Samuel Beckett
Overview
 
Samuel Barclay Beckett (13 April 1906 – 22 December 1989) was an Irish avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 novelist, playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

, theatre director, and poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

. He wrote both in English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic
Tragicomedy
Tragicomedy is fictional work that blends aspects of the genres of tragedy and comedy. In English literature, from Shakespeare's time to the nineteenth century, tragicomedy referred to a serious play with either a happy ending or enough jokes throughout the play to lighten the mood.-Classical...

 outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy
Black comedy
A black comedy, or dark comedy, is a comic work that employs black humor or gallows humor. The definition of black humor is problematic; it has been argued that it corresponds to the earlier concept of gallows humor; and that, as humor has been defined since Freud as a comedic act that anesthetizes...

 and gallows humour
Gallows humor
Gallows humor , derives from gallows which is a platform with a noose used to execute people by hanging. Gallows humor is the type of humor that still manages to be funny in the face of, and in response to, a perfectly hopeless situation...

.

Beckett is widely regarded as among the most influential writers of the 20th century. Strongly influenced by James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

, he is considered one of the last modernists
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

.
Quotations

If by Godot I had meant God I would have said God, and not Godot.

As quoted in The Essential Samuel Beckett: An Illustrated Biography, by Enoch Brater (revised edition, 2003) ISBN 0-500-28411-3, p.75

It means what it says.

Said about Waiting for Godot, from Jonathan Croall, The Coming of Godot (2005) ISBN 1-840-02595-6, p.91

I grow gnomic. It is the last phase.

The Letters of Samuel Becket 1929–1940 (2009), p. 209

I think the next little bit of excitement is flying. I hope I am not too old to take it up seriously, nor too stupid about machines to qualify as a commercial pilot. I do not feel like spending the rest of my life writing books that no one will read. It is not as though I wanted to write them.

The Letters of Samuel Beckett 1929–1940 (2009), p. 362 :Grove Press, 1959, ISBN 0-394-17216-7

We are no longer the same, you wiser but not sadder, and I sadder but not wiser, for wiser I could hardly become without grave personal inconvenience, whereas sorrow is a thing you can keep adding to all your life long, is it not, like a stamp or an egg collection, without feeling very much the worse for it, is it not.

Part I (p. 50)

For the only way one can speak of nothing is to speak of it as though it were something, just as the only way one can speak of God is to speak of him as though he were a man, which to be sure he was, in a sense, for a time, and as the only way one can speak of man, even our anthropologists have realized that, is to speak of him as though he were a termite.

Part II (p. 77)

But he had turned, little by little, a disturbance into words, he had made a pillow of old words, for his head.

Part II (p. 117)

But he had hardly felt the absurdity of those things, on the one hand, and the necessity of those others, on the other (for it is rare that the feeling of absurdity is not followed by the feeling of necessity), when he felt the absurdity of those things of which he had just felt the necessity (for it is rare that the feeling of necessity is not followed by the feeling of absurdity).

Part II (p. 133)

Encyclopedia
Samuel Barclay Beckett (13 April 1906 – 22 December 1989) was an Irish avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 novelist, playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

, theatre director, and poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

. He wrote both in English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic
Tragicomedy
Tragicomedy is fictional work that blends aspects of the genres of tragedy and comedy. In English literature, from Shakespeare's time to the nineteenth century, tragicomedy referred to a serious play with either a happy ending or enough jokes throughout the play to lighten the mood.-Classical...

 outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy
Black comedy
A black comedy, or dark comedy, is a comic work that employs black humor or gallows humor. The definition of black humor is problematic; it has been argued that it corresponds to the earlier concept of gallows humor; and that, as humor has been defined since Freud as a comedic act that anesthetizes...

 and gallows humour
Gallows humor
Gallows humor , derives from gallows which is a platform with a noose used to execute people by hanging. Gallows humor is the type of humor that still manages to be funny in the face of, and in response to, a perfectly hopeless situation...

.

Beckett is widely regarded as among the most influential writers of the 20th century. Strongly influenced by James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

, he is considered one of the last modernists
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

. As an inspiration to many later writers, he is also sometimes considered one of the first postmodernists
Postmodernism
Postmodernism is a philosophical movement evolved in reaction to modernism, the tendency in contemporary culture to accept only objective truth and to be inherently suspicious towards a global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from the...

. He is one of the key writers in what Martin Esslin
Martin Esslin
Martin Julius Esslin OBE was a Hungarian-born English producer and playwright dramatist, journalist, adaptor and translator, critic, academic scholar and professor of drama best known for coining the term "Theatre of the Absurd" in his work of that name...

 called the "Theatre of the Absurd
Theatre of the Absurd
The Theatre of the Absurd is a designation for particular plays of absurdist fiction, written by a number of primarily European playwrights in the late 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, as well as to the style of theatre which has evolved from their work...

". His work became increasingly minimalist
Minimalism
Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is set out to expose the essence, essentials or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts...

 in his later career.

Beckett was awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

 "for his writing, which—in new forms for the novel and drama—in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation". He was elected Saoi
Saoi
Saoi , is the highest honour that members of Aosdána, an association of people in Ireland who have achieved distinction in the arts, can bestow upon a fellow member...

 of Aosdána
Aosdána
Aosdána is an Irish association of Artists. It was created in 1981 on the initiative of a group of writers and with support from the Arts Council of Ireland. Membership, which is by invitation from current members, is limited to 250 individuals; before 2005 it was limited to 200...

 in 1984.

Early life and education

The Becketts were members of the Church of Ireland
Church of Ireland
The Church of Ireland is an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. The church operates in all parts of Ireland and is the second largest religious body on the island after the Roman Catholic Church...

. The family home, Cooldrinagh in the Dublin suburb of Foxrock
Foxrock
Foxrock is a suburb of Dublin, Ireland. It is in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County, in the postal district of Dublin 18 and in the parish of Foxrock.-History:...

, was a large house and garden complete with tennis court built in 1903 by Samuel's father, William. The house and garden, together with the surrounding countryside where he often went walking with his father, the nearby Leopardstown Racecourse, the Foxrock railway station and Harcourt Street station at the city terminus of the line, all feature in his prose and plays. Beckett's father was a quantity surveyor
Quantity surveyor
A quantity surveyor is a professional working within the construction industry concerned with building costs.The profession is one that provides a qualification gained following formal education, specific training and experience that provides a general set of skills that are then applied to a...

 and his mother a nurse.

Samuel Beckett was born on Good Friday, 13 April 1906 to William Frank Beckett, a 35 year old Civil Engineer, and May Barclay (also 35 at Beckett's birth); they had married in 1901. Beckett had one older brother, Frank Edward Beckett (born 1902). At the age of five, Beckett attended a local playschool, where he started to learn music, and then moved to Earlsfort House School in the city centre near Harcourt Street. In 1919, Beckett went to Portora Royal School
Portora Royal School
Portora Royal School for boys, and some 6th form girls, located in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, is one of a number of 'free schools' founded by Royal Charter in 1608, by James I...

 in Enniskillen
Enniskillen
Enniskillen is a town in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. It is located almost exactly in the centre of the county between the Upper and Lower sections of Lough Erne. It had a population of 13,599 in the 2001 Census...

, County Fermanagh
County Fermanagh
Fermanagh District Council is the only one of the 26 district councils in Northern Ireland that contains all of the county it is named after. The district council also contains a small section of County Tyrone in the Dromore and Kilskeery road areas....

 (which Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

 had also attended). A natural athlete, Beckett excelled at cricket as a left-handed batsman and a left-arm medium-pace bowler. Later, he was to play for Dublin University
University of Dublin
The University of Dublin , corporately designated the Chancellor, Doctors and Masters of the University of Dublin , located in Dublin, Ireland, was effectively founded when in 1592 Queen Elizabeth I issued a charter for Trinity College, Dublin, as "the mother of a university" – this date making it...

 and played two first-class
First-class cricket
First-class cricket is a class of cricket that consists of matches of three or more days' scheduled duration, that are between two sides of eleven players and are officially adjudged first-class by virtue of the standard of the competing teams...

 games against Northamptonshire
Northamptonshire County Cricket Club
Northamptonshire County Cricket Club is one of the 18 major county clubs which make up the English and Welsh domestic cricket structure, representing the historic county of Northamptonshire. Its limited overs team is called the Northants Steelbacks. The traditional club colour is Maroon. During the...

. As a result, he became the only Nobel laureate to have an entry in Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack is a cricket reference book published annually in the United Kingdom...

, the "bible" of cricket.

Early writings

Beckett studied French, Italian, and English at Trinity College, Dublin
Trinity College, Dublin
Trinity College, Dublin , formally known as the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, was founded in 1592 by letters patent from Queen Elizabeth I as the "mother of a university", Extracts from Letters Patent of Elizabeth I, 1592: "...we...found and...

 from 1923 to 1927 (one of his tutors was the eminent Berkeley
George Berkeley
George Berkeley , also known as Bishop Berkeley , was an Irish philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called "immaterialism"...

 scholar A. A. Luce
A. A. Luce
Arthur Aston Luce MC was professor of philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin and also Precentor of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin . Throughout his life he held many clerical appointments and was Vice-Provost of Trinity from 1946-1952. He was widely known as an authority on the philosopher George...

). Beckett graduated with a BA, and—after teaching briefly at Campbell College
Campbell College
Campbell College is a Voluntary Grammar school in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The College educates boys from ages 11–18. It is one of the eight Northern Irish schools represented on the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference and is a member of the Independent Schools Council.The school occupies...

 in Belfast—took up the post of lecteur d'anglais in the École Normale Supérieure
École Normale Supérieure
The École normale supérieure is one of the most prestigious French grandes écoles...

 in Paris. While there, he was introduced to renowned Irish author James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

 by Thomas MacGreevy
Thomas MacGreevy
Thomas MacGreevy was a pivotal figure in the history of Irish literary modernism. A poet, he was also director of the National Gallery of Ireland from 1950 to 1963 and served on the first Irish Arts Council .-Early life:MacGreevy was born in County Kerry, the son of a policeman and a primary...

, a poet and close confidant of Beckett who also worked there. This meeting had a profound effect on the young man. Beckett assisted Joyce in various ways, one of which was research towards the book that became Finnegans Wake
Finnegans Wake
Finnegans Wake is a novel by Irish author James Joyce, significant for its experimental style and resulting reputation as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the English language. Written in Paris over a period of seventeen years, and published in 1939, two years before the author's...

.

In 1929, Beckett published his first work, a critical essay entitled "Dante... Bruno. Vico.. Joyce". The essay defends Joyce's work and method, chiefly from allegations of wanton obscurity and dimness, and was Beckett's contribution to Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress
Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress
Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress is a 1929 collection of critical essays, and two letters, on the subject of James Joyce's book Finnegans Wake, then being published in discrete sections under the title Work in Progress...

