Dates: b. 1906, d. 1989
Literary Movement: Theater of the Absurd
Famous Works: Malone Dies, Waiting for Godot, Krapp’s Last Tape
Profile: Samuel Beckett is known for his tragicomic novels and plays, which detail an overwhelmingly bleak, absurd view of human existence. Beckett was born into an upper-middle-class family in Dublin, learning music and sports at a young age. At age fourteen, he attended Portora Royal School in Enniskillen (Oscar Wilde’s alma mater), leaving three years later to play cricket for Dublin University. He continued on to play two first-class games against Northamptonshire; Beckett was and continues to be the only Novel literature laureate to have played first class cricket.
A student of A.A. Luce, Samuel Becket studied French, Italian, and English at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1926, he was elected a Scholar in Modern Languages, graduating with a BA. Shortly after graduating, Beckett accepted the post of lecteur d’anglais at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he was introduced to James Joyce and Thomas MacGreevy. Beckett worked closely with Joyce on his research for the book that would become Finnegans Wake.
Beckett’s first publishing ventures included critical essays and studies of renowned writers, including René Descartes, Joyce, and Marcel Proust. He wrote prolifically and submitted frequently, earning publication in periods and journals across Europe. Beckett’s writing eventually turned toward creative endeavors, and he published his first novel, Dream of Fair to Middling Women, in 1932. He continued to develop his creative voice, and in 1953, published his most famous play: En attendant Godot, or Waiting for Godot. His writing grew progressively more minimalist and absurd (see: “Not I”), then shifting theatrically into translation. In 1961, alongside Jorge Luis Borges, Beckett received the International Publishers’ Formentor Prize, and in 1969, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.