Beckett, Samuel (13 April 1906 - 22 December 1989)
Samuel Beckett (13 April 1906 - 22 December 1989)
Julian A. Garforth
Beckett International Foundation, University of Reading
See also the Beckett entries in DLB 13: British Dramatists Since World War II; DLB 15: British Novelists, 1930-1959; DLB 233: British and Irish Dramatists Since World War II, Second Series; DLB 319: British and Irish Short-Fiction Writers, 1945-2000; DLB 321: Twentieth Century French Dramatists; and DLB Yearbook: 1990.
BOOKS: Whoroscope (Paris: Hours Press, 1930);
Proust (London: Chatto & Windus, 1931; New York: Grove, 1957);
More Pricks than Kicks (London: Chatto & Windus, 1934; New York: Grove, 1970);
Echo’s Bones and Other Precipitates (Paris: Europa Press, 1935);
Murphy (London: Routledge, 1938; New York: Grove, 1957); translated into French by Beckett (Paris: Bordas, 1947);
Molloy (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1951); translated by Beckett and Patrick Bowles (Paris: Olympia Press, 1955; New York: Grove, 1955; London: Calder & Boyars, 1966);
Malone meurt (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1951); translated by Beckett as Malone Dies (New York: Grove, 1956; London: Calder, 1958);
En attendant Godot (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1952); translated by Beckett as Waiting for Godot (New York: Grove, 1954; London: Faber & Faber, 1956);
L’Innommable (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1953); translated by Beckett as The Unnamable (New York: Grove, 1958; London: Calder, 1975);
Watt (Paris: Olympia Press, 1953; New York: Grove, 1959; London: Calder, 1963); translated into French by Beckett, Ludovic Janvier, and Agnès Janvier (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1968);
Nouvelles et textes pour rien (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1955); translated by Beckett as Stories and Texts for Nothing (New York: Grove, 1967);
All That Fall (New York: Grove, 1957; London: Faber & Faber, 1957); translated into French by Beckett
and Robert Pinget as Tous ceux qui tombent (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1957);
Fin de partie, suivi de Acte sans paroles [I] (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1957); translated by Beckett as Endgame, Followed by Act Without Words (New York: Grove, 1958; London: Faber & Faber, 1958);
From an Abandoned Work(London: Faber & Faber, 1958); translated into French by Beckett, Ludovic Janvier, and Agnes Janvier as D ‘un ouvrage abandonné(Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1967);
Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamabk: Three Novels(New York: Grove, 1958; London: Calder, 1959; Paris: Olympia Press, 1959);
Krapp’s Last Tape and Embers(London: Faber & Faber, 1959); translated into French by Beckett and Pierre Leyris as La Dernière bande, suivi de Cendres (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1960);
Krapp’s Last Tape and Other Dramatic Pieces (New York: Grove, I960)—comprises Krapp’s Last Tape, All That Fall, Embers, Act Without Words I, and Act Without Words II (the last two translated from the French by Beckett);
Comment c‘est (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1961); translated by Beckett as How lt ls (New York: Grove, 1964; London: Calder, 1964);
Happy Days (New York: Grove, 1961; London: Faber & Faber, 1962); translated into French by Beckett as Oh les beaux jours (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1963);
Poems in English (London: Calder, 1961; New York: Grove, 1963);
Dramatische Dichtungen, 2 volumes, French and English texts by Beckett, German translations by Elmar Tophoven and Erika Tophoven (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1963, 1964)—includes in volume 1: Acte sans paroles II [Act Without Words II], original French version; Cascando, original French version, with English translation by Beckett; in volume 2: Comédie [Play], translated into French by Beckett;
Play and Two Short Pieces for Radio (London: Faber & Faber, 1964)—comprises Play, Words and Music, and Cascando;
Imagination morte imaginez (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1965); translated by Beckett as Imagination Dead Lmagine (London: Calder & Boyars, 1965);
Proust [by Beckett] and Three Dialogues [by Beckett and Georges Duthuit] (London: Calder, 1965);
Assez (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1966); translated by Beckett as Enough in No’s Knife: Collected Shorter Prose, 1945-1966 (London: Calder & Boyars, 1967) and in First Love and Other Shorts (New York: Grove, 1974);
Bing (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1966); translated by Beckett as Ping in No’s Knife: Collected Shorter Prose, 1945-1966 (London: Calder & Boyars, 1967) and in First Love and Other Shorts (New York: Grove, 1974);
Comédie et actes divers (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1966)— comprises Comédie, Va-et-vient, Cascando, Paroles et musique, Dis Joe, and Acte sans paroles II; expanded edition (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1972)—includes Acte sans paroles I, Film, and Souffle;
Eh Joe and Other Writings (London: Faber & Faber, 1967; New York: Grove, 1969)—comprises Eh Joe, Act Without Words II, and Film;
Come and Go (London: Calder & Boyars, 1967);
No’s Knfe: Collected Shorter Prose, 1945-1966 (London: Calder & Boyars, 1967)—comprises The Expelled, The Calmative, The End, Texts for Nothing 1-13, From an Abandoned Work, Enough, Imagination Dead Imagine, and Ping;
Têtes-mortes, translated by Beckett, Ludovic Janvier, and Agnes Janvier (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1967)— comprises D‘un ouvrage abandonnè, Assez, Lmagination morte imaginez, and Bing; expanded edition (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1972)—includes Sans;
Cascando and Other Short Dramatic Pieces (New York: Grove, 1968)—comprises Cascando, Words and Music, Eh Joe, Play, Come and Go, and Film;
Film, Eh Joe in drei Sprachen (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1968)—includes Film, translated into French by Beckett;
Poèmes (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1968);
Film (New York: Grove, 1969; London: Faber & Faber, 1972);
Sans (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1969); translated by Beckett as Lessness (London: Calder & Boyars, 1970);
The Collected Works of Samuel Beckett, 16 volumes (New York: Grove, 1970);
Le Dépeupleur (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1970); translated by Beckett as The Lost Ones (London: Calder & Boyars, 1972; New York: Grove, 1972);
Mercier et Camier (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1970); translated by Beckett as Mercier and Camier (London: Calder & Boyars, 1974; New York: Grove, 1974);
Premier amour (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1970); translated by Beckett as First Love (London: Calder & Boyars, 1973);
Breath and Other Shorts (London: Faber & Faber, 1971)— comprises Breath, Come and Go, Act Without Words I, Act Without Words II, and From an Abandoned Work;