(a book of essays on Joyce which also included contributions by Eugene Jolas
Eugene Jolas
John George Eugene Jolas was a writer, translator and literary critic.-Biography:Eugene Jolas was born in Union City, New Jersey, but grew up in Forbach in Elsass-Lothringen , to which his family returned when he was two years old. He spent periods of his adult life living in both the U.S...

, Robert McAlmon
Robert McAlmon
Robert Menzies McAlmon was an American author, poet and publisher.-Life:McAlmon was born in Clifton, Kansas, the youngest of ten children of an itinerant Presbyterian minister....

, and William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams was an American poet closely associated with modernism and Imagism. He was also a pediatrician and general practitioner of medicine, having graduated from the University of Pennsylvania...

). Beckett's close relationship with Joyce and his family cooled, however, when he rejected the advances of Joyce's daughter Lucia
Lucia Joyce
Lucia Anna Joyce was the daughter of Irish writer James Joyce and Nora Barnacle.Italian was her first language and the language in which she corresponded with her father. She studied ballet while she was a teenager, becoming good enough to train with Isadora Duncan...

 owing to her progressing schizophrenia
Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a disintegration of thought processes and of emotional responsiveness. It most commonly manifests itself as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking, and it is accompanied by significant social...

. Beckett's first short story, "Assumption", was published in Jolas's periodical transition
Transition (literary journal)
transition was an experimental literary journal that featured surrealist, expressionist, and Dada art and artists. It was founded in 1927 by poet Eugene Jolas and his wife Maria McDonald and published in Paris...

. The next year he won a small literary prize with his hastily composed poem "Whoroscope", which draws on a biography of René Descartes
René Descartes
René Descartes ; was a French philosopher and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the 'Father of Modern Philosophy', and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day...

 that Beckett happened to be reading when he was encouraged to submit.

In 1930, Beckett returned to Trinity College as a lecturer, though he soon became disillusioned with the post. He expressed his aversion by playing a trick on the Modern Language Society of Dublin: he read a learned paper in French on a Toulouse
Toulouse
Toulouse is a city in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern FranceIt lies on the banks of the River Garonne, 590 km away from Paris and half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea...

 author named Jean du Chas, founder of a movement called Concentrism; Chas and Concentrism, however, were pure fiction, having been invented by Beckett to mock pedantry. When Beckett resigned from Trinity at the end of 1931, his brief academic career was terminated. He commemorated it with the poem "Gnome", which was inspired by his reading of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship
Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship
Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship is the second novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, published in 1795-96. While his first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, featured a hero driven to suicide by despair, the eponymous hero of this novel undergoes a journey of self-realization...

and eventually published in the Dublin Magazine in 1934:
Beckett travelled in Europe. He spent some time in London, where in 1931 he published Proust
Proust (Beckett essay)
Samuel Beckett's essay Proust, from 1930, is an aesthetic and epistemological manifesto, which is more concerned with Beckett's influences and preoccupations than with its ostensible subject.-History:...

, his critical study of French author Marcel Proust
Marcel Proust
Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu...

. Two years later, following his father's death, he began two years' treatment with Tavistock Clinic
Tavistock Clinic
The in London was founded in 1920 by Dr. Hugh Crichton-Miller, a psychiatrist who developed psychological treatments for shell-shocked soldiers during and after the First World War. The clinic's first patient was, however, a child. Its clinical services were always, therefore, for both children...

 psychoanalyst Dr. Wilfred Bion
Wilfred Bion
Wilfred Ruprecht Bion DSO was an influential British psychoanalyst, who became president of the British Psychoanalytical Society from 1962 to 1965....

, who took him to hear Carl Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

's third Tavistock lecture, an event which Beckett still recalled many years later. The lecture focused on the subject of the "never properly born"; aspects of it became evident in Beckett's later works, such as Watt and Waiting for Godot
Waiting for Godot
Waiting for Godot is an absurdist play by Samuel Beckett, in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for someone named Godot to arrive. Godot's absence, as well as numerous other aspects of the play, have led to many different interpretations since the play's...

. In 1932, he wrote his first novel, Dream of Fair to Middling Women, but after many rejections from publishers decided to abandon it (it was eventually published in 1993). Despite his inability to get it published, however, the novel served as a source for many of Beckett's early poems, as well as for his first full-length book, the 1933 short-story
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

 collection More Pricks Than Kicks
More Pricks Than Kicks
More Pricks Than Kicks is a collection of short prose by Samuel Beckett, first published in 1934. It contains extracts from his earlier novel, Dream of Fair to Middling Women , as well as other short stories....

.

Beckett published a number of essays and reviews, including "Recent Irish Poetry" (in The Bookman, August 1934) and "Humanistic Quietism", a review of his friend Thomas MacGreevy's Poems (in The Dublin Magazine
The Dublin Magazine
The Dublin Magazine was an Irish literary journal founded and edited by the poet Seamus O'Sullivan and published in Dublin by New Square Publications....

, July–September 1934). They focused on the work of MacGreevy, Brian Coffey
Brian Coffey
Brian Coffey was an Irish poet and publisher. His work was informed by his Catholicism and by his background in science and philosophy, and his connection to surrealism. For these reasons, he is seen as being closer to an intellectual European Catholic tradition than to mainstream Irish Catholic...

, Denis Devlin
Denis Devlin
Denis Devlin was, along with Samuel Beckett and Brian Coffey, one of the generation of Irish modernist poets to emerge at the end of the 1920s. He was also a career diplomat.-Early life and studies:...

 and Blanaid Salkeld
Blanaid Salkeld
Blanaid Salkeld was an Irish poet, dramatist, and actor, whose well-known literary salon was attended by, among others, Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O'Brien...

, despite their slender achievements at the time, comparing them favourably with their Celtic Revival
Celtic Revival
Celtic Revival covers a variety of movements and trends, mostly in the 19th and 20th centuries, which drew on the traditions of Celtic literature and Celtic art, or in fact more often what art historians call Insular art...

 contemporaries and invoking Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

, T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

, and the French symbolists
Symbolism (arts)
Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style had its beginnings with the publication Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire...

 as their precursors. In describing these poets as forming "the nucleus of a living poetic in Ireland", Beckett was tracing the outlines of an Irish poetic modernist
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

 canon.

In 1935—the year that Beckett successfully published a book of his poetry, Echo's Bones and Other Precipitates—Beckett worked on his novel Murphy
Murphy (novel)
Murphy, first published in 1938, is a novel as well as the third work of prose fiction by the Irish author and dramatist Samuel Beckett. The book was Beckett's second published prose work after the short-story collection More Pricks than Kicks and his unpublished first novel Dream of Fair to...

. In May, he wrote to MacGreevy that he had been reading about film and wished to go to Moscow to study with Sergei Eisenstein
Sergei Eisenstein
Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein , né Eizenshtein, was a pioneering Soviet Russian film director and film theorist, often considered to be the "Father of Montage"...

 at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography
Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography
The Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography All-Russian State University of Cinematography named after S. A. Gerasimov), VGIK for short, is a film school in Moscow, Russia.-History:...

 in Moscow. In mid-1936 he wrote to Sergei Eisenstein
Sergei Eisenstein
Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein , né Eizenshtein, was a pioneering Soviet Russian film director and film theorist, often considered to be the "Father of Montage"...

 and Vsevolod Pudovkin
Vsevolod Pudovkin
Vsevolod Illarionovich Pudovkin was a Russian and Soviet film director, screenwriter and actor who developed influential theories of montage...

 to offer himself as their apprentices. Nothing came of this, however, as Beckett's letter was lost owing to Eisenstein's quarantine during the smallpox outbreak, as well as his focus on a script re-write of his postponed film production. Beckett, meanwhile, finished Murphy and then, in 1936, departed for extensive travel around Germany, during which time he filled several notebooks with lists of noteworthy artwork that he had seen and noted his distaste for the Nazi
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 savagery that was overtaking the country. Returning to Ireland briefly in 1937, he oversaw the publication of Murphy (1938), which he translated into French the following year. He fell out with his mother, which contributed to his decision to settle permanently in Paris (where he settled permanently following the outbreak of World War II in 1939, preferring, in his own words, "France at war to Ireland at peace"). His was soon a known face in and around Left Bank
Rive Gauche
La Rive Gauche is the southern bank of the river Seine in Paris. Here the river flows roughly westward, cutting the city in two: looking downstream, the southern bank is to the left, and the northern bank is to the right....

 cafés, where he strengthened his allegiance with Joyce and forged new ones with artists Alberto Giacometti
Alberto Giacometti
Alberto Giacometti was a Swiss sculptor, painter, draughtsman, and printmaker.Alberto Giacometti was born in the canton Graubünden's southerly alpine valley Val Bregaglia and came from an artistic background; his father, Giovanni, was a well-known post-Impressionist painter...

 and Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp was a French artist whose work is most often associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Considered by some to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Duchamp's output influenced the development of post-World War I Western art...

, with whom he regularly played chess
Chess
Chess is a two-player board game played on a chessboard, a square-checkered board with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. It is one of the world's most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.Each player...

. Sometime around December 1937, Beckett had a brief affair with Peggy Guggenheim
Peggy Guggenheim
Marguerite "Peggy" Guggenheim was an American art collector. Born to a wealthy New York City family, she was the daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim, who went down with the Titanic in 1912 and the niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, who would establish the Solomon R...

, who nicknamed him "Oblomov" (after the character in Ivan Goncharov
Ivan Goncharov
Ivan Alexandrovich Goncharov was a Russian novelist best known as the author of Oblomov .- Biography :Ivan Goncharov was born in Simbirsk ; his father was a wealthy grain merchant and respected official who was elected mayor of Simbirsk several times...

's novel
Oblomov
Oblomov is the best known novel by Russian writer Ivan Goncharov, first published in 1859. Oblomov is also the central character of the novel, often seen as the ultimate incarnation of the superfluous man, a symbolic character in 19th-century Russian literature...

).

In January 1938 in Paris, Beckett was stabbed in the chest and nearly killed when he refused the solicitations of a notorious pimp
Pimp
A pimp is an agent for prostitutes who collects part of their earnings. The pimp may receive this money in return for advertising services, physical protection, or for providing a location where she may engage clients...

 (who, ironically, went by the name of Prudent). Joyce arranged a private room for Beckett at the hospital. The publicity surrounding the stabbing attracted the attention of Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil, who knew Beckett slightly from his first stay in Paris; this time, however, the two would begin a lifelong companionship. At a preliminary hearing, Beckett asked his attacker for the motive behind the stabbing; Prudent replied: "Je ne sais pas, Monsieur. Je m'excuse" ("I do not know, sir. I'm sorry"). Beckett eventually dropped the charges against his attacker—partially to avoid further formalities, partly because he found Prudent likeable and well-mannered. Beckett occasionally recounted the incident in jest.

