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Samuel Beckett

(1906—1989) author

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Irish writer, who lived most of his life in France. He was awarded the Prix Formentor in 1961 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969.

Born in Dublin into a middle-class family, Beckett attended Trinity College, Dublin. In 1929 he first visited Paris, where he began writing. Returning to Trinity, he taught French for two years (1930–32) but then left Ireland for good. After an unsatisfactory period in London (1933) he moved back to Paris, where he became the friend and secretary of James Joyce, who profoundly influenced his work. During this period he published poems, a novel (Murphy, 1938), and short stories.

In 1940 Beckett joined a Resistance network in Paris but was forced to escape to Free France in 1942, narrowly evading the Gestapo. His most prolific period began in 1946 when, writing in French, he produced a trilogy of novels, Molloy (1951; translated 1956), Malone meurt (1952; translated as Malone Dies, 1956), and L'Innommable (1953; translated as The Unnamable, 1960). He also wrote the play En attendant Godot (1952; translated as Waiting for Godot, 1954), in which two tramps, passing the time as they wait in vain for the enigmatic Godot, embody Beckett's vision of the emptiness and futility of the human condition. Only a desperate vaudevillian humour keeps them from suicide. Godot was followed by Fin de partie (1957; translated as Endgame), Krapp's Last Tape (1959), and Happy Days (1960), all displaying Beckett's obsession with the passage of time, death, and nothingness: Winnie, the main character of Happy Days, is literally sinking into her grave, buried first to her waist, then to her neck. During this period Beckett also wrote several radio plays, notably Cascando (1964). His later plays are increasingly short and enigmatic – existential jokes more than theatrical events.

Subjects: Literature

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