Film, suivi de Souffle (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1972)— includes Souffle [Breath], translated into French by Beckett;
Not I (London: Faber & Faber, 1973); translated into French by Beckett as Pas moi (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1975);
Au loin un oiseau, text by Beckett, etchings by Avigdor Arikha (New York: Double Elephant Press, 1973); translated by Beckett as Afar a Bird in For to End Yet Again and Other Fizzles (London: Calder, 1976) and in Fizzles (New York: Grove, 1976);
First Love and Other Shorts (New York: Grove, 1974)— comprises First Love, From an Abandoned Work, Enough, Imagination Dead Imagine, Ping, Not I, and Breath;
Still, text by Beckett, etchings by William Hayter (Milan: M’Arte Edizione, 1974);
Oh les beaux jours, suivi de Pas moi (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1975);
I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On: A Selection from Samuel Beckett’s Work, edited by Richard W. Seaver (New York: Grove, 1976)—includes That Time;
Foirades = Fizzles, bilingual edition, text by Beckett, etchings by Jasper Johns (London: Petersburg Press, 1976);
Pour finir encore et autres foirades (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1976); translated by Beckett as For to End Yet Again and Other Fizzles (London: Calder, 1976); translation published as Fizzles (New York: Grove, 1976);
All Strange Away (New York: Gotham Book Mart, 1976; London: Calder, 1979);
That Time (London: Faber & Faber, 1976); translated into French by Beckett as Cette fois (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1978);
Footfalls (London: Faber & Faber, 1976); translated into French by Beckett as Pas (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1977);
Ends and Odds: Eight New Dramatic Pieces (New York: Grove Press, 1976)—comprises Not I, That Time, Foo falls, Ghost Trio, [Rough for] Theatre I, [Rough for] Theatre II, [Rough for] Radio I, and [Rough for] Radio II; expanded as Ends and Odds: Plays and Sketches (London: Faber & Faber, 1977)—includes... but the clouds... ; expanded edition published as Ends and Odds: Nine Dramatic Pieces (New York: Grove Press, 1981);
... but the clouds ...(London: Faber & Faber, 1977);
Collected Poems in English and French (London: Calder, 1977; New York: Grove, 1977); expanded as Collected Poems 1930-1978 (London: Calder, 1984)-includes Mirlitonnades;
Pas suivi de quatre esquisses (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1978)—comprises Pas, Fragment de théâtre I, Fragment de théâtre II, Pochade radiophonique, and Esquisse radiophonique;
Poèmes suivi de Mirlitonnades (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1978);
Company (New York: Grove, 1980; London: Calder, 1980); translated into French by Beckett as Compagnie (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1980);
Mal vu mal dit (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1981); translated by Beckett as Ill Seen, Ill Said (New York: Grove, 1981; London: Calder, 1982);
Rockaby and Other Short Pieces (New York: Grove, 1981)— comprises Rockaby, Ohio Impromptu, All Strange Away, and A Piece of Monologue;
Berceuse; suivi de Impromptu d’Ohio (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1982)—comprises Berceuse [Rockaby] and Impromptu d’Ohio [Ohio Impromptu], translated into French by Beckett;
Solo; suivi de Catastrophe (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1982)—comprises A Piece of Monologue, translated by Beckett as Solo, and Catastrophe;
Catastrophe et autres dramaticules (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1982)—comprises Cette fois, Solo, Berceuse, Impromptu d‘Ohio, and Catastrophe; expanded edition (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1986)—includes Quoi où;
Three Occasional Pieces (London: Faber & Faber, 1982)— comprises A Piece of Monologue, Rockaby, and Ohio Impromptu;
Quoi où (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1983);
Worstward Ho (New York: Grove, 1983; London: Calder, 1983);
Disjecta: Miscellaneous Writings and a Dramatic Fragment, edited by Ruby Cohn (London: Calder, 1983; New York: Grove, 1984);
Collected Shorter Plays (London: Faber & Faber, 1984; New York: Grove, 1984)—includes Quad, Nacht und Träume, and Beckett’s English translation of Catastrophe;
Collected Shorter Prose 1945-1980 (London: Calder, 1984);
Three Plays (New York: Grove, 1984)—comprises Ohio Impromptu, Catastrophe, and What Where;
The Complete Dramatic Works (London: Faber & Faber, 1986);
L’Image (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1988);
Stirrings Still, text by Beckett, illustrations by Louis le Broquy (New York: Blue Moon, 1988; London: Calder, 1988);
Comment dire (Paris: Librairie Compagnie, 1989);
Nohow On: Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, Worstward Ho (London: Calder, 1989; New York: Grove, 1995);
As the Story Was Told: Uncollected and late Prose (London: Calder, 1990; New York: Riverrun, 1990)-includes The Capital of the Ruins, The Image, All Strange Away, Heard in the Dark 1, Heard in the Dark 2, One Evening, As the Story Was Told, Neither, Stirrings Still, and What Is the Word;
Dream of Fair to Middling Women, edited by Eoin O’Brien and Edith Foumier (Dublin: Black Cat, 1992; London: Calder, 1993; New York: Arcade, 1993);
Eleutheria (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1995); translated from the French by Michael Brodsky as Eleuthéria (New York: Foxrock, 1995); translated by Barbara Wright (London: Faber & Faber, 1996).
Editions and Collections: Proust, translated into French by Edith Fournier (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1990);
Quad, Ghost Trio,... but the clouds..., and Nacht und Träume, translated by Fournier as Quad et Trio dufantôme,... que nuages. . ., Nacht und Träume; suivide I’Epuise de Gilles Deleuze (Paris: Editions deMinuit, 1992);
Endgame, edited by S. E. Gontarski, volume 2 of The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett (London: Faber & Faber, 1992; New York: Grove, 1992)-includes a revised text;
Krapp’s Last Tape, edited by James Knowlson, volume 3 of The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett (London: Faber & Faber, 1992; New York: Grove, 1992)—includes a revised text;
Waiting for Godot, edited by Dougald McMillan and Knowlson, volume 1 of The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett (London: Faber & Faber, 1993; New York: Grove, 1994)—includes a revised text;
More Pricks than Kicks, translated into French by Fournier as Bande et sarabande (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1994);
The Complete Short Prose 1929-1989, edited by Gontarski (New York: Grove, 1995);
The Shorter Plays, edited by Gontarski, volume 4 of The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett (London: Faber & Faber, 1999; New York: Grove, 1999)-includes revised texts of Footfalls, Come and Go, and What Where;
Shorts, 12 volumes (London: Calder, 1999);
Poems 1930-1989 (London: Calder, 2002).
