Samuel Barclay Beckett (13 April 1906 – 22 December 1989) was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, who lived in France for most of his adult life and wrote in both English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour.
...Among them is Samuel Beckett, whose relationship with his father seems to have been loving and easy. [...] With Beckett, the mother was the problem. In 1937, when she had left him alone in the family house with a cook to make his meals, he wrote about how pleasant the house was in her absence.
Playwright, poet, and novelist Samuel Beckett was introverted and unhappy in childhood and adolescence, pessimistic and fatalistic in his prose. His best known work, originally dismissed by some critics as a strange play in which nothing happens, was Waiting for Godot, wherein two characters wait for a third, who never arrives. He frequently wrote of dark events, stark fear, lack of identity, purposelessness, and death, yet he had an ability to occasionally pierce the bleakness and make such topics suddenly comedic.
"The next three decades," writes Mr. Coetzee, "will see Beckett, in his prose fictions, unable to move on — stalled, in fact, on the very question of what it means to move on, why one should move on." Drama became Beckett's chief strategy for writing himself out of this corner. He never set out to be a revolutionary but rather to investigate the particular advantages of theater for his characteristic meditations on being, dubious presence, seriocomic desolation and the artistic imperative to "fail again, fail better." In the process, though, he ended up turning the theater world — famously liberal politically yet notoriously conservative regarding received forms — on its head.
"Beckett is like Shakespeare," [Tony Kushner ] explained. "He's very dangerous, because his voice is so overwhelmingly persuasive and influential. I never read him when I'm actually writing something. Because you can't. It's a voice that changes your own voice. It just completely overwhelms you."
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1969 was awarded to Samuel Beckett "for his writing, which - in new forms for the novel and drama - in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation".
How to express silence through sound? Beckett is preoccupied with this dilemma from the beginning of his career. Unlike pigment and musical notes, words signify beyond any writer's control. "Is there any reason," Beckett asks a friend in 1937, "why that terrible arbitrary materiality of the word's surface should not be permitted to dissolve...?"
During a stint in Paris after his degree's completion, Beckett was introduced by his friend the poet Tom MacGreevy to James Joyce, by this time quite famous for his novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, both of which Beckett greatly admired. In the years to come Joyce would have an "overwhelming" (Beckett's adjective) effect on his fellow Irishman.
SAMUEL BECKETT is not known for being amusing. The Irish playwright cut a gaunt, Giacometti-like figure when walking along the Seine in his adopted Paris that, with the passing years, grew too busy for his liking. His work can seem similarly stark, resting on the bleak vision of his best-known play “Waiting for Godot”. Beckett’s world is composed of characters buried up to their necks in earth, stuck in urns or legless in bins. It is one in which it seems, “Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful!”
PARIS—Just weeks after the centennial of the birth of pioneering minimalist playwright Samuel Beckett, archivists analyzing papers from his Paris estate uncovered a small stack of blank paper that scholars are calling "the latest example of the late Irish-born writer's genius." The 23 blank pages, which literary experts presume is a two-act play composed sometime between 1973 and 1975, are already being heralded as one of the most ambitious works by the Nobel Prize-winning author [...] "In what was surely a conscious decision by Mr. Beckett, the white, uniform, non-ruled pages, which symbolize the starkness and emptiness of life, were left unbound, unmarked, and untouched," said Trinity College professor of Irish literature Fintan O'Donoghue.
The 23 blank pages, which literary experts presume is a two-act play composed sometime between 1973 and 1975, are already being heralded as one of the most ambitious works by the Nobel Prize-winning author of Waiting For Godot, and a natural progression from his earlier works, including 1969's Breath, a 30-second play with no characters, and 1972's Not I, in which the only illuminated part of the stage is a floating mouth.
"In what was surely a conscious decision by Mr. Beckett, the white, uniform, non-ruled pages, which symbolize the starkness and emptiness of life, were left unbound, unmarked, and untouched," said Trinity College professor of Irish literature Fintan O'Donoghue.
There is no doubt that May Beckett loved her son fiercely. Later on he would speak of her 'savage loving', but somehow it did not come through to him as a child in the right way.
Beckett told Duthuit that he was weary of those artists who paraded what he called "puny exploits" and who pretended they could keep on "doing a little better the same old thing, of going a little further along a dreary road." He believed instead that, "…there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express."
It is therefore no accident that Samuel Beckett, the writer who in this century has most single-mindedly dedicated himself to the exploration of what is meant by such things as being, identity and representation, should have at the centre of his works so strong and continuous a preoccupation with repetition. His early works show the hopeless, habitual wanderings of characters struggling to escape from habit, even though they are themselves constitutively enslaved by it.
Samuel Beckett's writing has always posed stubborn problems for literary critics and historians. His astonishing inventiveness and the bizarre nature of his inventions; the mingling of anguish and elegance - talking of first and last things through the masks of clownish vagabonds - have made his work uncommonly difficult to describe and evaluate; and his movements through countries, languages and genres make a brief, comprehensive account of his career almost impossible to compose.
The fame of Waiting for Godot (written in 1948 but first performed only in 1953 in Paris and in 1955v in London) began to transform Beckett's situation - from the obscure avant-garde writer to the world figure. That particular play, performed everywhere from the San Quentin penitentiary to colleges of education, had become a set book in secondary schools and a relative best-seller by the 1970s.
…Beckett was, above all, a philosopher of being; his mature vision a deracinated exploration of what he termed "the issueless predicament of existence." In this dominant critical paradigm, issues of historical or political interest were often ignored or deemed irrelevant as critics grappled with Beckett's apparent desire to slough off the social and political in order to express some "bare life" that underlay all.