Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Writer # 8: Samuel Beckett
Beckett was born in Foxrock, Dublin. He would later insist that he was born on Good Friday,13 April 1906, although his birth certficate puts the date a month later. The Becketts were of French Huguenot descent and, after a distinguished career at Trinity College, Dublin, he was to spend much of his life in France. His cricketing prowess earned him a mention in Wisden (the only Nobel Prize winner there), while he topped his year in modern languages. In 1928, he was appointed to an exchange lectureship in Paris, where he met and helped James Joyce before returning to TCD in 1930.
His comic novel Murphy was published in 1938. He also met Suzanne Dumesnil, when she helped him to hospital after a street stabbing. Beckett was in Dublin at the outbreak of World War II, but 'preferred France at war to Ireland at peace'. He worked for the French Resistance, narrowly escaped the Gestapo, then moved to unoccupied France, where he wrote his novel Watt.
In 1947, he returned to Paris, where within two years he wrote his trilogy of novels. Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnameable, and the play Waiting for Godot. By now, he was writing in French, then translating into English. Godot had its first production in 1953, and its success made the reclusive Beckett an international figure. In this innovative tragi-comedy, the tramps Vladimir and Estragon await someone they have never met and who may not exist. 'If I knew who Godot was,' said Beckett, 'I would have said so in the play'.
Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969, but shunned the presentation ceremony. He died in Paris on 22 December 1989.
I have faint memories of reading Beckett in French, in simplified versions for students.
More info here or here at Doublin tourist