Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett - Domaine Public
Samuel Beckett - Domaine Public

Samuel Beckett is one of the greatest Irish writers of the 20th century. An excellent playwright, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969, Samuel Beckett has always been considered a writer with a pessimistic view of man and his condition.

Biography of Samuel Beckett

A childhood distinguished by brilliant studies

Samuel Beckett was born on April 13, 1906, in a wealthy suburb of Dublin. He began his studies at Earlsford House School, then continued them at Portora Royal School in Enniskillen. A brilliant student, Beckett was then admitted to Trinity College from 1923 to 1927, where he undertook literary and linguistic studies mainly in English literature, as well as French and Italian.

He later turned to teaching, and taught a few courses at Campbell College in Belfast. But Beckett wants to travel, and wants to get to know Paris, a place of immersion where many writers freely indulge their passion.

It was in the late 1920s that he found a position at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and met James Joyce, a leading figure in Irish literature. Their friendship allowed the two men to exchange many opinions and points of view on writing, and Beckett did not hesitate to help Joyce in his research while writing Finnegans Wake. Despite their good understanding, their relationship gradually deteriorates when Beckett refuses Joyce’s daughter’s advances… The latter then takes offense, and will never forgive his friend’s refusal.

First Writings

Samuel Beckett threw himself into the water in 1929, with his first work called “Dante…”. Bruno. Vico… Joyce”. This essay is intended to defend Joyce’s style, which was considered obscure at the time. Then follows a short story entitled “Assumption”, published in a specialized Parisian newspaper.

After a few publications here and there, Beckett returns to Ireland to find Trinity College. It is at this point that he begins to feel a strong disgust for the complacency of literary university circles. He criticizes them sharply with a poem called “Gnome” in 1934, which finally closes the doors of Irish universities to him.

Weary, and no longer thriving in the Irish academic world, he chooses to travel, and visits mainly Europe. But his love for Paris eventually brings him back to the French capital, where he decides to settle permanently. Beckett seemed much more at ease in France and integrated more easily into the literary world of the time.

It was also during this period that he wrote his first novel “Murphy”.

Beckett became a resistance fighter for France and then received the Nobel Prize for Literature

The Second World War broke out and Beckett preferred to stay in France, saying he preferred “France at war to Ireland in peace“. From that time on, he engaged in numerous actions in cooperation with the French Resistance, fighting against the German occupation. But very quickly, the Nazis began to take an interest in him, and wanted to capture him. Faced with this risk, he took refuge with Nathalie Sarraute, then settled in the South of France from 42 to 45. At the end of the conflict, Beckett will say he will be deeply changed by the war.

In 1961, the writer got married and published a succession of successful plays. He then began to discover the television and radio environment, and participated in the development of a film and some chronicles.

1969 is the year of his consecration: Samuel Beckett receives the Nobel Prize for Literature. However, he is not delighted with this nomination, deploring the risk of his works being “institutionalized” in universities.

After the death of his wife in 1989, Beckett suffered from Parkinson’s disease and severe respiratory problems. He moved into a nursing home and died 6 months after his wife on December 22, 1989. Because of his attachment to Paris, he is buried in Montparnasse cemetery.