World War II

Beckett joined the French Resistance
French Resistance
The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

 after the 1940 occupation by Germany, in which he worked as a courier. On several occasions over the next two years he was nearly caught by the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

. In August 1942, his unit was betrayed and he and Suzanne fled south on foot to the safety of the small village of Roussillon
Roussillon, Vaucluse
Roussillon is a commune in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France.Roussillon lies within the borders of the Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon. In the French natural regional parks, new economic activities may be developed only if they are...

, in the Vaucluse
Vaucluse
The Vaucluse is a department in the southeast of France, named after the famous spring, the Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.- History :Vaucluse was created on 12 August 1793 out of parts of the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône, Drôme, and Basses-Alpes...

 département in the Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur region. There he continued to assist the Resistance by storing armaments in the back yard of his home. During the two years that Beckett stayed in Roussillon he indirectly helped the Maquis
Maquis (World War II)
The Maquis were the predominantly rural guerrilla bands of the French Resistance. Initially they were composed of men who had escaped into the mountains to avoid conscription into Vichy France's Service du travail obligatoire to provide forced labour for Germany...

 sabotage the German army in the Vaucluse mountains, though he rarely spoke about his wartime work in later life.

Beckett was awarded the Croix de guerre
Croix de guerre
The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

 and the Médaille de la Résistance
Médaille de la Résistance
The French Médaille de la Résistance was awarded by General Charles de Gaulle "to recognise the remarkable acts of faith and of courage that, in France, in the empire and abroad, have contributed to the resistance of the French people against the enemy and against its accomplices since June 18,...

 by the French government for his efforts in fighting the German occupation; to the end of his life, however, Beckett would refer to his work with the French Resistance as "boy scout stuff". While in hiding in Roussillon, he continued work on the novel Watt
Watt (novel)
Watt was Samuel Beckett's second published novel in English, largely written on the run in the south of France during the Second World War and published by Maurice Girodias's Olympia Press in 1953...

 (begun in 1941 and completed in 1945, but not published until 1953, though an extract had appeared in the Dublin literary periodical Envoy
Envoy, A Review of Literature and Art
December 1949- July 1951. Dublin, Ireland. Editor & Founder: John RyanDuring its brief existence, Envoy, A Review of Literature and Art, published the work of a broad range of writers, Irish and others. The first to publish J. P...

).

Fame: novels and the theatre

In 1945, Beckett returned to Dublin for a brief visit. During his stay, he had a revelation in his mother’s room: his entire future direction in literature appeared to him. Beckett had felt that he would remain forever in the shadow of Joyce, certain to never best him at his own game. His revelation prompted him to change direction and to acknowledge both his own stupidity and his interest in ignorance and impotence:
"I realized that Joyce had gone as far as one could in the direction of knowing more, [being] in control of one’s material. He was always adding to it; you only have to look at his proofs to see that. I realized that my own way was in impoverishment, in lack of knowledge and in taking away, in subtracting rather than in adding."


Knowlson argues that "Beckett was rejecting the Joycean principle that knowing more was a way of creatively understanding the world and controlling it ... In future, his work would focus on poverty, failure, exile and loss – as he put it, on man as a 'non-knower' and as a 'non-can-er.'" The revelation "has rightly been regarded as a pivotal moment in his entire career." Beckett fictionalised the experience in his play Krapp's Last Tape
Krapp's Last Tape
Krapp's Last Tape is a one-act play, written in English, by Samuel Beckett. Consisting of a cast of one man, it was originally written for Northern Irish actor Patrick Magee and first titled "Magee monologue"...

(1958). While listening to a tape he made earlier in his life, Krapp hears his younger self say "clear to me at last that the dark I have always struggled to keep under is in reality my most...", at which point Krapp fast-forwards the tape (before the audience can hear the complete revelation). Beckett later explained to Knowlson that the missing words on the tape are "precious ally".Knowlson (1997) p352–353.

In 1946, Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary...

’s magazine Les Temps Modernes published the first part of Beckett’s short story "Suite" (later to be called "La fin", or "The End"), not realizing that Beckett had only submitted the first half of the story; Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir
Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir, often shortened to Simone de Beauvoir , was a French existentialist philosopher, public intellectual, and social theorist. She wrote novels, essays, biographies, an autobiography in several volumes, and monographs on philosophy, politics, and...

 refused to publish the second part. Beckett also began to write his fourth novel, Mercier et Camier
Mercier and Camier
Mercier and Camier is a novel by Samuel Beckett.Written immediately before his celebrated 'trilogy' of Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable, Mercier et Camier was Beckett's first attempt at extended prose fiction in French...

, which was not published until 1970. The novel presaged his most famous work, the play Waiting for Godot
Waiting for Godot
Waiting for Godot is an absurdist play by Samuel Beckett, in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for someone named Godot to arrive. Godot's absence, as well as numerous other aspects of the play, have led to many different interpretations since the play's...

, which was written not long afterwards. More importantly, the novel was Beckett’s first long work that he wrote in French, the language of most of his subsequent works, including the poioumenon "trilogy" of novels: Molloy
Molloy (novel)
Molloy is a novel by Samuel Beckett. The English translation is by Beckett and Patrick Bowles.-Plot introduction:On first appearance the book concerns two different characters, both of whom have interior monologues in the book. As the story moves along the two characters are distinguished by name...

, Malone Dies
Malone Dies
Malone Dies is a novel by Samuel Beckett. It was first published in 1951, in French, as Malone Meurt, and later translated into English by the author....

and The Unnamable
The Unnamable (novel)
The Unnamable is a 1953 novel by Samuel Beckett. It is the third and final entry in Beckett's "Trilogy" of novels, which begins with Molloy followed by Malone Dies. It was originally published in French as L'Innommable and later adapted by the author into English...

. Despite being a native English speaker, Beckett wrote in French because—as he himself claimed—it was easier for him thus to write "without style".

Beckett is most famous for his play Waiting for Godot
Waiting for Godot
Waiting for Godot is an absurdist play by Samuel Beckett, in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for someone named Godot to arrive. Godot's absence, as well as numerous other aspects of the play, have led to many different interpretations since the play's...

(1953). In a much-quoted article, the critic Vivian Mercier
Vivian Mercier
Vivian Mercier was an Irish literary critic. He was born in Clara, County Offaly, Ireland and educated first at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, and then at Trinity College, Dublin. He became a Scholar of the College and edited the student magazine T.C.D...

 wrote that Beckett "has achieved a theoretical impossibility—a play in which nothing happens, that yet keeps audiences glued to their seats. What's more, since the second act is a subtly different reprise of the first, he has written a play in which nothing happens, twice." Like most of his works after 1947, the play was first written in French with the title En attendant Godot. Beckett worked on the play between October 1948 and January 1949. He published it in 1952 and it premièred in 1953; an English translation appeared two years later. The play was a critical, popular, and controversial success in Paris. It opened in London in 1955 to mainly negative reviews, but the tide turned with positive reactions from Harold Hobson in The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times (UK)
The Sunday Times is a Sunday broadsheet newspaper, distributed in the United Kingdom. The Sunday Times is published by Times Newspapers Ltd, a subsidiary of News International, which is in turn owned by News Corporation. Times Newspapers also owns The Times, but the two papers were founded...

and, later, Kenneth Tynan
Kenneth Tynan
Kenneth Peacock Tynan was an influential and often controversial English theatre critic and writer.-Early life:...

. In the United States, it flopped in Miami and had a qualified success in New York City. After this, the play became extremely popular, with highly successful performances in the US and Germany. It is frequently performed today.

Beckett translated all of his works into English himself, with the exception of Molloy, for which he collaborated with Patrick Bowles. The success of Waiting for Godot opened up a career in theatre for its author. Beckett went on to write a number of successful full-length plays, including Endgame
Endgame (play)
Endgame, by Samuel Beckett, is a one-act play with four characters, written in a style associated with the Theatre of the Absurd. It was originally written in French ; as was his custom, Beckett himself translated it into English. The play was first performed in a French-language production at the...

(1957), the Krapp's Last Tape (1958, written in English), Happy Days
Happy Days (play)
Happy Days is a play in two acts, written in English, by Samuel Beckett. He began the play on 8 October 1960 and it was completed on 14 May 1961. Beckett finished the translation into French by November 1962 but amended the title...

(1961, also written in English), and Play
Play (play)
Play is a one-act play by Samuel Beckett. It was written between 1962 and 1963 and first produced in German as Spiel on 14 June 1963 at the Ulmer Theatre in Ulm-Donau, Germany, directed by Deryk Mendel, with Nancy Illig , Sigfrid Pfeiffer and Gerhard Winter...

(1963). In 1961, Beckett received the International Publishers' Formentor Prize in recognition of his work, which he shared that year with Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo , known as Jorge Luis Borges , was an Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school, receiving his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The family...

.

Later life and death

The 1960s was a period of change for Beckett, both on a personal level and as a writer. In 1961, he married Suzanne in a secret civil ceremony in England (its secrecy due to reasons relating to French inheritance law). The success of his plays led to invitations to attend rehearsals and productions around the world, leading eventually to a new career as a theatre director. In 1956, he had his first commission from the BBC Third Programme
BBC Third Programme
The BBC Third Programme was a national radio network broadcast by the BBC. The network first went on air on 29 September 1946 and became one of the leading cultural and intellectual forces in Britain, playing a crucial role in disseminating the arts...

 for a radio play, All That Fall
All That Fall
All That Fall is a one-act radio play by Samuel Beckett produced following a request from the BBC. It was written in English and completed in September 1956. The autograph copy is titled Lovely Day for the Races...

. He continued writing sporadically for radio and extended his scope to include cinema and television. He began to write in English again, although he also wrote in French until the end of his life.

From the late 1950s until his death, Beckett had a relationship with Barbara Bray
Barbara Bray
Barbara Bray was a British translator and critic.An identical twin , she was educated at Girton College, Cambridge, where she read English, with papers in French and Italian...

, a widow who worked as a script editor for the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

. Knowlson wrote of them: "She was small and attractive, but, above all, keenly intelligent and well-read. Beckett seems to have been immediately attracted by her and she to him. Their encounter was highly significant for them both, for it represented the beginning of a relationship that was to last, in parallel with that with Suzanne, for the rest of his life".

