"...the form, structure and mood of an artistic statement cannot be separated from its meaning, its conceptual content; simply because the work of art as a whole, is its meaning, what is said in it is indissolubly linked with the manner in which it is said, and cannot be said any other way..." Samuel Beckett - Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress

1906-89, Irish Poet, novelist and playwright

The work Beckett is most widely known for is significant because it eliminates plot, and iterative, discursive thought lines. He asks the question "Who am I?" and rather than answer the question, he leaves the conclusion up to the audience. The characters are disconnected from their past and from each other.

When he moved to Paris he met and made friends with James Joyce who had great influence on him. It was Joyce who introduced him to his future wife. He began his writing career in English, but one day decided it would be better to write in French instead. When asked why he replied that this eliminated the temptation to concentrate on style. He himself translated all his own works back into English.

He worked in many different literary forms including novels, film, short stories, poetry, radio and television scripts.

He won the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature. His novels, e.g., Murphy 1938 and Molloy 1951, portray an individual's entrapment by grotesque situations in an apparently normal world. In his Theatre of the Absurd, typified by the popular but controversial Waiting for Godot 1952 and "Endgame" 1957, Beckett combined poignant humor with an overwhelming sense of anguish and loss.

His most famous works include:


Related Nodes:

Sources: Esslin, Martin, "The Theatre of the Absurd", Doubleday, NY, 1969 Beckett, Samuel, "More Pricks Than Kicks", Grove Press, NY, 1972 Beckett, Samuel, "Happy Days", Grove Press, NY, 1961 http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc7.htm Last Updated 05.14.04

b. 13 May 1906, d. 22 December 1989. Always maintained he was born 13 April 1906, Good Friday. Painful Existentialist comedic writer, best known for his groundbreaking plays which are bitter, funny, repetitive works which attempt to flay humanity bare with absurdity and death. Also wrote straight fiction, which is less known but quite powerful.

An incident in 1938 defines his life to some extent. On his way home at night with some friends, a pimp went and stabbed him in the chest for no apparent reason. The slice missed his heart, but punctured a lung. His attacker, named Prudent of course, was brought to trial and said politely that he did not know why he had done it, and that he was quite sorry. Of course.

Beckett grew up in a Protestant Anglo-Irish family, and graduated Trinity College in Dublin with a degree in Italian and French. A part of James Joyce's circle in Paris in 1928, Beckett would eventually settle down to write in Paris. P_I reminds me that during this time, Beckett was a secretary of sorts for Joyce. He helped transcribe some of what would later become Finnegans Wake. Not recognized in his own right until the premiere of Waiting for Godot, he won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1969.

The opening sentence of Murphy (1938):

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.

Ach, what a string of words! Fatalism, the lack of change in life...

An interesting twist: after a return visit to Dublin in 1946, Beckett decided to write all further works in French. He claimed that "it is easier to write without style". This may be because he wanted to escape his tendency to write in an Irish Gothic voice, which he felt "plagued" his early works. Later, he would translate many of these works himself to English. See the masterful coherency of Waiting for Godot in both languages.

It wasn't until the fifties, when Beckett felt he had mined the immersive narrative until "disintegration", that he became known for his dramas. His ploy here was to counter the linear language with circular motifs and structure.

The landmark How It Is (1961) once again uses the trilogy form to reflect circularity. It tells the story, in phases, of a figure crawling through the muckheap with a sack of canned food. The text is without capitalization, without many of the common parts of sentences:

...but all this business of voices yes quaqua yes of other worlds yes of someone in another world yes whose kind of dream I am yes said to be yes... all balls.

After How It Is (which you should read, if you don't mind the large demands...) Beckett wrote no more novel-form fiction. He called his following experimental, short, minimal pieces "capua mortua", "fiascos", and "residua".

Beckett found it harder and harder to write, and retired to translate some of his works. He died in Paris in 1989.

Partial Works

Writing in a minimal vein did not prevent Beckett from producing a large body of work. (P.S. Dates are coming, publishers may be impossible due to too many reprints.)


Short Fiction Plays Short Plays Various Media
Factual information from Encyclopedia Brittanica and http://www.themodernword.com/beckett/beckett_biography.html

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