Samuel Beckett

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Beckett, Samuel

(bĕk`ĭt), 1906–89, Anglo-French playwright and novelist, b. Dublin. Beckett studied and taught in Paris before settling there permanently in 1937. He wrote primarily in French, frequently translating his works into English himself. His first published novel, Murphy (1938), typifies his later works by eliminating the traditional elements of plot, character, and setting. Instead, he presents the experience of waiting and struggling with a pervading sense of futility. The anguish of persisting in a meaningless world is intensified in Beckett's subsequent novels including Watt (1942–44); the trilogy Molloy (1951), Malone Dies (1951), and The Unnamable (1953); How It Is (1961); and The Lost Ones (1972). In his theater of the absurd, Beckett combined poignant humor with an overwhelming sense of anguish and loss. Best known and most controversial of his dramas are Waiting for Godot (1952) and Endgame (1957), which have been performed throughout the world. Beckett was awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Beckett's other works include a major study of Proust (1931); the plays Krapp's Last Tape (1959) and Happy Days (1961); a screenplay, Film (1969); short stories, Breath (1966) and Lessness (1970); collected shorter prose in Stories and Texts for Nothing (tr. 1967), No's Knife (1967), and The Complete Short Prose: 1929–1989 (1996, ed. by S. E. Gontarski); volumes of collected writings, More Pricks than Kicks (1970) and First Love and Other Shorts (1974); and Poems (1963). His Collected Works (16 vol.) was published in 1970 and a comprehensive centenary edition (5 vol.) was published in 2006. Beckett's first works of fiction and drama were both published posthumously, the novel Dream of Fair to Middling Women (1932) in 1992 and the play Eleuthéria (1947) in 1995.


See S. Lawlor and J. Pilling, ed., The Collected Poems of Samual Beckett (2014); M. D. Fehsenfeld et al., ed., The Letters of Samuel Beckett (3 vol., 2009–14); J. and E. Knowlson, Beckett Remembering/Remembering Beckett: A Centenary Celebration (2006); memoir by A. Atik (2006); biographies by D. Bair (1978), J. Knowlson (1996), and A. Cronin (1997); studies by H. Kenner (1968 and 1973), R. Cohn (1972 and 1973), S. Connor (1986), P. Gidal (1986), R. Pountney (1988), L. Gordon (1996), C. C. Andonian (1998), J. D. O'Hara (1998), A Uhlmann and S. E. Gontarski, ed. (2006), and S. Watt (2009); S. E. Gontarski, ed., A Companion to Samuel Beckett (2010).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Beckett, Samuel


Born Apr. 13, 1906, in Dublin. Poet, dramatist, novelist, and a representative of modernism. Irish by descent. Writes in English and French. Graduated from Trinity College in Dublin.

Beckett was secretary to the writer J. Joyce. Since 1937 he has lived in France. He published the collection of stories More Pricks Than Kicks in 1934, the collection of poems Echo’s Bones in 1935, and the novel Murphy in 1938. The heroes of the surrealistic plays Waiting For Godot (1952; Russian translation, 1966), Endgame (1957), and Krapp’s Last Tape (1959) are physical and spiritual cripples, possessed by a terror of life. The texts of Beckett’s novels Molloy (1951), Malone Dies (1951), Watt (1953), and How It Is (1961) are alogical and disjointed. He has written essays on M. Proust (1931) and J. Joyce (1936). Beckett received the Nobel Prize in 1969.


L’innommable. Paris, 1953.
Malone meurt. Paris, 1963.


Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 3. Moscow, 1958.
Leklerk, G. “Sud’by avangardistskogo teatra vo Frantsii.” Teatr, 1959, no. 9.
Kopelev, L. “Ostorozhno—trupnyi iad!” In his book Serdtse vsegda sleva. Moscow, 1960. Elistratova, A. “Tragikomediia Bekketa ’V ozhidanii Godo.’ ” Inostrannaia literatura, 1966, no. 10.
Samuel Beckett: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N. J. [1965].
Fletcher, J. S. Beckett’s Art. London, 1967. Beckett at 60: A Festschrift. London [1967].
Hayman, R. S. Beckett. London [1968].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(i) (JULIET, Charles; BECKETT, Samuel. Conversations with Samuel Beckett and Bram van Velde.