In October 1969 while on holiday in Tunis
Tunis
Tunis is the capital of both the Tunisian Republic and the Tunis Governorate. It is Tunisia's largest city, with a population of 728,453 as of 2004; the greater metropolitan area holds some 2,412,500 inhabitants....

 with Suzanne, Beckett heard that he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Anticipating that her intensely private husband would be saddled with fame from that moment on, Suzanne called the award a "catastrophe". In true ascetic fashion, he gave away all of the prize money. While Beckett did not devote much time to interviews, he sometimes met the artists, scholars, and admirers who sought him out in the anonymous lobby of the Hotel PLM St. Jacques in Paris near his Montparnasse home.

Suzanne died on 17 July 1989. Confined to a nursing home and suffering from emphysema
Emphysema
Emphysema is a long-term, progressive disease of the lungs that primarily causes shortness of breath. In people with emphysema, the tissues necessary to support the physical shape and function of the lungs are destroyed. It is included in a group of diseases called chronic obstructive pulmonary...

 and possibly Parkinson's disease
Parkinson's disease
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system...

, Beckett died on 22 December of the same year. The two were interred together in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris and share a simple granite gravestone that follows Beckett's directive that it should be "any colour, so long as it's grey."

Works

Beckett's career as a writer can be roughly divided into three periods: his early works, up until the end of World War II in 1945; his middle period, stretching from 1945 until the early 1960s, during which period he wrote what are probably his best-known works; and his late period, from the early 1960s until Beckett's death in 1989, during which his works tended to become shorter and his style more minimalist
Minimalism
Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is set out to expose the essence, essentials or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts...

.

Early works

Beckett's earliest works are generally considered to have been strongly influenced by the work of his friend James Joyce. They are erudite and seem to display the author's learning merely for its own sake, resulting in several obscure passages. The opening phrases of the short-story collection More Pricks than Kicks
More Pricks Than Kicks
More Pricks Than Kicks is a collection of short prose by Samuel Beckett, first published in 1934. It contains extracts from his earlier novel, Dream of Fair to Middling Women , as well as other short stories....

(1934) affords a representative sample of this style:

It was morning and Belacqua was stuck in the first of the canti in the moon. He was so bogged that he could move neither backward nor forward. Blissful Beatrice was there, Dante also, and she explained the spots on the moon to him. She shewed him in the first place where he was at fault, then she put up her own explanation. She had it from God, therefore he could rely on its being accurate in every particular.


The passage makes reference to Dante
Dante Alighieri
Durante degli Alighieri, mononymously referred to as Dante , was an Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem La commedia, later named La divina commedia ...

's Commedia
The Divine Comedy
The Divine Comedy is an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri between 1308 and his death in 1321. It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature...

, which can serve to confuse readers not familiar with that work. It also anticipates aspects of Beckett's later work: the physical inactivity of the character Belacqua; the character's immersion in his own head and thoughts; the somewhat irreverent comedy of the final sentence.

Similar elements are present in Beckett's first published novel, Murphy (1938), which also explores the themes of insanity and chess (both of which would be recurrent elements in Beckett's later works). The novel's opening sentence hints at the somewhat pessimistic undertones and black
Black comedy
A black comedy, or dark comedy, is a comic work that employs black humor or gallows humor. The definition of black humor is problematic; it has been argued that it corresponds to the earlier concept of gallows humor; and that, as humor has been defined since Freud as a comedic act that anesthetizes...

 humour
Gallows humor
Gallows humor , derives from gallows which is a platform with a noose used to execute people by hanging. Gallows humor is the type of humor that still manages to be funny in the face of, and in response to, a perfectly hopeless situation...

 that animate many of Beckett's works: "The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new". Watt, written while Beckett was in hiding in Roussillon during World War II, is similar in terms of themes but less exuberant in its style. It explores human movement as if it were a mathematical permutation
Permutation
In mathematics, the notion of permutation is used with several slightly different meanings, all related to the act of permuting objects or values. Informally, a permutation of a set of objects is an arrangement of those objects into a particular order...

, presaging Beckett's later preoccupation—in both his novels and dramatic works—with precise movement.

Beckett's 1930 essay Proust
Proust (Beckett essay)
Samuel Beckett's essay Proust, from 1930, is an aesthetic and epistemological manifesto, which is more concerned with Beckett's influences and preoccupations than with its ostensible subject.-History:...

was strongly influenced by Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

's pessimism and laudatory descriptions of saintly asceticism. At this time Beckett began to write creatively in the French language. In the late 1930s, he wrote a number of short poems in that language and their sparseness—in contrast to the density of his English poems of roughly the same period, collected in Echo's Bones and Other Precipitates (1935)—seems to show that Beckett, albeit through the medium of another language, was in process of simplifying his style, a change also evidenced in Watt.

Middle period

After World War II, Beckett turned definitively to the French language as a vehicle. It was this, together with the "revelation" experienced in his mother's room in Dublin—in which he realized that his art must be subjective and drawn wholly from his own inner world—that would result in the works for which Beckett is best remembered today.

During the 15 years following the war, Beckett produced four major full-length stage plays: En attendant Godot (written 1948–1949; Waiting for Godot
Waiting for Godot
Waiting for Godot is an absurdist play by Samuel Beckett, in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for someone named Godot to arrive. Godot's absence, as well as numerous other aspects of the play, have led to many different interpretations since the play's...

), Fin de partie (1955–1957; Endgame
Endgame (play)
Endgame, by Samuel Beckett, is a one-act play with four characters, written in a style associated with the Theatre of the Absurd. It was originally written in French ; as was his custom, Beckett himself translated it into English. The play was first performed in a French-language production at the...

), Krapp's Last Tape
Krapp's Last Tape
Krapp's Last Tape is a one-act play, written in English, by Samuel Beckett. Consisting of a cast of one man, it was originally written for Northern Irish actor Patrick Magee and first titled "Magee monologue"...

(1958), and Happy Days
Happy Days (play)
Happy Days is a play in two acts, written in English, by Samuel Beckett. He began the play on 8 October 1960 and it was completed on 14 May 1961. Beckett finished the translation into French by November 1962 but amended the title...

(1961). These plays—which are often considered, rightly or wrongly, to have been instrumental in the so-called "Theatre of the Absurd
Theatre of the Absurd
The Theatre of the Absurd is a designation for particular plays of absurdist fiction, written by a number of primarily European playwrights in the late 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, as well as to the style of theatre which has evolved from their work...

"—deal in a very blackly humorous
Black comedy
A black comedy, or dark comedy, is a comic work that employs black humor or gallows humor. The definition of black humor is problematic; it has been argued that it corresponds to the earlier concept of gallows humor; and that, as humor has been defined since Freud as a comedic act that anesthetizes...

 way with themes similar to those of the roughly contemporary existentialist thinkers
Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

. The term "Theatre of the Absurd" was coined by Martin Esslin in a book of the same name; Beckett and Godot were centerpieces of the book. Esslin claimed these plays were the fulfillment of Albert Camus
Albert Camus
Albert Camus was a French author, journalist, and key philosopher of the 20th century. In 1949, Camus founded the Group for International Liaisons within the Revolutionary Union Movement, which was opposed to some tendencies of the Surrealist movement of André Breton.Camus was awarded the 1957...

's concept of "the absurd"; this is one reason Beckett is often falsely labeled as an existentialist (this is based on the assumption that Camus was an existentialist, though he in fact broke off from the existentialist movement and founded his own philosophy
Absurdism
In philosophy, "The Absurd" refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any...

). Though many of the themes are similar, Beckett had little affinity for existentialism as a whole.

Broadly speaking, the plays deal with the subject of despair and the will to survive in spite of that despair, in the face of an uncomprehending and incomprehensible world. The words of Nell—one of the two characters in Endgame who are trapped in ashbins, from which they occasionally peek their heads to speak—can best summarize the themes of the plays of Beckett's middle period: "Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. ... Yes, yes, it's the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it's always the same thing. Yes, it's like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don't laugh any more."

Beckett's outstanding achievements in prose during the period were the three novels Molloy
Molloy (novel)
Molloy is a novel by Samuel Beckett. The English translation is by Beckett and Patrick Bowles.-Plot introduction:On first appearance the book concerns two different characters, both of whom have interior monologues in the book. As the story moves along the two characters are distinguished by name...

 (1951), Malone meurt (1951; Malone Dies
Malone Dies
Malone Dies is a novel by Samuel Beckett. It was first published in 1951, in French, as Malone Meurt, and later translated into English by the author....

) and L'innommable (1953: The Unnamable
The Unnamable (novel)
The Unnamable is a 1953 novel by Samuel Beckett. It is the third and final entry in Beckett's "Trilogy" of novels, which begins with Molloy followed by Malone Dies. It was originally published in French as L'Innommable and later adapted by the author into English...

). In these novels—sometimes referred to as a "trilogy", though this is against the author's own explicit wishes—the prose becomes increasingly bare and stripped down. Molloy, for instance, still retains many of the characteristics of a conventional novel (time, place, movement, and plot) and it makes use of the structure of a detective novel. In Malone Dies, however, movement and plot are largely dispensed with, though there is still some indication of place and the passage of time; the "action" of the book takes the form of an interior monologue. Finally, in The Unnamable, almost all sense of place and time are done abolished and the essential theme seems to be the conflict between the voice's drive to continue speaking so as to continue existing and its almost equally strong urge towards silence and oblivion. Despite the widely held view that Beckett's work, as exemplified by the novels of this period, is essentially pessimistic, the will to live seems to win out in the end; witness, for instance, the famous final phrase of The Unnamable: 'I can't go on, I'll go on'.

After these three novels, Beckett struggled for many years to produce a sustained work of prose, a struggle evidenced by the brief "stories" later collected as Texts for Nothing. In the late 1950s, however, he created one of his most radical prose works, Comment c'est (1961; How It Is). This work relates the adventures of an unnamed narrator crawling through the mud while dragging a sack of canned food. It was written as a sequence of unpunctuated paragraphs in a style approaching telegraphese: "You are there somewhere alive somewhere vast stretch of time then it's over you are there no more alive no more than again you are there again alive again it wasn't over an error you begin again all over more or less in the same place or in another as when another image above in the light you come to in hospital in the dark" Following this work, it would be almost another decade before Beckett produced a work of non-dramatic prose. How It Is is generally considered to mark the end of his middle period as a writer. In 1959 he contributed to the British arts review X (magazine)
X (magazine)
X, A Quarterly Review was a British arts review published in London which ran for seven issues between 1959-1962. It was founded and co-edited by Patrick Swift and David Wright...

 with L'Image.

Late works

Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, Beckett's works exhibited an increasing tendency—already evident in much of his work of the 1950s—towards compactness. This has led to his work sometimes being described as minimalist
Minimalism
Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is set out to expose the essence, essentials or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts...

. The extreme example of this, among his dramatic works, is the 1969 piece Breath
Breath (play)
Breath is a notably short stage work by Samuel Beckett. An altered version was first included in Kenneth Tynan's revue Oh! Calcutta!, at the Eden Theatre in New York City on June 16, 1969. The UK premiere was at the Close Theatre Club in Glasgow in October 1969; this was the first performance of...

