[Paleopsych] ODNB: Samuel Beckett

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Fri Feb 4 14:52:06 UTC 2005

Beckett, Samuel Barclay (1906-1989), author
by James Knowlson
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004
James Knowlson, 'Beckett, Samuel Barclay (1906-1989)', Oxford

Beckett, Samuel Barclay (1906-1989), author , was born on 13 April 1906 at
Cooldrinagh, Kerrymount Avenue, Foxrock, co. Dublin, the second of two
children of William Frank Beckett (1871-1933), a quantity surveyor, and
his wife, Maria, known as May (1871-1950), daughter of Samuel Roe, a
miller of Newbridge in co. Kildare, and his wife, Annie. He was descended
from middle-class, solidly protestant, Anglo-Irish stock. William Beckett
was an affectionate father and a charming, clubbable, 'absolutely
non-intellectual' man, as his son described him (Knowlson, 10), who left
his case of Dickens and encyclopaedias unopened. The fiercely independent,
strong-willed Beckett had a much more difficult relationship with his
protective, equally strong-willed mother, whose 'savage loving' at times
overwhelmed him. On the whole he grew up happily in prosperous Foxrock, a
village close enough to Dublin for businessmen to commute by train, but
rural enough for Beckett to take himself off into the countryside to
wander or read alone. He was a fearless, adventurous boy, later an
intrepid motorcyclist and an excellent sportsman.

Early years and education

After attending a small kindergarten school run by Miss Ida and Miss
Pauline Elsner in nearby Stillorgan, Beckett went to private schools,
first Earlsfort House in Dublin, then Portora Royal School in Enniskillen,
co. Fermanagh, where his elder brother, Frank, was already a boarder. He
entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1923 and read French and Italian in
the modern European literature course. It is often forgotten that he also
studied English literature for two years with the Shakespeare scholar
Professor Wilbraham Fitzjohn Trench. In 1927 he obtained a first-class
degree with a gold medal, doing outstandingly well in French, under his
true mentor at Trinity College, Professor Thomas Brown Rudmose-Brown, who
inspired Beckett's love of Ronsard, Scève, Petrarch, and Racine, as well
as introducing him to a wide range of modern French poets. Beckett also
took Italian classes from a private tutor, Bianca Esposito, who took him
through Dante's Divina commedia. Dante's great poem was a constant source
of fascination and a great inspiration to him. While he was at Trinity
College, he had his first experience of love in the person of a
scintillating, brilliant young woman, Ethna MacCarthy, also a pupil of
Rudmose-Brown. Although he adored her and she inspired two of his most
beautiful poems, 'Alba' and 'Yoke of liberty', she did not reciprocate his
love-though they remained friends for the rest of her life. After
graduating he taught French for two terms at Campbell College, Belfast, an
experience which he disliked intensely. To his parents' horror he then had
a serious love affair with his first cousin, Ruth Margaret (Peggy)

In November 1928 Beckett took up a post as lecteur d'anglais (teaching
assistant in English) in Paris at the distinguished École Normale
Supérieure in the rue d'Ulm. He became friendly in the capital with the
self-exiled Irish writer James Joyce. Beckett was strongly influenced by
the force of Joyce's personality, by the range of his culture, and by his
total dedication to his art. Joyce's example inspired him to write. But,
although aware from an early stage that he needed to discover his own
distinctive voice, he found it extremely difficult at first to escape from
Joyce's stylistic influence: 'I vow I will get over J. J. ere I die.
Yessir', he wrote in 1931 to Samuel Putnam.

Early writings

While living in Paris Beckett wrote (and saw published) a prize-winning
poem about Descartes called Whoroscope (1930). He also published his first
two critical essays, one (guided in his reading by Joyce) on early
sections of what was to become Finnegans Wake, entitled 'Dante . Bruno.
Vico . Joyce' (transition , 1929), the other a brilliant, precocious study
of Proust, published in 1931. He returned to Dublin in autumn 1930 to take
up a lectureship in French at Trinity College, where he lectured on
Racine, Molière, the Romantic poets, Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert, Proust,
Gide, and Bergson. He was, however, pathologically shy and detested the
self-exposure that lecturing involved. Always a stern auto-critic, he also
regarded this activity as 'teaching others what he did not know himself'.
So he resigned his appointment after only four terms and set out instead
to become a writer, translator, and literary journalist.

