Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
The Irish dramatist whose provocative, ambiguous and tragicomic plays make him the most important author in the so-called Theater of the Absurd and show the unique and dismaying quality of his personal vision of man, doomed to a meaningless and static life marked by boredom, uncertainty, alienation and incommunicability. In 1969 he was awarded the Nobel Prize fo Literature "for his writing, which - in new forms for the novel and drama - in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation.
Samuel Beckett was born in 1906 at Foxrock, near Dublin. His family were Protestant Anglo-Irish, a point in common with the other Irish writers in the 20th century, such as Yeats and Shaw.
Beckett went to a "public" (fee-paying) school and entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1923. In 1927 he took his B.A degree in Modern Literature (French and Italian), with first -class honors, and other academic distinctions. After a brief experience teaching in a secondary school in Ireland, he went to France in 1928 as an exchange lecture in a French Ecole Normale in Paris. While there, he met James Joyce, who by this time established his reputation as the leading experimental novelist in the English language.
In 1930 he returned to Dublin, having obtained a post as lecturer in French at Trinity College, but after little more than a year there he resigned and devoted himself entirely to rifting. In 1933 his father died, leaving him a small annuity, and on this he lived very frugally, mostly in Paris but with occasional trips to London, France, Germany and Italy.
He was in Paris when the war broke out in 1939. As a citizen of the Irish Republic, which remained neutral throughout the war, he was allowed to stay there even after the German occupation of Northern France. He joined the French resistance movement, working as an underground agent in Paris. In 1942 the Gestapo arrested many of his fellow partisans, and he had to go into hiding, eventually making his way to the region of Avignon, in the unoccupied zone.
In 1945 he returned to Ireland to see his family. He volunteered to work with the Irish Red Cross and was back to France as an interpreter in a military hospital. From 1946 to 1950 he lived in Paris again. This was the most creative period of his life: there he wrote a number of works which critics usually regard as among his most important including Waiting for Godot. It should be noted also that these works were written first in French, and the English versions (nearly all by Beckett himself) only appeared later.
His work, hitherto neglected now began to arouse interest among French critics, but full recognition of Beckett's importance only came with the production of Waiting for Godot in 1953 in Paris (the French title was En attendant Godot). In 1954 the English version was published in New York and the play itself was performed in English for the first time in London in 1955. These productions attracted the attention not only of serious critics, but even of the popular press, especially in England, where they aroused a great deal of controversy. In 1969 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died on December 22nd, 1989.