Samuel Beckett


One of the most unique and powerful voices of the Twentieth Century, Sameul Beckett was born in Foxrock, Ireland, in 1906, and suffered, as he claimed, an eventless childhood. He attended Trinity College in Dublin, and left for Paris when he was twenty-two (he would later call this city home). In Paris he fell in with a group of avant-garde artists, including James Joyce, who was to become a life-long friend. Although he continued to write in both English and French throughout his life, most of his major works were written in French between 1946 and 1950. Beckett was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1969. He died in Paris in 1989.

Beckett's bizarre world is explored in novels, short stories, poetry, and scripts for radio, television, and film. But he is best known for his work in the theatre. His most famous play, Waiting For Godot, opened at a tiny theatre in Paris in 1953 and went on to become one of the most important dramatic works in this century. The strange atmosphere of Godot, in which two tramps wait on what appears to be a desolate road for a man who never arrives, conditioned audiences to following works like Endgame, Happy Days, and Krapp's Last Tape.

Beckett's drama is most closely associated with the Theatre of the Absurd. He employs a minimalistic approach, stripping the stage of unnecessary spectacle and characters. Tragedy and comedy collide in a bleak illustration of the human condition and the absurdity of existence. In this way, each work, from the lengthy productions (Godot, Endgame) to the very brief (Ohio Impromptu, Catastrophe) to the despairing mologues (Rockaby, A Piece of Monologue), serves as a metaphor for existence and an entertaining philosophical discussion. Although Beckett dissociated himself from the post World War II French existentialists, his works cover much of the same ground and ask similar questions.

Appearances in the BDE Catalog:

Wrote Happy Days

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