PLAY PRODUCTIONS:En attendant Godot, Paris, Théâtre de Babylone, 5 January 1953; produced in English as Waiting for Godot, London, Arts Theatre Club, 3 August 1955; transferred to the Criterion Theatre, 12 September 1955; Miami, Coconut Grove Playhouse, 3 January 1956; New York, John Golden Theatre, 19 April 1956;
Fin de partie and Acte sans paroles (I), London, Royal Court Theatre, 3 April 1957; Paris, Studio des Champs-Elysées, 26 April 1957; translated into English by Beckett as Endgame and Act Without Words I, New York, Cherry Lane Theatre, 28 January 1958; London, Royal Court Theatre, 28 October 1958;
Krapp’s Last Tape, London, Royal Court Theatre, 28 October 1958 [produced with Endgame]; New York, Provincetown Playhouse, 14 January 1960; translated into French by Beckett as La Dernière bande, Paris, Théâtre Récamier, 22 March 1960;
Act Without Words II, London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, 25 January 1960; Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin, lOJuly 1962;
Happy Days, New York, Cherry Lane Theatre, 17 September 1961; London, Royal Court Theatre, 1 November 1962; translated into French by Beckett as Oh les beaux jours, Venice, Teatro del Ridotto, 28 September 1963; Paris, Odéon-Théâtre de France, 21 October 1963;
Play, translated into German by Elmar Tophoven and Erika Tophoven as Spiel, Ulm, Germany, Ulmer Theater, 14 June 1963; original English version produced as Play, New York, Cherry Lane Theatre, 4 January 1964; London, Old Vic Theatre, 7 April 1964; translated into French by Beckett as Comédie, Paris, Pavilion de Marsan, 11 June 1964;
Come and Go, translated into German by Elmar Tophoven and Erika Tophoven as Kommen und Gehen, Berlin, Schiller-Theater Werkstatt, 14 January 1966; translated into French by Beckett as Va-et-vient, Paris, Odéon-Théâtre de France, 28 February 1966; original English version produced as Come and Go, Dublin, Peacock Theatre, 28 February 1968; London, Royal Festival Hall, 9 December 1968; Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin, Performing Arts Center, 23 November 1970;
Breath, New York, Eden Theatre, 17 June 1969 [as part of Oh! Calcutta!}; Oxford, Oxford Playhouse, 8 March 1970;
Not I, New York, Lincoln Center, 22 November 1972; London, Royal Court Theatre, 16 January 1973; translated into French by Beckett as Pas moi, Paris, Théâtre d’Orsay, 3 April 1975;
That Time and Footfalls, London, Royal Court Theatre, 20 May 1976; Washington, D.C., Arena Stage, 3 December 1976; Footfalls translated into French by Beckett as Pas, Paris, Théâtre d’Orsay, 11 April 1978;
A Piece of Monologue, New York, La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, 14 December 1979;
Rockaby, Buffalo, State University of New York at Buffalo, 8 April 1981; London, Cottesloe Theatre (National Theatre), 9 December 1982; translated into French by Beckett as Berceuse, Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, 14 October 1981;
Ohio Impromptu, Columbus, Ohio State University, 9 May 1981; Nottingham, University of Nottingham Dramatic Society, 22 June 1984; first professional production, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Festival, 13 August 1984; translated into French by Beckett as Impromptu d’Ohio, Paris, Théâtre du Rond-Point, 15 September 1983;
Catastrophe, Avignon, Avignon Festival, 21 July 1982; English version produced with What Where, New York, Harold Clurman Theatre, 15 June 1983; Edinburgh, Edinburgh Festival, 13 August 1984;
What Where, produced with Catastrophe, New York, Harold Clurman Theater, 15 June 1983; Edinburgh, Edinburgh Festival, 13 August 1984; original French version of What Where produced as Quoi où, Paris, Théâtre du Rond-Point, April 1986.
PRODUCED SCRIPTS: All That Fall, radio, BBC Third Programme, 13 January 1957;
Embers, radio, BBC Third Programme, 24June 1959;
Words and Music, radio, BBC Third Programme, 13 November 1962;
Cascando, radio, RTF-France Culture, 13 October 1963; English version, BBC Third Programme, 6 October 1964;
Film, motion picture, Evergreen, 1965;
Eh Joe, television, Süddeutscher Rundfunk, 13 April 1966 [as He, Joe]; original English version, BBC 2, 4July 1966; German version revised as He, Joe, Sūddeutscher Rundfunk, 13 September 1979;
Rough for Radio II, radio, BBC Radio 3, 13 April 1976;
Shades, television, BBC 2, 17 April 1977—comprised Ghost Trio,... but the clouds. . ., and Not I;
Quadrat 1 + 2, television, Sūddeutscher Rundfunk, 8 October 1981; English version broadcast as Quad, BBC 2, 16 December 1982;
Nacht und Träume, television, Sūddeutscher Rundfunk, 19 May 1983;
Was wo [What Where], television, Sūddeutscher Rundfunk, 13 April 1986.
OTHER: “Dante, Bruno, Vico, Joyce,” in Our Exagmination Round His Facification for Incamination of Work in Progress, by Beckett and others (Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1929), pp. 3-22;
“From the Only Poet to a Shining Whore” in Henry-Music, by Henry Crowder and others (Paris: Hours Press, 1930), pp. 12-14;
“Hell Crane to Starling,” “Casket of Pralinen for a Daughter of a Dissipated Mandarin,” “Text,” and “Yoke of Liberty,” in The European Caravan: An Anthology of the New Spirit in European literature. Part 1, France, Spain, England and Ireland, edited by Samuel Putnam, Maida Castelhun Darnton, George Reavey, and J. Bronowski (New York: Brewer, Warren & Putnam, 1931), pp.475-480;
As the Story Was Told, in Günter Eich turn Gedächtnis, edited by Siegfried Unseld (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1973);
Ceiling, in Avigdor Arikha, Arikha (Paris: Hermann, 1985; London: Thames & Hudson, 1985), p. 12.
TRANSLATIONS: Selected translations, in Negro: An Anthology, edited by Nancy Cunard (London: Wishart, 1934);
Octavio Paz, comp., Anthology of Mexican Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1958);
Arthur Rimbaud, Drunken Boat [le bateau ivre] (Reading: Whiteknights Press, 1976).
Samuel Beckett is the only Nobel laureate to appear in the cricketers’ bible, Wisden, having represented a Dublin University side that toured England in 1925 and 1926. Beckett batted left-handed and bowled right-handed—an individual approach that was reflected in most aspects of his life, including his distinctive writing. The Nobel citation from the Swedish Academy states that his award was for “a body of work that, in new forms of fiction and the theatre, has transmuted the destitution of modern man into his exaltation.” Beckett was, without doubt, one of the most significant writers of the twentieth century, and his influence and popularity live on into the twenty-first century.