, which lasts for only 35 seconds and has no characters (though it was likely intended to offer ironic comment on Oh! Calcutta!
Oh! Calcutta!
Oh! Calcutta! is an avant-garde theatrical revue, created by British drama critic Kenneth Tynan. The show, consisting of sketches on sex-related topics, debuted Off-Broadway in 1969 and then in London in 1970. It ran in London for over 3,900 performances, and in New York initially for 1,314...

, the theatrical revue
Revue
A revue is a type of multi-act popular theatrical entertainment that combines music, dance and sketches. The revue has its roots in 19th century American popular entertainment and melodrama but grew into a substantial cultural presence of its own during its golden years from 1916 to 1932...

 for which it served as an introductory piece).

In his theatre of the late period, Beckett's characters—already few in number in the earlier plays—are whittled down to essential elements. The ironically titled Play (1962), for instance, consists of three characters immersed up to their necks in large funeral urns. The television drama Eh Joe (1963), which was written for the actor Jack MacGowran
Jack MacGowran
John Joseph "Jack" MacGowran was an Irish character actor, whose last film role was as the alcoholic director Burke Dennings in The Exorcist. He was probably best known for his work with Samuel Beckett.-Stage career:...

, is animated by a camera that steadily closes in to a tight focus upon the face of the title character. The play Not I (1972) consists almost solely of, in Beckett's words, "a moving mouth with the rest of the stage in darkness". Following from Krapp's Last Tape, many of these later plays explore memory, often in the form of a forced recollection of haunting past events in a moment of stillness in the present. They also deal with the theme of the self confined and observed, with a voice that either comes from outside into the protagonist's head (as in Eh Joe) or else another character comments on the protagonist silently, by means of gesture (as in Not I). Beckett's most politically charged play, Catastrophe
Catastrophe (play)
Catastrophe is a short play by Samuel Beckett, written in French in 1982 at the invitation of A.I.D.A. and “[f]irst produced in the Avignon Festival … Beckett considered it ‘massacred.’” It is one of his few plays to deal with a political theme and, arguably, holds the title of Beckett's most...

(1982), which was dedicated to Václav Havel
Václav Havel
Václav Havel is a Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. He was the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic . He has written over twenty plays and numerous non-fiction works, translated internationally...

, deals relatively explicitly with the idea of dictatorship
Dictatorship
A dictatorship is defined as an autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by an individual, the dictator. It has three possible meanings:...

. After a long period of inactivity, Beckett's poetry experienced a revival during this period in the ultra-terse French poems of mirlitonnades, with some as short as six words long. These defied Beckett's usual scrupulous concern to translate his work from its original into the other of his two languages; several writers, including Derek Mahon, have attempted translations, but no complete version of the sequence has been published in English.

Beckett's prose pieces during the late period were not so prolific as his theatre, as suggested by the title of the 1976 collection of short prose texts Fizzles (which the American artist Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns, Jr. is an American contemporary artist who works primarily in painting and printmaking.-Life:Born in Augusta, Georgia, Jasper Johns spent his early life in Allendale, South Carolina with his paternal grandparents after his parents' marriage failed...

 illustrated). Beckett experienced something of a renaissance, however, with the novella Company
Company (short story)
Company is a short novel by Samuel Beckett, written in English and published in 1979.Together with Ill Seen Ill Said and Worstward Ho, it was collected in the volume NohowOn in 1989. It is part of Becketts '"closed space" stories. The Novella´s taking place in close quarters. In the case of...

(1980), which continued with Ill Seen Ill Said
Ill Seen Ill Said
Ill Seen Ill Said is a short novel by Samuel Beckett. It was first published in French as Mal vu mal dit in 1981, and was then translated in English by the author in 1982....

(1982) and Worstward Ho
Worstward Ho
Worstward Ho is a prose piece by Samuel Beckett the title of which is a parody of Charles Kingsley's Westward Ho!. Written in English in 1983, it is the penultimate novella by Beckett....

(1984), which was later collected in Nohow On
Nohow On
Nohow on is a collection of three prose pieces by Samuel Beckett, comprising Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, and Worstward Ho. It was first published in one volume in 1989....

. In these three "'closed space' stories", Beckett continued his preoccupation with memory and its effect on the confined and observed self, as well as with the positioning of bodies in space, as the opening phrases of Company make clear: "A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine." "To one on his back in the dark. This he can tell by the pressure on his hind parts and by how the dark changes when he shuts his eyes and again when he opens them again. Only a small part of what is said can be verified. As for example when he hears, You are on your back in the dark. Then he must acknowledge the truth of what is said."

In the hospital and nursing home where he spent his final days, Beckett wrote his last work, the 1988 poem "What is the Word" ("Comment dire"). The poem grapples with an inability to find words to express oneself, a theme echoing Beckett's earlier work, though possibly amplified by the sickness he experienced late in life.

Billie Whitelaw

Billie Whitelaw
Billie Whitelaw
Billie Honor Whitelaw, CBE is an English actress. She worked in close collaboration with Irish playwright Samuel Beckett for 25 years and is regarded as one of the foremost interpreters of his works...

 worked with Beckett for 25 years on such plays as Not I
Not I
Not I is a twenty-minute dramatic monologue written in 1972 by Samuel Beckett, translated as Pas Moi; premiere at the “Samuel Beckett Festival” by the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center, New York , directed by Alan Schneider, with Jessica Tandy and Henderson Forsythe .-Synopsis:Not I takes place...

, Eh Joe
Eh Joe
Eh Joe is a piece for television, written in English by Samuel Beckett, his first work for the medium. It was begun on the author’s fifty-ninth birthday, 13 April 1965, and completed by 1 May...

, Krapp's Last Tape
Krapp's Last Tape
Krapp's Last Tape is a one-act play, written in English, by Samuel Beckett. Consisting of a cast of one man, it was originally written for Northern Irish actor Patrick Magee and first titled "Magee monologue"...

, and Footfalls
Footfalls
Footfalls is a play by Samuel Beckett. It was written in English, between 2 March and December 1975 and was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre as part of the Samuel Beckett Festival, on May 20, 1976 directed by Beckett himself. Billie Whitelaw, for whom the piece had been written, played...

. She first met Beckett in 1963. In her autobiography she describes their first meeting in 1963 was "trust at first sight". Beckett went on to write many of his experimental theatre works for her. She came to be regarded as his muse, the "supreme interpreter of his work", perhaps most famous for her role as the mouth in Not I
Not I
Not I is a twenty-minute dramatic monologue written in 1972 by Samuel Beckett, translated as Pas Moi; premiere at the “Samuel Beckett Festival” by the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center, New York , directed by Alan Schneider, with Jessica Tandy and Henderson Forsythe .-Synopsis:Not I takes place...

. She said of the play Rockabye
Rockabye
Rockabye may refer to:* Rockabye , starring Constance Bennett and Joel McCrea* Rockabye , starring Jimmy Smits and Valerie Bertinelli...

: "I put the tape in my head. And I sort of look in a particular way, but not at the audience. Sometimes as a director Beckett comes out with absolute gems and I use them a lot in other areas. We were doing Happy Days and I just did not know where in the theatre to look during this particular section. And I asked, and he thought for a bit and then said, 'Inward' ". She said of her role in Footfalls: "I felt like a moving, musical Edvard Munch
Edvard Munch
Edvard Munch was a Norwegian Symbolist painter, printmaker and an important forerunner of expressionist art. His best-known composition, The Scream, is part of a series The Frieze of Life, in which Munch explored the themes of love, fear, death, melancholia, and anxiety.- Childhood :Edvard Munch...

 painting and, in fact, when Beckett was directing Footfalls he was not only using me to play the notes but I almost felt that he did have the paintbrush out and was painting." "Sam knew that I would turn myself inside out to give him what he wanted", she explained; "With all of Sam's work, the scream was there, my task was to try to get it out." She stopped performing his plays in 1989 when he died.

Jocelyn Herbert

The seminal English stage designer Jocelyn Herbert
Jocelyn Herbert
Jocelyn Herbert RDI was a highly influential British stage designer.-Early life:Born in London, she was the second of the four children of the playwright, novelist, humorist and parliamentarian A. P. Herbert . Through him she had contact with theatre people, artists and writers...

 was a close friend and influence on Beckett until his death. She worked with him on such plays as Happy Days
Happy Days (play)
Happy Days is a play in two acts, written in English, by Samuel Beckett. He began the play on 8 October 1960 and it was completed on 14 May 1961. Beckett finished the translation into French by November 1962 but amended the title...

(their third project) and Krapp's Last Tape
Krapp's Last Tape
Krapp's Last Tape is a one-act play, written in English, by Samuel Beckett. Consisting of a cast of one man, it was originally written for Northern Irish actor Patrick Magee and first titled "Magee monologue"...

at the Royal Court Theatre
Royal Court Theatre
The Royal Court Theatre is a non-commercial theatre on Sloane Square, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It is noted for its contributions to modern theatre...

. Beckett said that Herbert became his closest friend in England: "She has a great feeling for the work and is very sensitive and doesn't want to bang the nail on the head. Generally speaking, there is a tendency on the part of designers to overstate, and this has never been the case with Jocelyn."

Legacy

Of all the English-language modernists
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

, Beckett's work represents the most sustained attack on the realist tradition. He opened up the possibility of theatre and fiction that dispense with conventional plot and the unities of time and place in order to focus on essential components of the human condition. Václav Havel
Václav Havel
Václav Havel is a Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. He was the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic . He has written over twenty plays and numerous non-fiction works, translated internationally...

, John Banville
John Banville
John Banville is an Irish novelist and screenwriter.Banville's breakthrough novel The Book of Evidence was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and won the Guinness Peat Aviation award. His eighteenth novel, The Sea, won the Man Booker Prize in 2005. He was awarded the Franz Kafka Prize in 2011...

, Aidan Higgins
Aidan Higgins
-Life:His upbringing in a landed Catholic family in Celbridge, County Kildare, Ireland, provided material for his first experimental novel, Langrishe, Go Down...

, Tom Stoppard
Tom Stoppard
Sir Tom Stoppard OM, CBE, FRSL is a British playwright, knighted in 1997. He has written prolifically for TV, radio, film and stage, finding prominence with plays such as Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Professional Foul, The Real Thing, and Rosencrantz and...