After a short stay with Peggy Sinclair's family in Kassel early in 1932,
Beckett returned to live in Paris, where, installed for six months in the
Trianon Palace Hotel, he wrote the major part of a novel entitled Dream of
Fair to Middling Women , begun in Dublin a year earlier. He failed to get
the book published at the time, however, and it appeared posthumously in
1992. It is a clever, probably much too clever, linguistic extravaganza,
full of reworked literary quotations. But it overturns most of the
conventions of traditional fiction and is a remarkable bravura performance
for so young a man. Because of a clamp-down on foreigners, Beckett found
that he had to leave Paris and, desperately short of money, he returned
home via London to a family situation where he found himself in constant
conflict with his concerned but dominant mother.

Just two months after the death of Peggy Sinclair from tuberculosis,
Beckett's father died on 26 June 1933, leaving him feeling guilty and
depressed-primarily at having let down his father by resigning from his
academic post. He was suffering from panic and a racing heart, which had
disturbed him in a milder form ever since his student days; his troubles
were diagnosed as likely to be mental in origin, and he was forced to go
to England to seek psychological help in London (psychoanalysis was not
permitted in Dublin at the time). He underwent psychotherapy for almost
two years with Wilfred Rupert Bion at the Tavistock Clinic. During this
period, Beckett also read books on psychology and psychoanalysis by Freud,
Stekel, Adler, Jones, and Rank. He several times visited the Bethlem Royal
Hospital, where an old Portora schoolfriend worked as a doctor. Beckett's
own experience of psychotherapy and his enduring interest in
schizophrenia, obsessional neuroses, and other forms of mental disturbance
had a deep impact on his later prose fiction and plays. Although he had
turned his back earlier on an academic career, he remained a scholar at
heart, reading widely in the mid-1930s on philosophy, literature, and
science; most of his philosophy notes have been preserved. From this date
on, his writings had a strong philosophical infrastructure.

In 1934 Beckett published More Pricks than Kicks , a collection of ten
witty and satirical short stories about an Irish intellectual called
Belacqua Shuah, borrowing the name of Belacqua from Dante's indolent
figure in the Purgatorio. He had also used the name in Dream of Fair to
Middling Women and recycled some of the abandoned Dream material in More
Pricks than Kicks. In 1935 he assembled the best of his erudite but highly
personal poems into a slim volume entitled Echo's Bones and other
Precipitates. He also tried to create a name for himself in literary
circles by contributing poems and book reviews to The Spectator, The
Bookman, and The Criterion. But both the poems and the reviews tended to
be learned and obscure, and he had scant success.

During his stay in London for psychotherapy Beckett began a novel, set in
London and Dublin, called Murphy . Completed by June 1936, this was turned
down by dozens of publishers and was not published until 1938. An
intellectual, comic novel of ideas, Murphy is probably one of Beckett's
least experimental works. Yet it still deals with some of his most
persistent themes: the uneasy relationship of mind and body and the desire
to escape from the 'big blooming buzzing confusion' (Beckett, Murphy, 245)
of a world of ambition, aspiration, and will, to seek out instead a state
of quietistic peace.

In 1936-7, dogged by ill health, Beckett toured Nazi Germany, indulging
his passionate interest in painting and sculpture. On returning home he
became involved in a celebrated court case when he acted as chief witness
for his uncle, Harry Sinclair, who had been libelled by Oliver St John
Gogarty. While standing up for his uncle's good name, he was publicly
humiliated as the 'bawd and blasphemer from Paris'. After a blazing row
with his mother he left Ireland to settle down finally in Paris, where on
5 January 1938 he was stabbed by a pimp. When his assailant met Beckett in
court, he told him that he did not know why he had done it. Beckett had
been in a coma for a few hours and, although the knife had narrowly missed
his heart, he was seriously ill for some time.

Before and after the stabbing Beckett had a number of affairs. One was
with the American art collector and heiress Peggy Guggenheim, who admitted
that she was 'entirely obsessed for over a year by the strange creature,
Samuel Beckett' (P. Guggenheim, Out of this Century , 1980, 167); they had
a turbulent sexual relationship which evolved into a strange friendship.
Another was with the Frenchwoman Suzanne Georgette Anna
Deschevaux-Dumesnil (1901-1989), an accomplished pianist. He had met
Suzanne some ten years before, and when she learned of his stabbing from a
newspaper she visited him several times in hospital. They were soon living
together at 6 rue des Favorites but did not marry until 1961.