Samuel Barclay Beckett was born at Cooldrinagh in Foxrock, County Dublin, on Good Friday, 13 April 1906. Friday the Thirteenth was a particularly appropriate date for this enigmatic figure, who had the reputation of being somber and secretive and who refused to give interviews about himself or his work, which appears to focus almost exclusively on the bleaker, darker side of existence. The popular myth of Beckett as a mysterious recluse was far from the truth, however, and hid a private but immensely gracious and caring person, whose generosity extended well beyond his immediate circle of friends to almost anyone he met.
Beckett was the second son of William Frank Beckett, a quantity surveyor, and his wife, Maria (née Roe), known as May, who was a nurse. The family was staunchly Protestant and middle-class, placing Beckett in the minority in the predominantly Catholic Dublin. Despite a turbulent relationship with his mother, who was strong-willed and protective, he had a relatively happy childhood in rural Foxrock, attending a kindergarten run by two elderly German sisters, Ida and Pauline Elsner, in the nearby village of Stillorgan. He was subsequently sent to Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, along with his elder brother, Frank. In addition to being gifted academically, Beckett had a lifelong love of sport, dating back to his school days, where he excelled at rugby, tennis, boxing, and cricket. When he entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1923, Beckett’s passion for sport was gradually superseded by his interests in art, music, and literature. Although he only drifted slowly toward the study of modern languages, having also studied English literature, he proved to be a talented linguist, graduating first in his year in French and Italian. His French tutor, Thomas Brown Rudmose-Brown, introduced him to a wide range of classical and modern French literature, and his Italian studies provided his initial contact with Dante’s Divina commedia, a source of interest throughout his life. His academic prowess was partnered with a passion for music-hall and vaudeville theater as well as the silent slapstick movies and early shorts of Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, and Buster Keaton. While at Trinity College, Beckett met his first love, fellow pupil Ethna MacCarthy, who inspired the poems “Alba” (first published in Dublin Magazine in 1931) and “Yoke of Liberty” (first published in The European Caravan: An Anthology of the New Spirit in European Literature, 1931). Although his feelings were not reciprocated, the two remained good friends until MacCarthy’s death from cancer in 1959.
After he graduated, an academic career seemed the obvious option for the young, gifted linguist, and Beckett taught French for two terms at Campbell College, Belfast—an experience he hated. In November 1928 he assumed the position of lecteur at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he became friends with Thomas MacGreevy, his predecessor in the post, who introduced him to James Joyce and his circle. Beckett immersed himself completely in this artistic group, resulting in the inclusion of his essay “Dante, Bruno, Vico, Joyce” in Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress (1929), a volume celebrating the work that became Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939). The essay, which also appeared in the literary journal Transition (Spring-Summer 1929), shows Beckett’s clear admiration for Joyce’s style but also allows him to exhibit his own ability to manipulate language. Beckett’s first fictional work, “Assumption,” appeared in the same issue of Transition, followed shortly afterward by his first independent publication: Whoroscope (1930), a poem based on the life of René Descartes, written as an entry for the Hours Press poetry competition organized by Nancy Cunard. The title shows Beckett’s playfulness with language, being a pun on the word “whore” and the Greek “horo” (time/hour), as well as alluding to Descartes’s famous refusal to reveal his exact date of birth, so that no astrologer could write an accurate horoscope predicting the date of his death.
In the autumn of 1930 Beckett returned to Dublin to take up a lectureship in modern languages at Trinity College, where he taught classes on the works of Jean Racine, Molière, Honoré de Balzac, Stendhal, Gustave Flaubert, and Marcel Proust. As his contribution to the Modern Languages Society’s annual presentation at the Peacock Theatre, Beckett took his first steps toward becoming a playwright by collaborating with Georges Pelorson to create a one-act pastiche of Pierre Corneille’s play Le Cid (1637), titled Le Kid (performed in 1931). Although Pelorson wrote most of the piece (and most Beckett scholars therefore no longer regard it as a work by Beckett), Beckett came up with the title, which was also a play on Chaplin’s movie The Kid (1921). In complete contrast to this lighthearted parody, Beckett also published his highly regarded essay Proust (1931), a study of A la recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927, Remembrance of Things Past), showcasing Beckett’s critical writing. In this book he analyzes the main Proustian concepts: time, “that double-headed monster of damnation and salvation”; involuntary memory, “an immediate, total and delicious deflagration”; and habit, “the ballast that chains the dog to his vomit.”
As biographer James Knowlson records, Beckett did not take to the “grotesque comedy of lecturing,” describing it as “teaching to others what he did not know himself.” After suffering a virtual breakdown toward the end of 1931, Beckett realized that he was not cut out for the rigors of academic life but was more suited to the artistic lifestyle he had encountered in Paris in the company of Joyce. He subsequently resigned from his teaching post and decided to return to Paris in order to forge a career as a writer and translator.
During 1932 Beckett worked on a novel titled Dream of Fair to Middling Women (1992), which he had begun in Dublin. A complex mixture of critical theory and biographical detail, based loosely on Beckett’s own turbulent lifestyle during his time at Trinity College, this novel presents the young writer with an opportunity to display his literary and linguistic knowledge. It follows the adventures of a young Irishman, Belacqua Shuah, whose name is lifted directly from Dante’s Purgatorio. Full of foreign vocabulary and obscure literary allusions, it was perhaps too intellectual for its own good, and Beckett was unable to find a publisher for it. It was finally published after his death. In 1933, virtually broke and under pressure to leave Paris because of a clampdown on foreign residents, Beckett returned to Dublin. His father died on 26 June 1933, leaving Beckett feeling guilty and depressed at having failed him by resigning from the teaching post. His mental problems increased as the year progressed, and he moved to London, where he underwent psychotherapy for almost two years with Wilfred Bion at the Tavistock Clinic. During this period, Beckett read widely on psychology and psychoanalysis and visited Bethlem Royal Hospital, where a former school friend, Geoffrey Thompson, worked as a doctor. Beckett’s own experience of psy chotherapy and his interest in mental illness in general are reflected in much of his subsequent writing.