, and Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter, CH, CBE was a Nobel Prize–winning English playwright and screenwriter. One of the most influential modern British dramatists, his writing career spanned more than 50 years. His best-known plays include The Birthday Party , The Homecoming , and Betrayal , each of which he adapted to...

 have publicly stated their indebtedness to Beckett's example. He has had a wider influence on experimental writing
Experimental literature
Experimental literature refers to written works - often novels or magazines - that place great emphasis on innovations regarding technique and style.-Early history:...

 since the 1950s, from the Beat generation
Beat generation
The Beat Generation refers to a group of American post-WWII writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired...

 to the happenings of the 1960s and after. In an Irish context, he has exerted great influence on poets such as John Banville
John Banville
John Banville is an Irish novelist and screenwriter.Banville's breakthrough novel The Book of Evidence was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and won the Guinness Peat Aviation award. His eighteenth novel, The Sea, won the Man Booker Prize in 2005. He was awarded the Franz Kafka Prize in 2011...

, Derek Mahon, Thomas Kinsella
Thomas Kinsella
Thomas Kinsella is an Irish poet, translator, editor, and publisher.-Early life and work:Kinsella was born in Lucan, County Dublin. He spent much of his childhood with relatives in rural Ireland. He was educated in the Irish language at the Model School, Inchicore and the O'Connell Christian...

, as well as writers like Trevor Joyce
Trevor Joyce
Trevor Joyce is an Irish poet, born in Dublin.He co-founded New Writers' Press in Dublin in 1967 and was a founding editor of NWP's The Lace Curtain; A Magazine of Poetry and Criticism in 1968....

 and Catherine Walsh
Catherine Walsh (poet)
Catherine Walsh is an Irish poet. She was born in Dublin, and grew up there and in rural Wexford. She is the founder and co-editor of hardPressed Poetry with Billy Mills...

 who proclaim their adherence to the modernist tradition as an alternative to the dominant realist mainstream.
Many major 20th-century composers, including Luciano Berio
Luciano Berio
Luciano Berio, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI was an Italian composer. He is noted for his experimental work and also for his pioneering work in electronic music.-Biography:Berio was born at Oneglia Luciano Berio, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI (October 24, 1925 – May 27, 2003) was an Italian...

, György Kurtág
György Kurtág
György Kurtág is a Hungarian composer of contemporary music.- Biography :György Kurtág was born in Lugoj in the Banat region, Romania.In 1946, he began his studies at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, where he met his wife, Márta, and also György Ligeti, who became a close friend...

, Morton Feldman
Morton Feldman
Morton Feldman was an American composer, born in New York City.A major figure in 20th century music, Feldman was a pioneer of indeterminate music, a development associated with the experimental New York School of composers also including John Cage, Christian Wolff, and Earle Brown...

, Pascal Dusapin
Pascal Dusapin
Pascal Dusapin , is a French composer born in Nancy. He is one of France's best-known living composers; his works have been performed worldwide....

, Scott Fields
Scott Fields
Scott Fields , is a guitarist, composer and band leader. He is best known for his attempts to blend music that is composed and music that is written and for his modular pieces...

, Philip Glass
Philip Glass
Philip Glass is an American composer. He is considered to be one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century and is widely acknowledged as a composer who has brought art music to the public .His music is often described as minimalist, along with...

, Roman Haubenstock-Ramati
Roman Haubenstock-Ramati
Roman Haubenstock-Ramati was a composer and music editor who worked in Kraków, Tel Aviv and Vienna.Haubenstock-Ramati studied composition, music theory, violin and philosophy in Kraków and Lemberg from 1937 to 1940. Among his teachers were Artur Malawski and Józef Koffler. From 1947 to 1950 he was...

 and Heinz Holliger
Heinz Holliger
Heinz Holliger Heinz Holliger Heinz Holliger (born 21 May 1939 is a Swiss oboist, composer and conductor.-Biography:He was born in Langenthal, Switzerland, and began his musical education at the conservatories of Bern and Basel. He studied composition with Sándor Veress and Pierre Boulez...

 have created musical works based on his texts. Beckett's work was also an influence on many visual artists, including Bruce Nauman
Bruce Nauman
Bruce Nauman is a contemporary American artist. His practice spans a broad range of media including sculpture, photography, neon, video, drawing, printmaking, and performance. Nauman lives in Galisteo, New Mexico....

, Douglas Gordon
Douglas Gordon
Douglas Gordon is a Scottish artist; he won the Turner Prize in 1996 and the following year he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale...

, Alexander Arotin
Alexander Arotin
Alexander Arotin is an Austrian visual artist, director and designer currently based in Barcelona, Paris, Berlin and Venice....

, and Avigdor Arikha
Avigdor Arikha
Avigdor Arikha was a painter, draughtsman, printmaker, and art historian.-Biography:Avigdor Arikha was born to German-speaking Jewish parents in Rădăuţi, but grew up in Czernowitz , in Bukovina, Romania., His family faced forced deportation in 1941 to the Romanian-run concentration camps of...

; Arikha, as well as some short film makers, like Leila Newton-Fox,has been inspired by his play 'Endgame' created a short film 'Stalemate'. In addition to being inspired by Beckett's literary world, also drew a number of portraits of Beckett and illustrated several of his works.

Beckett is one of the most widely discussed and highly prized of 20th-century authors, inspiring a critical industry to rival that which has sprung up around James Joyce. He has divided critical opinion. Some early philosophical critics, such as Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary...

 and Theodor Adorno, praised him, one for his revelation of absurdity, the other for his works' critical refusal of simplicities; others such as Georg Lukács
Georg Lukács
György Lukács was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic. He is a founder of the tradition of Western Marxism. He contributed the concept of reification to Marxist philosophy and theory and expanded Karl Marx's theory of class consciousness. Lukács' was also an influential literary...

 condemn for 'decadent' lack of realism
Philosophical realism
Contemporary philosophical realism is the belief that our reality, or some aspect of it, is ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc....

. American critic Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom is an American writer and literary critic, and is Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. He is known for his defense of 19th-century Romantic poets, his unique and controversial theories of poetic influence, and his prodigious literary output, particularly for a literary...

 pays attention to his atheism of Anglican
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

 source, compared with James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

's, former Catholic bent, noting:
As for Christianity and Waiting for Godot, Beckett was [...] definitive: «Christianity is a mythology with which I am perfectly familiar and so I use it. But not in this case.» It is always worth remembering that Beckett more than shared Joyce's distaste for Christianity and for Ireland. Both men chose unbelief and Paris.


Since Beckett's death, all rights for performance of his plays are handled by the Beckett estate, currently managed by Edward Beckett (the author's nephew). The estate has a controversial reputation for maintaining firm control over how Beckett's plays are performed and does not grant licenses to productions that do not adhere strictly to the writer's stage directions.

Historians interested in tracing Beckett's blood line were, in 2004, granted access to confirmed trace samples of his DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 to conduct molecular genealogical studies to facilitate precise lineage determination.

Some of the best-known pictures of Beckett were taken by photographer John Minihan
John Minihan (photographer)
John Minihan is an Irish photographer, born in Dublin in 1946 and raised in Athy, County Kildare. At the age of 12 he was brought to live in London, and went on to become an apprentice photographer with the Daily Mail. At the age of 15 he won the Evening Standard amateur photography competition....

, who photographed him between 1980 and 1985 and developed such a good relationship with the writer that he became, in effect, his official photographer. Some consider one of these to be among the top three photographs of the 20th century. It was the theater photographer John Haynes, however, who took possibly the most widely reproduced image of Beckett: it is used on the cover of the Knowlson biography, for instance. This portrait was taken during rehearsals of the San Quentin Drama Workshop at the Royal Court Theatre in London, where Haynes photographed many productions of Beckett's work.

On 10 December 2009, the newest bridge across the River Liffey
River Liffey
The Liffey is a river in Ireland, which flows through the centre of Dublin. Its major tributaries include the River Dodder, the River Poddle and the River Camac. The river supplies much of Dublin's water, and a range of recreational opportunities.-Name:The river was previously named An Ruirthech,...

 in Dublin was opened and named the Samuel Beckett Bridge
Samuel Beckett Bridge
Samuel Beckett Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge in Dublin that joins Sir John Rogerson's Quay on the south side of the River Liffey to Guild Street and North Wall Quay in the Docklands area.-Design and construction:...

 in his honour. Reminiscent of a harp on its side, it was designed by the celebrated Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava
Santiago Calatrava
Santiago Calatrava Valls is a Spanish architect, sculptor and structural engineer whose principal office is in Zürich, Switzerland. Classed now among the elite designers of the world, he has offices in Zürich, Paris, Valencia, and New York City....

, who had also designed the James Joyce Bridge
James Joyce Bridge
James Joyce Bridge is a road bridge spanning the River Liffey in Dublin, Ireland, joining the south quays to Blackhall Place on the north side....

 further upstream opened on Bloomsday
Bloomsday
Bloomsday is a commemoration observed annually on 16 June in Dublin and elsewhere to celebrate the life of Irish writer James Joyce and relive the events in his novel Ulysses, all of which took place on the same day in Dublin in 1904...

 (16 June) 2003. Attendees at the official opening ceremony included Beckett’s niece Caroline Murphy, his nephew Edward Beckett, poet Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer. He lives in Dublin. Heaney has received the Nobel Prize in Literature , the Golden Wreath of Poetry , T. S. Eliot Prize and two Whitbread prizes...

 and Barry McGovern
Barry McGovern
Barry McGovern is an Irish stage, film and television actor. He was educated at Castleknock College, Dublin.-Background:McGovern is a former member of the RTÉ Players and the Abbey Theatre Company. He has worked in theatre, film, radio and television, as well as written music for many shows, and...

.

Honours and awards

  • Croix de guerre
    Croix de guerre
    The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

     (France)
  • Médaille de la Résistance
    Médaille de la Résistance
    The French Médaille de la Résistance was awarded by General Charles de Gaulle "to recognise the remarkable acts of faith and of courage that, in France, in the empire and abroad, have contributed to the resistance of the French people against the enemy and against its accomplices since June 18,...

     (France)
  • 1959 honorary doctorate from Trinity College, Dublin
    Trinity College, Dublin
    Trinity College, Dublin , formally known as the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, was founded in 1592 by letters patent from Queen Elizabeth I as the "mother of a university", Extracts from Letters Patent of Elizabeth I, 1592: "...we...found and...

  • 1961 International Publishers' Formentor Prize (shared with Jorge Luis Borges
    Jorge Luis Borges
    Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo , known as Jorge Luis Borges , was an Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school, receiving his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The family...

    ).
  • 1968 Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

  • 1969 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Dramatic works

Theatre
  • Eleutheria
    Eleutheria (play)
    Eleutheria is a play by Samuel Beckett, written in French in 1947. It was his first completed dramatic endeavor . Roger Blin considered staging it in the early fifties, but opted for Waiting for Godot, because it was easier to stage...

    (1940s; published 1995)
  • Waiting for Godot
    Waiting for Godot
    Waiting for Godot is an absurdist play by Samuel Beckett, in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for someone named Godot to arrive. Godot's absence, as well as numerous other aspects of the play, have led to many different interpretations since the play's...

