing the mean­der­ing text in such a way that it makes sense, at least atmos­pher­i­cal­ly.

To go on means going from here, means find­ing me, los­ing me, van­ish­ing and begin­ning again, a stranger first, then lit­tle by lit­tle the same as always, in anoth­er place, where I shall say I have always been, of which I shall know noth­ing, being inca­pable of see­ing, mov­ing, think­ing, speak­ing, but of which lit­tle by lit­tle, in spite of these hand­i­caps, I shall begin to know some­thing, just enough for it to turn out to be the same place as always, the same which seems made for me and does not want me, which I seem to want and do not want, take your choice, which spews me out or swal­lows me up, I’ll nev­er know, which is per­haps mere­ly the inside of my dis­tant skull where once I wan­dered, now am fixed, lost for tini­ness, or strain­ing against the walls, with my head, my hands, my feet, my back, and ever mur­mur­ing my old sto­ries, my old sto­ry, as if it were the first time.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Rare Audio: Samuel Beck­ett Reads From His Nov­el Watt

Take a “Breath” and Watch Samuel Beckett’s One-Minute Play

Hear Samuel Beckett’s Avant-Garde Radio Plays: All That Fall, Embers, and More

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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