Beckett recycled some of the material from his unpublished novel in More Pricks than Kicks (1934), a collection of ten satirical short stories about the exploits of Belacqua Shuah. Written in a similarly highbrow literary style, the book was well received critically but sold poorly. Beckett also completed nineteen translations for Nancy Cunard’s Negro: An Anthology (1934), realizing that translation might be one possible way to support himself. MacGreevy introduced Beckett to various figures in the publishing world in an attempt to aid his writing career. This assistance resulted in a series of reviews for literary journals, one of which, a review of Mozart On the Way to Prague, a 1934 translation of Eduard Mörike’s Mozart auf der Reise nach Prag (1856), offers an early insight into Beckett’s stance concerning language. In this review, included in Disjecta: Miscellaneous Writings and a Dramatic Fragment (1983), Beckett argues that Mörike’s work is “at least short, which is nowadays so rare a quality in a literary work that one cannot refrain from commending this book for having contrived, in 20,000 words instead of in 200,000, to exhaust the inessential.” This goal is precisely what many of Beckett’s own subsequent protagonists are trying to achieve—“to exhaust the inessential.” Beckett claims that “all writing, qua writing, is bound to fail,” neatly summarizing his approach to his own creative process and his constant attempts to “Fail again. Fail better,” as he wrote in Worstward Ho (1983). In addition to these literary reviews, he also published a collection of thirteen poems under the title Echo’s Bones and Other Precipitates (1935).
In September 1934 Beckett moved to the World’s End area of London, the setting for his next novel, Murphy (1938), which he completed in June 1936. Somewhat autobiographical in nature, the novel recounts the tale of the Irish “everyman” of the title: down on his luck, living in similar circumstances to Beckett, and torn between the spiritual and the physical. Probably Beckett’s most accessible prose work, it is less overtly intellectual than his previous efforts, being what C. J. Ackerley and S. E. Gontarski in The Grove Companion to Beckett (2004) call “a gigantic joke made up of tiny ones.” It has a wealth of entertaining characters and draws on Beckett’s knowledge of Descartes and Flemish philosopher Arnold Geulincx as well as his own love of chess for its plot. Its most famous moment is Murphy’s funeral wake, where, during a drunken argument, “the body, mind and soul of Murphy were freely distributed over the floor of the saloon.” In a scene that mixes comedy and pathos, his ashes are swept away “with the sand, the beer, the butts, the glass, the matches, the spits, the vomit.” Despite the potential appeal of the novel, Beckett remained unable to find a publisher for it for almost two years. After a promising start, his literary career now seemed to be struggling.
In September 1936, having recently become interested in art history, Beckett traveled to Germany with the intention of visiting various galleries. He was disappointed to find that the Nazis had removed all the modern paintings that they considered degenerate. This period in Germany was of great importance in Beckett’s development as a writer, as he met a series of people who introduced him to the work of the most forward-thinking German artists and writers. Although the period was unproductive in terms of creative writing, Beckett kept a six-volume diary and a notebook during his travels. The notebook bears the inscription “Whoroscope,” although its contents are unrelated to the poem of that title. It includes a wealth of information on Beckett’s reading matter and thoughts during these six unhappy months, in particular outlining his attraction toward German philosophy and his growing interest in contemporary German literature. Around this time, Beckett also began working on a play about Samuel Johnson and his circle, which he titled “Human Wishes.” Despite filling several notebooks with source material and drafts, he never published the play, and only a fragment appears in Disjecta.
On returning to Dublin, Beckett was called as a witness in a libel case involving his uncle, Harry Sinclair; Knowlson reports that during the trial, Beckett’s artistic lifestyle was scrutinized and he was described as “that bawd and blasphemer from Paris.” Having witnessed firsthand the intolerance of the Nazi regime toward writers and artists in Germany, Beckett made the decision to live in Paris for the rest of his life. His life as an exile did not begin well: on 5 January 1938 he was stabbed near the heart by a pimp and only narrowly escaped death. While recuperating in hospital, he was visited by Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil, a French woman he had met ten years earlier. By 1939 they were living together, although they did not marry until 25 March 1961. Beckett spent the last years of the decade working on the French translation of Murphy with Alfred Péron. He also wrote several poems in French, which were published in Les Temps Modernes in 1946.
Beckett’s decision that he preferred France at the outbreak of World War II to Ireland at peace was more than a mere gesture. As an Irishman living abroad, Beckett was, in theory, a neutral. But, having recently experienced the inhumanity of the Nazi regime in Germany, he felt unable to stand by and allow his French friends and colleagues to be persecuted. He was introduced to a Résistance cell by Péron and was soon working as a translator and relaying messages. When the cell was infiltrated in August 1942, Beckett and Deschevaux-Dumesnil fled to Roussillon in the Vaucluse, where they spent the rest of the war in hiding. During their forced isolation, Beckett managed to complete a novel, Watt (1953), which he later described disparagingly (according to Lawrence Harvey) as “only a game... a means of staying sane and a way to keep [my] hand in.” In contrast to Murphy, Watt is one of Beckett’s least accessible works. It relates the story of the title character, first a servant in Mr. Knott’s house and later resident of an institution, where he recounts his adventures to another inmate called Sam. The novel documents Watt’s gradual mental deterioration and is full of complex lists, hypotheses, and calculations, based on probabilities and permutations, which can be perplexing for the reader. Completely different stylistically from his previous novels, Watt was Beckett’s last work in English for several years. Beckett’s experiences during the war altered his outlook on life dramatically, and his feelings of isolation, uncertainty, and danger are reflected in much of his postwar writing. Beckett was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille de la Reconnaissance Française for his Résistance work during the war. Yet, with his usual modesty, he dismissed his brave actions as merely “boy scout activities.”
During a visit to Foxrock shortly after the war, Beckett experienced what he described as a “revelation,” an episode he later drew on in Krapp’s Last Tape (performed in 1958, published in 1959). At the root of this vision was the realization that he had to move away from Joyce’s shadow and forge his own distinctive literary style. Knowlson notes that whereas Joyce regarded knowledge as a means to understand and control the world, Beckett’s “own way was in impoverishment, in lack of knowledge and in taking away, in subtracting rather than adding.” In an attempt to simplify his literary style, Beckett began writing in French in earnest. Forcing himself to write in a foreign language seemed the best way of avoiding what he viewed as the literary excesses of his earlier works. This dissatisfaction with his own language as an expressive medium has its roots in Dream, of Fair to Middling Women, in which Beckett claims, “They have no style, they write without style, do they not.... Perhaps only the French can do it. Perhaps only the French language can give you the thing you want.” He had clearly been harboring these feelings for some years. In a letter to a German friend, Axel Kaun, dated 9 July 1937 and included in Disjecta, Beckett writes: “It is indeed becoming more and more difficult, even senseless, for me to write an official English. And more and more my own language appears to me like a veil that must be torn apart in order to get at the things (or the Nothingness) behind it.” In this letter he advocates the search for a new medium of expression: “Let us hope the time will come, thank God that in certain circles it has already come, when language is most efficiently used where it is being most efficiently misused.”