Although Beckett described the period just before the outbreak of the
Second World War as a 'period of lostness, drifting around, seeing a few
friends-a period of apathy and lethargy' (Knowlson, 295), he was evolving
specifically as a French writer. In 1938-9 he wrote some poems in French
and translated Murphy with the help of a friend, Alfred Péron, who had
been the French lecteur during Beckett's final year as a student.

After the fall of France in June 1940 Péron introduced Beckett, supposedly
neutral as an Irishman, to a British-controlled Special Operations
Executive (SOE) resistance cell, Gloria SMH. Beckett worked as a liaison
officer and translator, receiving and passing on messages from various
agents, first to a photographer for microfilming, then to a courier to be
taken over the line into the unoccupied zone. But the cell was
infiltrated, and in August 1942 its members were betrayed by a French
priest, Robert Alesch, who was working for the German Abwehr. Many members
of the group were arrested and deported to concentration camps but,
forewarned by Péron's wife, Beckett and Suzanne managed to escape with
hours to spare. After spending several weeks on the run, they lived out
the rest of the war in the little village of Roussillon in the Vaucluse,
where Beckett wrote his extraordinary novel Watt, partly as a stylistic
exercise and partly in order to stay sane in a place where he was cut off
from most intellectual pursuits. Written in English, it was a daring
linguistic experiment and, because of its strange subject matter as well
as its manner, was not published until 1953. After the war he was
decorated with the medals of the Croix de Guerre and the médaille de la
Reconnaissance Française. Characteristically, he told nobody about these
decorations-not even his closest friends.

A frenzy of writing

After the war Beckett returned to Ireland to see his mother, but in order
to obtain permission to return to France to join Suzanne he volunteered to
work as an interpreter and storekeeper at the Irish Red Cross hospital in
the Normandy town of St-Lô, which had been devastated by allied bombing
and shelling after the D-day landings. He returned to Paris to endure the
most poverty-stricken years of his life. At this time he engaged in a
remarkable 'frenzy of writing' in French, while Suzanne worked at
dressmaking and gave music lessons in an attempt to make ends meet.

The war had a lasting effect on Beckett's personal philosophy and his
writing. Many aspects of his later works were born out of his experiences
of uncertainty, disorientation, danger, deprivation, and exile. While
visiting his mother in Foxrock he also had a 'revelation' which marked
something of a turning point in how he approached his writing: 'Molloy and
the others came to me the day I became aware of my own folly. Only then
did I begin to write the things I feel' (Graver and Federman, 217). He
recognized earlier that he had to divorce himself from Joyce's stylistic
influence. Now he realized that he had to follow a radically different
path from Joyce, who believed that knowledge was a creative way of
understanding and controlling the world. Beckett's 'own way was in
impoverishment, in lack of knowledge and in taking away, in subtracting
rather than adding' (Knowlson, 352). Light, knowledge, understanding, and
success were replaced by darkness, impotence, ignorance, and failure.
Beckett also realized that he needed to draw on the turmoil and
uncertainty of his own inner consciousness rather than on the external,
'real' world; contradictions would be allowed greater freedom; the
imagination would be given the scope to construct alternative worlds. To
express this vision Beckett rejected some of the techniques that he had
followed earlier. Writing in French allowed him to achieve a greater
simplicity and objectivity. His prose was no longer full of the densely
layered quotations and erudite allusions of his English prose of the

Beckett's first novel in French, Mercier et Camier was finished in 1946.
He regarded it later as an apprentice work and was unwilling to have it
published until 1970. It was, however, something of a sourcebook for his
later writing and allowed him to experiment with dialogue, preparing him
for his excursions into drama. At the beginning of 1947 he wrote his first
full-length play in French, Eleutheria -the title being a Greek word for
freedom. He was very insistent throughout his life that this should be
neither published nor performed, perhaps because it contained certain
autobiographical features or had some flaws in its construction. As a
result the play was published only after his death.