    (1953)
  • Act Without Words I
    Act Without Words I
    Act Without Words I is a short play by Samuel Beckett. It is a mime, Beckett's first . Like many of Beckett's works, the play was originally written in French , being translated into English by Beckett himself...

    (1956)
  • Act Without Words II
    Act Without Words II
    Act Without Words II is a short mime play by Samuel Beckett, his second . Like many of Beckett's works, the piece was originally composed in French , then translated into English by Beckett himself. Written in the late fifties it opened at the Calderon Press Institute in Oxford and was directed by...

    (1956)
  • Endgame
    Endgame (play)
    Endgame, by Samuel Beckett, is a one-act play with four characters, written in a style associated with the Theatre of the Absurd. It was originally written in French ; as was his custom, Beckett himself translated it into English. The play was first performed in a French-language production at the...

    (1957)
  • Krapp's Last Tape
    Krapp's Last Tape
    Krapp's Last Tape is a one-act play, written in English, by Samuel Beckett. Consisting of a cast of one man, it was originally written for Northern Irish actor Patrick Magee and first titled "Magee monologue"...

    (1958)
  • Rough for Theatre I
    Rough for Theatre I
    Rough for Theatre I is a one-act theatrical sketch by Samuel Beckett. Also known simply as Theatre I it began life originally in French in the late fifties as Fragment de théâtre and was later translated into English by Beckett himself. The first production was at the Schiller Theatre, Hamburg in...

    (late 1950s)
  • Rough for Theatre II
    Rough for Theatre II
    Rough for Theatre II is a short play by Samuel Beckett. “Although this discarded piece of theatre is dated ‘circa 1960’ in End and Odds, a manuscript from two years earlier exists in Trinity College, Dublin, Library...

    (late 1950s)
  • Happy Days
    Happy Days (play)
    Happy Days is a play in two acts, written in English, by Samuel Beckett. He began the play on 8 October 1960 and it was completed on 14 May 1961. Beckett finished the translation into French by November 1962 but amended the title...

    (1961)
  • Play
    Play (play)
    Play is a one-act play by Samuel Beckett. It was written between 1962 and 1963 and first produced in German as Spiel on 14 June 1963 at the Ulmer Theatre in Ulm-Donau, Germany, directed by Deryk Mendel, with Nancy Illig , Sigfrid Pfeiffer and Gerhard Winter...

    (1963)
  • Come and Go
    Come and Go
    Come and Go is a short play by Samuel Beckett. It was written in English in January 1965 and first performed at the Schillertheater, Berlin on 14 January 1966...

    (1965)
  • Breath
    Breath (play)
    Breath is a notably short stage work by Samuel Beckett. An altered version was first included in Kenneth Tynan's revue Oh! Calcutta!, at the Eden Theatre in New York City on June 16, 1969. The UK premiere was at the Close Theatre Club in Glasgow in October 1969; this was the first performance of...

    (1969)
  • Not I
    Not I
    Not I is a twenty-minute dramatic monologue written in 1972 by Samuel Beckett, translated as Pas Moi; premiere at the “Samuel Beckett Festival” by the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center, New York , directed by Alan Schneider, with Jessica Tandy and Henderson Forsythe .-Synopsis:Not I takes place...

    (1972)
  • That Time
    That Time
    For the song "That Time" by Regina Spektor see Begin to HopeThat Time is a one-act play by Samuel Beckett, written in English between 8 June 1974 and August 1975...

    (1975)
  • Footfalls
    Footfalls
    Footfalls is a play by Samuel Beckett. It was written in English, between 2 March and December 1975 and was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre as part of the Samuel Beckett Festival, on May 20, 1976 directed by Beckett himself. Billie Whitelaw, for whom the piece had been written, played...

    (1975)
  • A Piece of Monologue
    A Piece of Monologue
    A Piece of Monologue is a fifteen-minute play by Samuel Beckett. Written between 2 October 1977 and 28 April 1979 it followed a request for a “play about death” by the actor David Warrilow who starred in the premiere in the Annex at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, New York on 14 December...

    (1980)
  • Rockaby
    Rockaby
    Rockaby is a short one-woman play by Samuel Beckett. It was written in English in 1980, at the request of Daniel Labeille, who produced it on behalf of Programs in the Arts, State University of New York, for a festival and symposium in commemoration of Beckett's 75th birthday...

    (1981)
  • Ohio Impromptu
    Ohio Impromptu
    Ohio Impromptu is a “playlet” by Samuel Beckett.Written in English in 1980, it began as a favour to S.E. Gontarski, who requested a dramatic piece to be performed at an academic symposium in Columbus, Ohio in honour of Beckett’s seventy-fifth birthday. Beckett was uncomfortable writing to order and...

    (1981)
  • Catastrophe
    Catastrophe (play)
    Catastrophe is a short play by Samuel Beckett, written in French in 1982 at the invitation of A.I.D.A. and “[f]irst produced in the Avignon Festival … Beckett considered it ‘massacred.’” It is one of his few plays to deal with a political theme and, arguably, holds the title of Beckett's most...

    (1982)
  • What Where
    What Where
    What Where is Samuel Beckett's last play produced following a request for a new work for the 1983 Autumn Festival in Graz, Austria. It was written between February and March 1983 initially in French as Quoi où and translated by Beckett himself....

    (1983)


Radio
  • All That Fall
    All That Fall
    All That Fall is a one-act radio play by Samuel Beckett produced following a request from the BBC. It was written in English and completed in September 1956. The autograph copy is titled Lovely Day for the Races...

    (1957)
  • From an Abandoned Work
    From an Abandoned Work
    From An Abandoned Work, a “meditation for radio” by Samuel Beckett, was first broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Third Programme on Saturday 14 December 1957 along with a selection from Molloy...

    (1957)
  • Embers
    Embers
    Embers is a radio play by Samuel Beckett. It was written in English in 1957 and first broadcast on the BBC Third Programme on 24 June 1959. Donald McWhinnie directed Jack MacGowran – for whom the play was specially written – as “Henry”, Kathleen Michael as “Ada” and Patrick Magee as “Riding Master”...

    (1959)
  • Rough for Radio I
    Rough for Radio I
    Rough for Radio I is a short radio play by Samuel Beckett, written in French in 1961 and first published in Minuit 5 in September 1973 as Esquisse radiophinique. Its first English publication as Sketch for Radio Play was in Stereo Headphones 7...

    (1961)
  • Rough for Radio II
    Rough for Radio II
    Rough for Radio II is a radio play by Samuel Beckett. It was written in French in 1961 as Pochade radiophonique and published in Minuit 16, November 1975. Beckett translated the work into English shortly before its broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 13 April 1976. Martin Esslin directed Harold Pinter ,...

    (1961)
  • Words and Music
    Words and Music (play)
    Samuel Beckett wrote the radio play, Words and Music between November and December 1961. It was recorded and broadcast on the BBC Third Programme on 13 November 1962. Patrick Magee played Words and Felix Felton, Croak. Music was composed especially by John Beckett. The play first appeared in print...

    (1961)
  • Cascando
    Cascando
    Cascando is a radio play by Samuel Beckett. It was written in French in December 1961, subtitled Invention radiophonique pour musique et voix, with music by the Franco-Romanian composer Marcel Mihalovici. It was first broadcast on France Culture on 13 October 1963 with Roger Blin and Jean Martin...

    (1962)


Television
  • Eh Joe
    Eh Joe
    Eh Joe is a piece for television, written in English by Samuel Beckett, his first work for the medium. It was begun on the author’s fifty-ninth birthday, 13 April 1965, and completed by 1 May...

    (1965)
  • Beginning To End with Jack MacGowran
    Jack MacGowran
    John Joseph "Jack" MacGowran was an Irish character actor, whose last film role was as the alcoholic director Burke Dennings in The Exorcist. He was probably best known for his work with Samuel Beckett.-Stage career:...

     (1965)
  • Ghost Trio
    Ghost Trio (play)
    Ghost Trio is a television play, written in English by Samuel Beckett. It was written in 1975, taped in October 1976 and the first broadcast was on BBC2 on 17 April 1977 as part of the Lively Arts programme Beckett himself entitled Shades. Donald McWhinnie directed with Ronald Pickup and Billie...

    (1975)
  • ... but the clouds ... (1976)
  • Quad I + II
    Quad (play)
    Samuel Beckett’s Quad was written in 1981 and first appeared in print in 1984 where the work is described as “[a] piece for four players, light and percussion” and has also been called a “ballet for four people.” It resembles something the shape-theatre ensemble Mummenschanz might have conceived,...

    (1981)
  • Nacht und Träume
    Nacht und Träume (play)
    Nacht und Träume is the last television play written and directed by Samuel Beckett. It was written in English for Süddeutscher Rundfunk, recorded in October 1982 and broadcast on 19 May 1983 where it attracted “an audience of two million viewers.” The mime artist Helfrid Foron playing both...

    (1982)
  • Beckett Directs Beckett (1988/92) The San Quentin Drama Workshop


Cinema
  • Film
    Film (film)
    Film is a film written by Samuel Beckett, his only screenplay. It was commissioned by Barney Rosset of Grove Press. Writing began on 5 April 1963 with a first draft completed within four days. A second draft was produced by 22 May and a forty-leaf shooting script followed thereafter...

    (1965)


Prose collections and longer works

Novels
  • Dream of Fair to Middling Women
    Dream of Fair to Middling Women
    Dream of Fair to Middling Women is Samuel Beckett’s first novel. Written in English "in a matter of weeks" in 1932 when Beckett was only 26 and living in Paris, the clearly autobiographical novel was rejected by publishers and shelved by the author. It was eventually published in 1992, three years...

    (1932; published 1992)
  • Murphy
    Murphy (novel)
    Murphy, first published in 1938, is a novel as well as the third work of prose fiction by the Irish author and dramatist Samuel Beckett. The book was Beckett's second published prose work after the short-story collection More Pricks than Kicks and his unpublished first novel Dream of Fair to...

    (1938)
  • Watt
    Watt (novel)
    Watt was Samuel Beckett's second published novel in English, largely written on the run in the south of France during the Second World War and published by Maurice Girodias's Olympia Press in 1953...

     (1945; published 1953)
  • Mercier and Camier
    Mercier and Camier
    Mercier and Camier is a novel by Samuel Beckett.Written immediately before his celebrated 'trilogy' of Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable, Mercier et Camier was Beckett's first attempt at extended prose fiction in French...

    (1946; published 1974)
  • Molloy
    Molloy (novel)
    Molloy is a novel by Samuel Beckett. The English translation is by Beckett and Patrick Bowles.-Plot introduction:On first appearance the book concerns two different characters, both of whom have interior monologues in the book. As the story moves along the two characters are distinguished by name...