These thoughts are the roots of his attempts to express the inexpressible–that which lies behind language. As he notes in Watt,“the only way one can speak of nothing is to speak of it as though it were something.” Beckett wants to express his disgust with language through language itself, claiming he would like to commit “an assault against words in the name of beauty.” Until he can achieve that goal, “I have the consolation, as now, of sinning involuntarily against a foreign language, as I should love to do with full knowledge and intent against my own.” He is too proficient in his own language; grammar and syntax are no longer a challenge. Writing in a foreign language can offer him this challenge until he can find a way of “sinning” in his native tongue.
The first work Beckett completed in French, in 1946, was the novel Mercier et Camier (1970; translated by Beckett as Mercier and Camier, 1974), which follows the exploits of the two titular characters, who meet to undertake a journey that involves many distractions and deviations. Thematically and stylistically, it clearly prefigures En attendant Godot (1952; translated by Beckett as Waiting for Godot, 1954), with lines from the novel (such as “They didn’t beat you?”) resurfacing almost verbatim in the play. Beckett regarded the novel as a kind of apprentice work, in order to attune his ear to writing in French, and it remained unpublished until 1970. In early 1947 Beckett completed his first full-length play, the three-act Eleuthéria (1995; translated as Eleutheria, 1995), the title being the Greek term for freedom. It is an unwieldy satire, with many characters and a split set, making it difficult to stage. Perhaps aware of the structural failings of the play, Beckett remained adamant that it should not be published or performed throughout his life. It was eventually published six years after his death.
The only items Beckett did get published at this time were several poems and translations in Transition, the journal edited by Georges Duthuit. His most significant writings from this period are the Three Dialogues, which appeared in the December 1949 issue of Transition and were later published with Proust in 1965. Ostensibly a series of conversations between Beckett and Duthuit about three artists–Pierre Tal-Coat, André Masson, and Bram van Velde–the texts act as a kind of manifesto for Beckett to state his
views on art and the role of the artist. Beckett summarizes the problems facing a writer as “The expression that there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express.” As far as Beckett is concerned, failure is the artist’s lot; he claims he would be “the first to admit that to be an artist is to fail, as no other dare fail, that failure is his world and the shrink from it desertion.”
The change to writing in French marked a burst of literary activity for Beckett–a period he referred to, according to biographer Deirdre Bair, as “the siege in the room”–and he began writing a dense prose trilogy comprising Molloy (1951; translated by Beckett and Patrick Bowles, 1955), Malone meurt (1951; translated by Beckett as Malone Dies, 1956) and L’Innommable (1953; translated by Beckett as The Unnamable, 1958). The composition of this trilogy also marked Beckett’s move to the first-person monologue as the predominant style in his prose work. This shift allowed him to draw on his own mental and physical experiences to a much greater degree while still being able to retain a suitable distance from any biographical elements by writing in a foreign language. Beckett viewed the three novels as part of the same difficult yet rewarding compositional process.
Molloy was written relatively quickly in 1947 and concerns the eponymous hero’s quest for his mother, a search that has Oedipal overtones: “I took her for my mother and she took me for my father.” Like most literary quests, Molloy’s journey eventually brings him back to himself. The novel is divided into two sections with a similar structure; in each the reader encounters a man in a room writing a report. In the first, Molloy recounts his story; in the second, Moran tells how he was sent to find Molloy. Despite the Freudian and Jungian overtones of the novel, a certain black humor is present throughout, with each narrator constantly questioning himself and undermining his previous utterances. Moran asks: “Does this mean I am freer now than I was? I do not know. I shall learn. Then I went back into the house and wrote, It is midnight. The rain is beating on the windows. It was not midnight. It was not raining.” Beckett regarded Molloy as his first successful attempt at incorporating his personal experiences into his own fiction. In a 16 February 1961 article in Nouvelles Lit-téraires, Gabriel d’Aubarède claimed that Beckett summarized the change in his approach to writing thus: “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.”
Beckett began writing Malone meurt less than a month after completing Molloy. Planned as a companion piece, the novel was originally titled “L’Absent,” giving an indication of the narrator’s isolation from the world, a theme that is reinforced by the pun inherent in his name: Malone (M, alone). Like Molloy, Malone is a writer, alone in a room, aged, prostrate and immobile, who strives to recount four stories before death overcomes him: “one about a man, another about a woman, a third about a thing and finally one about an animal, a bird probably.” The scene and tone of the novel are set in the opening line: “I shall soon be quite dead at last in spite of all.” Malone feels a compulsion to write and to examine his past life and his current situation, in order to stave of the boredom of his daily existence and to understand himself more fully. For him, “Nothing is more real than nothing.” The novel focuses on the act of writing, and Malone’s storytelling acts as a metaphor for his life: as his pencil wears down, the sands of his own life trickle away. As long as he is able to write “a few lines to remind me that I too subsist,” he can cling to the last vestiges of existence. As death approaches, Malone seems to find some kind of inner peace with the acceptance that the world is full of things he can never understand. Perhaps unwittingly, Beckett predicts the nature of his next novel and also much of his future writing, in which his characters become shadowy, nameless figures: “Then it will be all over with the Murphys, Merciers, Molloys, Morans and Malones, unless it goes on beyond the grave.” The novel was turned down by several publishers, presumably because of its subject matter and style.
Unable to find a publisher for these two novels and finding himself in a creative dead end, Beckett turned to drama as a relaxation from this intense project and, between October 1948 and January 1949, he worked feverishly on a play he titled En attendant Godot–the work that brought him international fame and recognition as an author. Yet, as with his earlier works, Beckett struggled intially to find a publisher. This minimalist, ostensibly simple play–in which, famously, as Vivian Mercier observes, “nothing happens, twice”— marks a stark contrast from Beckett’s recent prose work and represents the closest he had come to an embodiment of his search for a simpler, more precise linguistic style. The play is set in an unspecified location (“A country road. A tree. Evening.”) and focuses on the dialogue between the two protagonists, Estragon and Vladimir, who are half-tramp, half-clown; the theme is perhaps best summarized by Estragon’s opening line, “Nothing to be done.” As they wait in vain for the mysterious Godot to arrive, they fill what Beckett called “the terrible silence that is waiting to flood into this play like water into a sinking ship” with a succession of verbal and physical games, which range from slapstick routines to an earnest contemplation of suicide. A brief distraction occurs with the arrival of a second couple, Pozzo and Lucky, the former leading the latter by a rope round his neck, giving the impression of master and slave. After their departure a boy appears, informing them that Godot will not come today, but will definitely come tomorrow, renewing their fading hopes.