Beckett's financial situation and his health were precarious immediately
after the war. But he wrote frenetically and in French. He completed the
novel trilogy Molloy (1951), Malone meurt (Malone Dies) (1951), and
L'innommable (The Unnamable) (1953), on which, with his play En attendant
Godot (Waiting for Godot ), so much of his reputation as an innovator and
a master stylist in French and English rests. For, unusually, Beckett
himself translated most of his prose texts and his plays from one language
into the other, working in both directions and re-creating the work each
time in the other language. The novels and novellas of the post-war years
showed how much the revelation in his mother's house had affected his
writing. Characters blend into each other; clues followed, as if in a
detective novel, lead nowhere; radical uncertainties about the world and
the self predominate; philosophical, psychological, literary, or artistic
motifs are no longer used allusively but are integrated into the structure
of the work. Suzanne carried the original French manuscripts of the novels
around a variety of publishers and, after dozens of refusals, a young
publisher, Jérôme Lindon, at the Éditions de Minuit finally accepted them.

Waiting for Godot was first written in French between October 1948 and
January 1949. Beckett's theatrical imagery for this play is stark and
minimalist. Two tramp-clowns, Estragon and Vladimir, wait for someone
called Godot to come. They hope that his visit will 'save' them. In the
meantime they fill in 'the terrible silence that is waiting to flood into
this play like water into a sinking ship' (Beckett) with banter and
repeated actions. Two other passers-by (Pozzo and Lucky) arrive to provide
a distraction (and display a view of life as a series of purposeless
movements). After the visitors have left, a boy messenger comes to inform
them that Mr Godot will not come today, but will certainly come tomorrow.
The same pattern is repeated with significant variations in the second
act: Lucky has become mute; Pozzo has gone blind. But a boy messenger
returns to convey the same message about Mr Godot. Such apparent
simplicity disguises some profound themes: life's brevity and its pain;
the human need for something to confer meaning on a mysterious existence;
in its absence, a compensatory need for friendship to protect and sustain,
yet fail to satisfy; a Cartesian concern with the uneasy interplay of mind
and body; and, above all, a radical uncertainty which characterizes every
aspect of the two friends' lives. Man is seen, in Beckett's own words, as
a 'non-know-er, a non-can-er'. The French actor-director Roger Blin, again
contacted by Suzanne, then by Lindon, eventually managed to raise enough
money to put on En attendant Godot at the tiny Théâtre de Babylone in
Paris in January 1953. The extraordinary success of this first production
in French was responsible for Beckett's rise to worldwide fame, as the
play rapidly became an object of intense international interest and
controversy. The first production of Beckett's own English translation,
directed by Peter Hall, was staged at the Arts Theatre Club in London in
August 1955. Kenneth Tynan's and Harold Hobson's reviews made it into an
intellectual hit which has since been regarded as having transformed the
British stage.

Later work

With money left to him by his mother Beckett had a small country house
built near Ussy-sur-Marne outside Paris. For the first time in his adult
life he also found himself comfortably off owing to the success of Waiting
for Godot . In 1954 he lost his brother to cancer. He was with Frank until
the end in what was one of the most devastating experiences of his life.
Soon after this, however, he felt the return of his creative energy and
wrote a first draft of Fin de partie (Endgame), a play profoundly marked
by his brother's death. It was premiered in French in London on 3 April

In 1956, at the request of the BBC, Beckett wrote a radio play, All that
Fall . It drew on memories of his protestant childhood and his later
abandoned faith. While writing the play Beckett was plunged into a state
of depression, but the play itself is full of wit and vitality. He was
further shattered by news that Ethna MacCarthy, married by then to one of
his closest friends, A. J. Leventhal, was dying of cancer. But memories of
her, combined with a number of related themes-a gnostic contrast of light
and dark; the relationship with one's former self; an exploration of
similarity and difference in human life-inspired his short play Krapp's
Last Tape . At about this time he began a long-term relationship with
Barbara Bray, a script editor at the BBC, with whom he remained on very
close terms for the rest of his life, while never leaving his wife,
Suzanne. He received an honorary degree of DLitt from Trinity College,
Dublin, in 1959.