    (1951)
  • Malone Dies
    Malone Dies
    Malone Dies is a novel by Samuel Beckett. It was first published in 1951, in French, as Malone Meurt, and later translated into English by the author....

    (1951)
  • The Unnamable
    The Unnamable (novel)
    The Unnamable is a 1953 novel by Samuel Beckett. It is the third and final entry in Beckett's "Trilogy" of novels, which begins with Molloy followed by Malone Dies. It was originally published in French as L'Innommable and later adapted by the author into English...

    (1953)
  • How It Is
    How It Is
    How It Is is a novel by Samuel Beckett first published in French as Comment c'est by Les Editions de Minuit in 1961. The Grove Press published Beckett's English translation in 1964...

    (1961)


Novellas
  • The Expelled (1946)
  • The Calmative (1946)
  • The End (1946)
  • The Lost Ones (1971)
  • Company (1980)
  • Ill Seen Ill Said
    Ill Seen Ill Said
    Ill Seen Ill Said is a short novel by Samuel Beckett. It was first published in French as Mal vu mal dit in 1981, and was then translated in English by the author in 1982....

    (1981)
  • Worstward Ho
    Worstward Ho
    Worstward Ho is a prose piece by Samuel Beckett the title of which is a parody of Charles Kingsley's Westward Ho!. Written in English in 1983, it is the penultimate novella by Beckett....

    (1983)
  • As the Story was Told (1990)

Stories
  • More Pricks Than Kicks
    More Pricks Than Kicks
    More Pricks Than Kicks is a collection of short prose by Samuel Beckett, first published in 1934. It contains extracts from his earlier novel, Dream of Fair to Middling Women , as well as other short stories....

    (1934)
  • First Love (1945)
  • Stories and Texts for Nothing
    Stories and Texts for Nothing
    Stories and Texts for Nothing is a collection of stories by Samuel Beckett. It gathers three of Beckett's short stories and the thirteen short prose pieces he named "Texts for Nothing"...

    (1954)
  • Fizzles
    Fizzles
    Samuel Beckett used the word "fizzles" to describe eight short prose pieces written between 1973-1975.Most fizzles are unnamed, and identified by their numbers or first few words:* Fizzle 1 [He is barehead]* Fizzle 2 [Horn came always]* Fizzle 3 Afar a Bird...

    (1976)
  • Stirrings Still
    Stirrings Still
    Stirrings Still is the final prose piece by Samuel Beckett. Written 1986-9 to give his American publisher, Barney Rosset, something to publish. First published in a signed limited edition, it was later republished in the posthumous edition As The Story Was Told...

    (1988)


Non-fiction
  • Proust
    Proust (Beckett essay)
    Samuel Beckett's essay Proust, from 1930, is an aesthetic and epistemological manifesto, which is more concerned with Beckett's influences and preoccupations than with its ostensible subject.-History:...

    (1931)
  • Three Dialogues
    Three Dialogues
    Originally published in transition 49 in 1949, Three Dialogues represents a small part of a correspondence between Samuel Beckett and Georges Duthuit about the nature of contemporary art, with particular reference to the work of Pierre Tal-Coat, André Masson and Bram van Velde...

    (with Georges Duthuit and Jacques Putnam) (1949)
  • Disjecta
    Disjecta (Beckett essay)
    Disjecta: Miscellaneous Writings and a Dramatic Fragment is a collection of previously uncollected writings by Samuel Beckett, spanning his entire career...

    (1929–1967)
  • L'Image (1959)
  • Dante...Bruno. Vico..Joyce
    Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress
    Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress is a 1929 collection of critical essays, and two letters, on the subject of James Joyce's book Finnegans Wake, then being published in discrete sections under the title Work in Progress...


Poetry collections

  • Whoroscope (1930)
  • Echo's Bones and other Precipitates (1935)
  • Collected Poems in English (1961)
  • Collected Poems in English and French (1977)
  • What is the Word (1989)
  • Selected Poems 1930–1989 (2009)


Translation collections and long works

  • Anna Livia Plurabelle (James Joyce, French translation by Beckett and others) (1931)
  • Negro: an Anthology (Nancy Cunard, editor) (1934)
  • Anthology of Mexican Poems (Octavio Paz
    Octavio Paz
    Octavio Paz Lozano was a Mexican writer, poet, and diplomat, and the winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature.-Early life and writings:...

    , editor) (1958)
  • The Old Tune (Robert Pinget
    Robert Pinget
    Robert Pinget was a major avant-garde French writer, born in Switzerland, who wrote several novels and other prose pieces that drew comparison to Beckett and other major Modernist writers...

    ) (1963)
  • What Is Surrealism?: Selected Essays (André Breton
    André Breton
    André Breton was a French writer and poet. He is known best as the founder of Surrealism. His writings include the first Surrealist Manifesto of 1924, in which he defined surrealism as "pure psychic automatism"....

    ) (various short pieces in the collection)


Beckett editions

  • As the Story was Told: Uncollected and Later Prose. London: Calder Publications, 1990
  • Collected Poems in English and French. New York: Grove Press
    Grove Press
    Grove Press is an American publishing imprint that was founded in 1951. Imprints include: Black Cat, Evergreen, Venus Library, Zebra. Barney Rosset purchased the company in 1951 and turned it into an alternative book press in the United States. The Atlantic Monthly Press, under the aegis of its...

    , 1977.
  • Endgame and Act Without Words. New York: Grove Press, 1958.
  • How It Is. New York: Grove Press, 1964.
  • More Pricks than Kicks. New York: Grove Press, 1972.
  • Murphy. New York: Grove Press, 1957.
  • Nohow On: Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, Worstward Ho. Ed. S.E. Gontarski. New York: Grove Press, 1996.
  • Three Novels: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable. New York: Grove Press, 1995.
  • Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts. New York: Grove Press, 1954.

Other

  • Ackerley, C. J. and S. E. Gontarski, ed. (2004). The Grove Companion to Samuel Beckett. New York: Grove Press
  • Badiou, Alain
    Alain Badiou
    Alain Badiou is a French philosopher, professor at European Graduate School, formerly chair of Philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure . Along with Giorgio Agamben and Slavoj Žižek, Badiou is a prominent figure in an anti-postmodern strand of continental philosophy...

     (2003). On Beckett, transl. and ed. by Alberto Toscano
    Alberto Toscano
    Alberto Toscano is a cultural critic, social theorist, philosopher and translator best known to the English-speaking world for his translations of the work of Alain Badiou, including Badiou’s The Century and Logics of Worlds...

     and Nina Power
    Nina Power
    Nina Power is a British philosopher, writer, journalist and academic. She is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Roehampton University. She is the co-editor of Alain Badiou's On Samuel Beckett and his Political Writings....

    . London: Clinamen Press.
  • Bair, Deirdre
    Deirdre Bair
    Deirdre Bair is the critically acclaimed author of five works of nonfiction. She received the National Book Award for Samuel Beckett: A Biography. Her biographies of Simone de Beauvoir and C. G. Jung were finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize...

     (1978). Samuel Beckett: A Biography. Vintage/Ebury ISBN 009980070-5.
  • Casanova, Pascale (2007). Beckett. Anatomy of a Literary Revolution. Introduction by Terry Eagleton. Londres / New York : Verso Books
  • Caselli, Daniela. Beckett's Dantes: Intertextuality in the Fiction and Criticism. ISBN 0719071569.
  • Cronin, Anthony
    Anthony Cronin
    Anthony Cronin is an Irish poet. He received the Marten Toonder Award for his contribution to Irish literature....

     (1997). Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist. New York: Da Capo Press
  • Esslin, Martin (1969). The Theatre of the Absurd. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books
  • Fleming, Justin
    Justin Fleming
    Justin Fleming , born Sydney, Australia is a playwright and author. He has written for theatre, music theatre, television and cinema and his works have been produced and published in Australia, the US, Canada, the UK, Belgium, Poland and France...

     (2007). Coup d'État & Other Plays Burnt Piano. Xlibris
  • Fletcher, John (2006). About Beckett. Faber and Faber, London ISBN 9780571230112.
  • Gussow, Mel
    Mel Gussow
    Melvyn H. Gussow was an American theater critic, movie critic, and author who wrote for The New York Times for 35 years.-Biography:...

    . "Samuel Beckett Is Dead at 83; His 'Godot' Changed Theater." The New York Times
    The New York Times
    The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

    , 27 December 1989.
  • Harvey, Robert
    Robert Harvey (literary theorist)
    Robert Harvey is a literary scholar and academic. He is Professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook where he teaches comparative literature, literatures written in French, and theory...

     (2010), "Witnessness: Beckett, Levi, Dante and the Foundations of Ethics". Continuum. ISBN 9781441124241
  • Igoe, Vivien (2000). A Literary Guide to Dublin. Methuen Publishing ISBN 0413691209.
  • Kelleter, Frank (1998). Die Moderne und der Tod: Edgar Allan Poe–T. S. Eliot–Samuel Beckett. Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang
  • Knowlson, James (1997). Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett. New York: Grove Press
  • Mercier, Vivian (1977). Beckett/Beckett. Oxford University Press ISBN 0192812696.
  • Murray, Christopher, ed. (2009). Samuel Beckett: Playwright & Poet. New York: Pegasus Books ISBN 9781605980027
  • O'Brien, Eoin. The Beckett Country. ISBN 0571146678.
  • Ricks, Christopher (1995). Beckett's Dying Words. Oxford University Press ISBN 0192824074.
  • Ryan, John
    John Ryan (Dublin artist)
    John Ryan Dublin, Ireland was an Artist, broadcaster, publisher, critic, editor, patron and publican.John Ryan was many things but primarily a key figure in Bohemian Dublin for many years. He knew nearly every artist of note that lived in, or passed through, Dublin from the 1940s onwards...

    , ed. (1970). A Bash In The Tunnel. Brighton: Clifton Books, 1970. Essays on James Joyce by Beckett, Flann O’Brien & Patrick Kavanagh
    Patrick Kavanagh
    Patrick Kavanagh was an Irish poet and novelist. Regarded as one of the foremost poets of the 20th century, his best known works include the novel Tarry Flynn and the poems Raglan Road and The Great Hunger...

  • L’image, by Samuel Beckett, X’ magazine
    X (magazine)
    X, A Quarterly Review was a British arts review published in London which ran for seven issues between 1959-1962. It was founded and co-edited by Patrick Swift and David Wright...

    ; An Anthology from X (Oxford University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-19-212266-5); First appeared in X, 1959.
  • Simpson, Alan (1962). Beckett and Behan and a Theatre in Dublin. Routledge and Kegan Paul

External links

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