The shorter second act is a structural repetition of the first, with subtle but significant variations. Although the tree gains a few leaves in the interval, suggesting new life and hope, in contrast, when Pozzo and Lucky return, Pozzo is blind and Lucky is mute. The rope binding the two is much shorter, suggesting the power balance has been reversed, with Pozzo now reliant on Lucky as his guide. By not giving the play a specific setting, Beckett succeeds in making it completely universal. Existence is portrayed as a constant search for meaning and salvation, which are never found. Life equates with suffering and comprises a series of inane conversations designed to fill the time until death. Despite the ostensible bleakness of the situation, there is much humor in the play. Estragon and Vladimir do not lose their faith, and the bond between them remains as strong as ever at the close. Like an old married couple, they are unable to live together without bickering, yet are even less able to survive apart.
The play was published by Editions de Minuit in 1952 and received its premiere at the Théâtre de Babylone in Paris on 5 January 1953 to great critical success. Jean Anouilh described it in Arts Spectacles (27 February - 5 March 1953) as “Pascal’s Pensées played by the Fratellini clowns.” Beckett translated the play into English during 1953, and it premiered at the Arts Theatre Club in London in August 1955, directed by Peter Hall. Although it received mainly hostile reviews, the two leading theater critics of the era, Kenneth Tynan and Harold Hobson, championed it, helping to turn it into an intellectual success. In January 1956 the play had its American premiere in Miami, again to a hostile reception; but within a few months, it was playing on Broadway to large audiences, claiming its rightful position as one of the most significant plays of the twentieth century.
After this brief interlude that resulted in En attendant Godot, Beckett returned to writing the final part of his prose trilogy, L’Innommable. Originally titled “Mahood,” after one of the names attributed to the narrator, this novel was begun in March 1949, with trepidation, after the mental and physical effort he had expended on the two previous novels–apparently in vain, since he still had not found a publisher for them. In a conversation with the artist Avigdor Arikha (quoted in Anne Atik, How It Was: A Memoir of Samuel Beckett, 2001), Beckett later described The Unnamable as an attempt “to try to tell one more time what it is to have been.” The questioning tone of the novel is set by the opening line: “Where now? Who now? When now?” The Unnamable is a key work in Beckett’s canon, as it prefigures much of his subsequent prose and drama in both style and content. It focuses on the desire to be silent, combined with the compulsion to speak: “Having nothing to say, no words but the words of others, I have to speak.” This lack of “desire to express, together with the obligation to express,” is something Beckett had already identified in the Three Dialogues. Prefiguring by more than twenty years the subject matter of his play Not I (performed in 1972, published in 1973), in which the character Mouth is forced to spout the words that are pent up within her, the narrator in The Unnamable is “compelled to speak” and has just as little control over language: “Where do these words come from that pour out of my mouth, and what do they mean?” Echoing the situation in Waiting for Godot, where Estragon and Vladimir find seemingly endless ways to continue their conversations, the narrator of The Unnamable argues that “the discourse must go on. So one invents obscurities. Rhetoric.” As he explains, “the search for the means to put an end to things, an end to speech, is what enables the discourse to continue.” In order to add to the narrator’s confusion, Beckett uses several contradictory voices, with the result that language both comforts and terrorizes the narrator: “Ah if only this voice could stop, this meaningless voice which prevents you from being nothing, just barely prevents you from being nothing and nowhere.” If the voices are silenced, then he will have peace; but the cessation of the voices also means the end of life, so it is a double-edged sword. The novel concludes with one of Beckett’s most famous lines, which encapsulates the ethos of many of his characters who continue their struggle in the face of overwhelming odds: “where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
In response to a request from his American publisher, Barney Rosset, Beckett reverted to English for his next composition, From an Abandoned Work (1958). It first appeared in Trinity Mews in June 1956, with many editorial modifications, and was the first example of Beckett’s generosity toward his alma mater. As the title suggests, the text is resurrected from a longer, discarded piece. It is written in a conversational style, as the first-person narrator recounts three days chosen randomly from his life. The text seems to allude to Beckett’s own experience of language learning: “I was very quick as a boy and picked up a lot of hard knowledge, Schimmel, nice word for an English speaker.” Yet, the narrator is scathing about his proficiency in his mother tongue– “awful English this”—an unintentional, but apt, comment on the changes made by the Trinity News editors.
In the years following the success of Waiting for Godot, Beckett focused on dramatic writing, starting with Fin de partie (1957; translated by Beckett as Endgame, 1958), another play with a closed, nonspecific location, which has been interpreted as both a post-apocalyptic bunker and the inside of the human brain. This nondescript, gray setting is populated by four characters, who appear to represent three generations of the same family. Bleaker and “more inhuman than Godot” (according to Beckett), with the action limited to this claustrophobic single room with two high windows that look out onto what remains of the deserted outside world, the play focuses on the love-hate relationship between Hamm and Clov, who are apparently father and son. Like Estragon and Vladimir, these two protagonists are an inseparable couple whose existence is a routine of verbal exchanges in order to pass the time. Beckett used the Latin phrase nee tecum nee sine te (neither with you nor without you) to describe their relationship. Clov’s opening line, “Finished, it’s finished, nearly finished, it must be nearly finished,” is indicative of his desire to be free from Hamm. He yearns for “a world where all would be silent and still and each thing in its last place, under the last dust.” Hamm, in contrast, merely regards Clov as an object of entertainment: “Since that’s the way we’re playing it... let’s play it that way.” The humor and the dialogue in this play are much darker than its predecessor, with physical and mental suffering more evident. The other two characters, Nagg and Nell, Hamm’s parents, are reduced to living in dustbins. Yet, as Nell remarks, “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.” Like Waiting for Godot, Endgame has a loosely circular structure. Although there seems to be some kind of progression by the end of the play, with Clov apparently dressed to leave, it is merely an asymptotic approach toward an unattainable end. There is nothing to suggest that the action will not begin again the next day in exactly the same manner. The play premiered in French at the Royal Court Theatre in London on 3 April 1957, after censorship problems concerning several lines that the Lord Chamberlain regarded as blasphemous. By October of the following year, Beckett’s English translation was playing in the same theater.