Beckett started writing the play Happy Days (1961) in October 1960 and it
opened on 1 November 1962. As in all Beckett's plays, philosophical
concerns take the form of striking theatrical images. In this play a woman
is buried up to her waist in act I and up to her neck in act II: 'a new
stage metaphor for the old human condition-burial in a dying earth,
exposure under a ruthless sun' (Cohn, The Comic Gamut), as the sands of
time literally engulf her. Krapp's Last Tape and Play tend to 'destabilize
and disperse' (Lawley) individual identity in plays which are built on a
clever use of monologue. Yet we respond first at a human level to the
physical, the concrete, and the visual. Only then do we move to the
philosophical significance of the images, actions, or words.

Beckett felt that, because of its very physical, corporeal nature, theatre
inevitably involved compromise. In his post-war prose fiction he was less
restricted in exploring his deepest concerns. He was freer to explore and
attempt to express being, which for him was chaotic, formless, enigmatic,
and mysterious. Language is form and form represents an obstacle to
capturing being. Form is a sign of strength, whereas Beckett was seeking
what he once referred to as a 'syntax of weakness'. So breaking down the
traditional forms of fictional and theatrical structure and language
became an essential element in a bold attempt to express such formless
being. The novel trilogy, and Comment c'est (How It Is ) (1961) in
particular, deal with issues of consciousness and the self. For to talk of
the self one must objectify that self, hence create a self which is
different from the one doing the observing or the describing. This results
in a constantly receding series of observers or storytellers, voices or

On 25 March 1961 Beckett secretly married Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil in
Folkestone. He wanted Suzanne to inherit the rights to works whose
publication she had tirelessly arranged. But he continued to see Barbara
Bray, who had moved to live in Paris. His next play, Play (1964), parodied
the conventional responses of a man and two women involved in an emotional

In the mid-1960s Beckett's theatre commitments became very taxing. From
that time on he directed his own plays both for the stage and for
television. Chiefly he directed at the Schiller-Theater in Berlin and in
the studios of Süddeutscher Rundfunk in Stuttgart, but also in Paris and
London. In his own productions he refined his plays in the light of
theatrical practicalities, introducing many small cuts and changes to his
texts. Beckett's own theatrical notebooks prove that he was an excellent
choreographer, with a talent for what he described as 'form in movement'.
He also worked in New York on a film, entitled Film (1965), starring
Buster Keaton and directed by his American director friend Alan Schneider;
and on a play for television, Eh Joe (1967). While receiving treatment for
what turned out to be a benign tumour in the roof of his mouth, he wrote a
short play in English, Come and Go (1967), in which three women comment on
their illnesses or imminent deaths.

During this same period Beckett wrote a number of spare, minimalist prose
texts in French. Imagination morte imaginez (Imagination Dead Imagine)
(1965) is set in a white rotunda in which two figures exist like embryos
waiting for birth or extinction. In Le dépeupleur (The Lost Ones) (1971) a
larger cylinder is inhabited by 200 people who live out a strictly
regulated Dantesque existence. Bing (Ping in English) (1966) features a
single figure in a small white cube. These works come very close to being
formalist constructs, creating alternative worlds. Yet the texts are
powerful as well as enigmatic and, in spite of all appearances, they do
draw from and reflect on the 'real' world. What remains of consciousness
in a world where all is reduced? How can the imagination persist when it
seems already to have died? Such 'residua' are attempts to continue
expressing in a world of receding possibilities where one of the major
restrictions is an acute awareness of the inadequacy of language to

Beckett's plays of the 1970s come much closer to basic human concerns: in
Not I (1973), a Mouth high in the darkness spews out words in an
unstoppable stream-the theatrical equivalent of a Munch-like scream of
despair; in Footfalls (1976) we are confronted by an image of distress and
loss in the person of May, literally 'revolving it all in her poor mind',
as she paces across the stage; in That Time (1976) the discontinuity of
self, yet persistence of a basic consciousness, is revealed in a verbal
kaleidoscope of images from different periods of the narrator's life. The
central visual image, often inspired by particular paintings of the old
masters (Giorgione, Rembrandt, Antonello, Dürer), is crucial to the
dramatic effect. Yet Beckett combines words and visual images in a highly
innovative way, as he explores what is essential to theatre for it still
to remain theatre.

In the early 1980s Beckett produced for a Beckett conference in Ohio a
play called Ohio Impromptu (1981), which, with its two almost identical,
gowned figures sitting at a table, resembles a Rembrandt or a Terborch
painting. He also wrote the beautiful short play Rockaby (1981), in which
a woman dressed in black is rocked backwards and forwards in a chair to
the rhythm of her recorded voice. Her recorded words take the form of a
poem. From time to time the live figure repeats the line 'Time she stopped'
in synchronicity with the recording. Billie Whitelaw, one of Beckett's
favourite actresses, played the woman in its first production.

