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Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett was born in Foxrock, Dublin, on 13 April, 1906, the second of two sons.  He graduated from Trinity College in 1927, travelling to Paris in 1928 where he lectured in English at the École Normale Supérieure. That same year he met James Joyce, the two becoming close friends almost immediately.

john minihan
Beckett with Pint, by John Minihan, from the RTÉ Television Arts Lives film, The Man Who Shot Beckett

Beckett returned to Dublin in 1930 to lecture at Trinity College, and it was there he began writing the short stories that would later comprise More Pricks Than Kicks. But, beginning to wrestle with depression, as well as a growing frustration with the teaching profession, Beckett resigned his position at Trinity in December of 1931.

He travelled again to Paris in 1932, where he completed his first novel, Dream of Fair to Middling Women, and then to London. Beset by health problems and the sudden death of his father, his depression grew steadily worse.

Having studied German between1934-1936, Beckett travelled there in 1936. But witnessing numerous examples of the Nazi persecution of Jewish citizens, he left to settle permanently in Paris in 1937. It was now that Beckett began to experiment with writing in French. But with the invasion of Paris by the Nazis, Beckett quickly joined the French Resistance, passing on information regarding German military activities and positions to the Allied Forces in London. Eventually, however, Beckett was forced to take refuge in the south of France.

On his return to Paris, he began to write primarily in French, concentrating on the sound and rhythm of the words, unburdened by what he considered the distracting stylistics of English.

Beckett wrote the bulk of Molloy while staying at a villa near the Italian border in 1947, and En Attendant Godot in 1948-49. Produced by Roger Blin in 1953, in Paris, it is the first of Beckett's works to bring him widespread attention, creating controversy among critics and audiences alike. But with the success of the play, Beckett was forced to begin what would become a lifelong struggle to protect his privacy.

Krapp's Last Tape, written in early 1958, encountered huge opposition when staged in London, and followed Beckett’s own withdrawal of All That Fall from the Dublin International Theatre Festival when he learned that both an adaptation of Joyce's Ulysses, and a play by Sean O'Casey, had been censored from the festival.

But his native city did not forget him, and Beckett was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by Trinity College in 1961, and married Suzanne Deschevaux-Dusmesnil later that year, and also completed Happy Days. But the ultimate award followed in 1969, when Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In Tunisia when he received the telegram, Beckett was appalled, knowing that the award would bring only further intrusion.

Not I, Still, That Time, Footfalls and Ghost Trio were all written between 1972 and 1976. With his health in decline, Beckett was eventually diagnosed with emphysema in 1986 and, when his wife Suzanne died on July 17, 1989, it seemed only a mater of time before Beckett would follow.

Samuel Beckett died on December 22, 1989, and was buried at Montparnasse, in Paris.