Samuel Beckett

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Related to Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot

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 ?
The interested reader will find at least two texts helpful as companions in this connection: the recent joint effort between Han Van Ruler, Anthony Uhlmann, and Martin Wilson in their scholarly edition of Geulincx's Ethics (2006) with Beckett's notes on that text (published in Brill's Studies in Intellectual History) and Matthew Feldman's chapter on Geulincx in his Beckett's Books: A Cultural History of Samuel Beckett's "Interwar Notes" (2006), a forerunner to the Historicizing Modernism series.
This edition of the first volume of Samuel Beckett's Letters, covering the years 19291940, has been hailed all-round as a major achievement, and a treasure for scholars and nonacademic lovers of Beckett's writing alike.
Mick Jagger, Lauren Bacall, Robert DeNiro, Bjork and Samuel Beckett are among the famous names snapped by photographer Jane Bown.
His subject is always assumed to be "our shared subject" (387), Samuel Beckett, the man who lived and read, was influenced and subsequently wrote, died, and left behind evidence.
Which title is shared by a hit 1970s US sitcom and a Samuel Beckett play?
PARIS, Oct 5, 2009 (TUR) -- Irish writer Samuel Beckett and Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet have been brought together at a performance "Beckett-Hikmet" by a group of young actors under the "Season of Turkey" activities in France.
1955: Samuel Beckett's now-acknowledged classic Waiting For Godot was performed for the first time in London at the Arts Theatre.
One of the outstanding literary figures of the 20th Century, Samuel Beckett and his work is an aspect of every college and university English Literature curriculum.
According to the International Herald Tribune, the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community will also be presented to Barney Rosset, who through his publishing house, Grove Press and his magazine, The Evergreen Review, has influenced readership of authors such as Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Jean Genet.
This edition also includes Samuel Beckett's notes on Geulincx and a good introduction by van Ruler.