Last years

In 1980 Company , a highly original prose text, first written in English,
was published. Although there are autobiographical reminiscences,
especially from Beckett's childhood, it is in no sense a conventional
autobiography, for the text revolves around some of his most basic themes:
solitude, loneliness, the unreliability of memory, uncertainties to do
with both the self and the other. Another woman in black is recalled by
the narrator of the prose piece Mal vu mal dit (Ill Seen Ill Said ),
written in French and published in 1981. Surrounded by twelve shadowy
figures, the woman is drawn to a stone that resembles a white tombstone.
Then, this time in English, and partly inspired by Edgar's speech in King
Lear, 'The worst is not so long as one can say, This is the worst', he
wrote another quite extraordinary prose piece, Worstward Ho (1983), about
the will to 'fail better'. Though concerned with the failure of language,
it achieves a chilling vibrancy in its stark prose. Stirrings Still (1988)
was Beckett's last prose text, although his final piece of writing was a
poem, Comment dire (What is the Word) (1989), written after he had
regained consciousness in a hospital following a fall.

As a young man Beckett was shy, taciturn, and self-absorbed. In later life
he became far more genial and was noted for his kindness and his
generosity towards others. Although witty, warm, and friendly with close
friends, he was never gregarious and hated invasions of his privacy. He
refused to be interviewed or to have any part in promoting his books. His
physical appearance was very striking: he was 6 feet tall, with a face
like an Aztec eagle, piercing blue eyes, large ears, and spiky hair.

Beckett's interests were highly intellectual. He read widely in English,
French, Italian, and German literature. In his late twenties and early
thirties he read a lot of philosophy: the pre-Socratics, Plato, Descartes,
and the occasionalists, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Kant. His interest in the
painting of the old masters and in sculpture remained with him throughout
his life and he was a friend of many modern painters, in particular Bram
and Geer van Velde, Henri Hayden, and Avigdor Arikha. He owned paintings
by all these artists. He was a good pianist, who loved Haydn, Schubert,
Beethoven, Chopin, and Mozart and attended concerts and recitals with his
wife, who was also an excellent pianist. He did not generally like opera,
but he did go to see several ballets in the 1930s. Music and painting were
probably among the most important influences on Beckett's own writing, and
his late work for the stage appears sometimes closer to painting or
sculpture than it does to traditional theatre.

In his political views Beckett was broadly left-wing and
anti-establishment, although not a communist. He felt a natural sympathy
for the underdog, the victim, the down-and-out, and the prisoner. He never
allowed his art, however, to become part of any political agenda, although
he wrote one play, Catastrophe , in 1982 for the Czech dissident writer
Václav Havel, then under house arrest, who later became president of
Czechoslovakia. He was a firm supporter of human rights movements
throughout the world and a fierce opponent of all forms of censorship and

Beckett's health, which had so often been precarious, began to decline
seriously in 1986 with the onset of respiratory troubles soon diagnosed as
emphysema. In the following year, being deprived of oxygen, he had several
falls, and in the summer of 1988, after falling badly, he went to live in
a modest nursing home, called Le Tiers Temps (the Third Age). He was taken
ill again on 6 December and died in the Hôpital St Anne in Paris of
respiratory failure on 22 December 1989. After a small private funeral he
was buried with his wife, who had died fewer than six months before, in
the cemetery of Montparnasse, Paris, on 26 December.

Beckett changed the entire face of post-war theatre and also inspired many
modern painters and video or installation artists. His prose, too, was
immensely influential. He is often described as a pessimist or nihilist,
and it would be wrong to understate the sombre nature of his dark vision.
Yet such categorizations are wholly inadequate. They ignore the persistent
need of the characters in his fiction and his drama to go resolutely,
stoically on. They also ignore the humour which is a major feature of what
might be called his early and middle periods. Beckett was awarded the
Nobel prize for literature in 1969: 'For his writing which-in new forms
for the novel and drama-in the destitution of modern man acquires its
elevation' (citation). And it is easy to ignore a positive, almost
cathartic effect that may be gained from laughing at the worst that life
can throw at you or from merely enduring it in a brave, perhaps even an
uplifting way.



personal knowledge (2004) · private information (2004) [heirs, family, and
friends] · L. Harvey, notes of interviews, 1960×69, Dartmouth College,
Baker Library · J. Knowlson, Damned to fame: the life of Samuel Beckett
(1996) · S. Beckett, More pricks than kicks (1934) · S. Beckett, Murphy
(1938) · S. Beckett, Molloy, Malone dies, The unnamable (1959) · S.
Beckett, Collected shorter plays (1984) · S. Beckett, Collected shorter
prose, 1945-1980 (1988) · citation for the Nobel prize for literature,
1969, Nobel Foundation · R. Federman and J. Fletcher, Samuel Beckett: his
works and his critics (1970) · L. Graver and R. Federman, Samuel Beckett:
the critical heritage (1979) · J. Knowlson and J. Pilling, Frescoes of the
skull: the recent prose and drama of Samuel Beckett (1979) · R. Cohn, The
comic gamut (1962) · R. Cohn, Just play: Beckett's theater (1980) · P.
Chabert, ed., Revue d'Esthétique (1986) [special Beckett issue] · L. E.
Harvey, Samuel Beckett: poet and critic (1970) · H. Kenner, Samuel
Beckett: a critical study (1968) · C. Lake, ed., No symbols where none
intended (1984) · P. Lawley, 'From Krapp's last tape to Play', The
Cambridge companion to Beckett, ed. J. Pilling (1994) · C. Locatelli,
Unwording the world: Samuel Beckett's prose texts after the Nobel prize
(1990) · J. Pilling, Beckett before 'Godot': the formative years,
1929-1946 (1997) · P. J. Murphy, Reconstructing Beckett: language for
being in Samuel Beckett's fiction (1990) · E. Brater, Beyond minimalism:
Beckett's late style in the theater (1987) · S. E. Gontarski, The intent
of undoing in Samuel Beckett's dramatic texts (1985)


BBC WAC · Boston College, Massachusetts, John J. Burns Library · Harvard
U., Houghton L., corresp., literary MSS, and papers · Indiana University,
Bloomington, Lilly Library · Institut des Mémoires de l'Édition
Contemporaine, Paris · Princeton University Library, New Jersey · Syracuse
University, New York · TCD, ephemeral material · U. Reading L., letters
and literary MSS; further papers · Washington University, St Louis,
Missouri, letters, literary MSS and papers |  Harvard U., Houghton L.,
letters to Miss Willard · TCD, letters to Bettina Jonic · TCD, letters to
Thomas MacGreevy · TCD, corresp. with Alan Simpson relating to the Pike
Theatre productions of his plays · TCD, corresp. with Percy Arland Ussher
· TCD, letters to Herbert Martin Oliver White · University of British
Columbia, corresp. with Laure Riese


P. Joyce, photograph, 1949, NPG · photographs, 1950-1986, Hult. Arch. · H.
Hayden, pen-and-ink drawing, 1957 (Samuel Beckett), priv. coll. · H.
Cartier-Bresson, photograph, 1964, NPG [see illus.] · A. Arikha, brush and
India ink on paper, 1967 (Samuel Beckett leaning), priv. coll. ·
pen-and-ink drawing, 1967, priv. coll. · portrait, 1969, priv. coll. ·
brush and sumi ink drawing, 1970, Centre Pompidou, Paris · etching, 1971,
priv. coll. · graphite drawing, 1971, NPG · portrait, 1971, priv. coll. ·
silverpoint drawing, 1971, priv. coll. · silverpoint drawing, 1975, priv.
coll. · J. Brown, photograph, 1976, NPG · graphite drawing, 1976, priv.
coll. · J. Baner, photograph, 1978, NPG · L. le Brocquy, oils, 1979 · T.
Philips, lithograph, 1984, priv. coll. · T. Philips, lithograph, 1984, NPG
· B. O'Toole, pastel drawing, 1989, U. Reading L., department of archives
and manuscripts · L. le Brocquy, oils, 1992 · M. Abbott, pastel drawing,
2000, U. Reading L., department of archives and manuscripts · S.
O'Sullivan, charcoal drawing (Portrait of Samuel Beckett), priv. coll.

More information about the paleopsych mailing list