Around this time, Beckett was asked by the BBC to write a radio play, resulting in All That Fall (1957), which is set in Foxrock and features characters from the same background as himself; it was broadcast in January 1957. Radio also provided him with the inspiration for his next dramatic work. Having heard the Irish actor Patrick Magee reading extracts from Molloy and From an Abandoned Work as part of a BBC broadcast in December 1957, Beckett was inspired to write Krapp’s Last Tape, the story of a lonely old man who spends his birthdays listening to recordings of his former self and making a new recording documenting the achievements of that year. By clever use of what was relatively new technology at the time, Beckett is able to present three incarnations of Krapp on the stage, as he listens to recordings from different eras of his life. Beckett utilizes Manichaean imagery to portray Krapp’s constant struggle between good and bad, the spiritual and the physical, as he moves physically and metaphorically between light and dark, desperate to distance himself from his failed earlier self. At one point Krapp recounts a revelation he had—“that memorable night in March, at the end of the jetty, in the howling wind, never to be forgotten, when suddenly I saw the whole thing”—echoing Beckett’s own revelation some years earlier. The play ends with a recording of the younger Krapp (at age thirty-nine) still playing: “Perhaps my best years are gone. When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now.” His present condition is evidence that this fire burned out and came to nothing. The decade concluded with Beckett being awarded an honorary D. Litt. degree from Trinity College, Dublin in 1959. Around this time, he also began a relationship with Barbara Bray, a script editor at the BBC, which continued for many years.
Beckett’s next play, Happy Days (1961), focuses on the ramblings of an elderly woman, Winnie, who is buried up to her waist in scorched grass in the first act and up to her neck in the second, as the earth literally engulfs her. Her only solace is “a capacious black bag, shopping variety,” containing a range of implements—toothbrush, mirror, spectacles, and, rather ominously, a revolver, which she places on the mound in front of her as her final option. This visually striking image and the almost complete lack of physical action allows Beckett to focus attention on the words Winnie speaks. Despite the fact that everything is “running out,” including her memory— “Words fail, there are times when even they fail”— Winnie struggles to remain optimistic, happy just to be acknowledged by her husband, Willie, who is hidden behind the mound and utters a mere handful of words throughout. Unable to remain silent, she needs an audience of some kind in order to be able to continue: “just to know that in theory you can hear me even though in fact you don’t is all I need, just to feel you there within earshot.” At the end of the play, Willie crawls to the front of the mound and reaches toward the gun. As the curtain falls on this tableau, it remains unclear whether he is simply reaching out to touch Winnie, or whether he intends to use the gun to kill her, or himself, and bring an end to their pitiful existence. A virtual monologue, lasting around an hour and a half, the play is the first of several to involve challenging female roles with which Beckett moves away from the physical and focuses on the verbal.
Beckett’s next work for the stage, Play (performed and published in English, 1964), depicts the conventional love triangle of a man, his wife, and his mistress—perhaps reflecting his own situation with Deschevaux-Dumesnil and Bray—but in an unconventional manner. Written in English, but first performed and published in German (as Spiel), it premiered in Ulm in June 1963. The three characters, one male flanked by two females, are ensconced up to their necks in urns, as Beckett again forces the audience’s attention to the verbal element by removing any physical attributes. Assuming the role of a fourth character, or inquisitor, a spotlight focuses on each head in turn, prompting it to speak at great speed and with little emotion—in stark contrast to the textual content. The entire play is repeated, stressing that there is no way out of the situation. The three characters are consigned to this living hell. One of the most significant lines is the male’s question, “Am I as much as ... being seen?”—indicating Beckett’s interest in the concept of observation and perception, a theme initiated in Happy Days. He investigated this theme in greater depth in his next project, the screenplay Film (1965). Based on George Berkeley’s maxim “esse est percipi” (to be is to be perceived), and silent throughout, with the exception of a “sssh!”, the twenty-minute motion picture follows an old man (played by Buster Keaton) as he appears to be fleeing the attention of the camera, his face only becoming visible, briefly, at the conclusion. Beckett traveled to New York in the summer of 1964 to direct the piece, along with Alan Schneider. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 1965 and also played at the New York Film Festival; it was Beckett’s only venture into the medium of motion pictures.
After his success with Film, Beckett turned his attention to the small screen with his first television play, Eh Joe (broadcast in 1966; published in French as Dis Joe in 1966; published in English in 1967), written for the Irish actor Jack MacGowran. As part of the reductive process begun with Play, and with a similar thematic approach to Film, this work focuses, literally, on a solitary character sitting on a bed, as the camera moves ever closer. In contrast to the usual television convention, the voice heard by the audience is not that of MacGowran, but a female voice that echoes around his head, taunting him with memories of his past: “You know that penny farthing hell you call your mind.... That’s where you think this is coming from, don’t you?” This process of refinement and paring away continued with Come and Go (produced as Komment und Gehen, 1966; published in French as Va-et-vient, 1966; published in English, 1967, performed in 1968), a brief, two-page text in which three shrouded women discuss what appear to be their grave illnesses or impending deaths. As each woman leaves the stage in turn, the remaining two discuss her apparent critical situation. By the end of this cycle, it becomes clear that each woman has a devastating secret to hide. This reductive process reached its logical conclusion in Breath (produced in 1969, published in 1971), a thirty-second piece comprising two cries, of birth and death, and a stage strewn with rubbish representing the detritus of life.
Despite his success as a dramatist, Beckett continued to write prose and poetry in both English and French, refining his prose style in the same way as his work for the theater and television. In 1961 he had published the groundbreaking novel Comment c‘est, translated as How It Is (1964). Divided into three sections (“Before Pim,” “With Pim,” and “After Pim”), the novel appears to describe the emergence of an incipient form from formlessness. The French title of the novel reflects this theme, being a pun on the French verb commencer (to begin). Written as one long sentence with no punctuation, the text is divided into a succession of rhythmically organized segments that reflect the patterns of human speech. In a vein similar to Lucky’s monologue in Waiting for Godot, the novel ends in a dramatic crescendo: “trouble the peace no more no answer the silence no answer die no answer DIE... screams I MAY DIE screams I SHALL DIE screams good.”
As the 1960s progressed, Beckett’s prose and drama decreased in length as he found increasingly succesful ways to express the inexpressible. While his dramatic works tended to be written in English, he published several minimalist prose texts written in French, beginning with Imagination morte imaginez! (1965; translated by Beckett as Imagination Dead Imagine, 1965). Taking its title from the first line of AllStrange Away (written the previous year but not published until 1976), this text opens with the ominous line, “No trace anywhere of life, you say.” The narrator describes the construction of a white rotunda containing two motionless figures. Within “this little fabric” there are erratically fluctuating levels of light and heat, suggesting an unstable environment. Beckett’s next prose work, Assez (1966; translated by Beckett as Enough, 1967), marks a return to a firstperson narrator, who tells the reader, “All that goes before forget.” Despite this command, he proceeds to recount what has not been forgotten. The title refers to the act of narration itself—the narrator has had enough of recounting. Bing (1966; translated by Beckett as Ping, 1967) reverts to the theme and style of Imagination Dead Imagine, as the narrator describes a single figure in a white box. Despite the narrator’s claim at the start that “All [is] known,” he spends the remainder of the text making minor modifications to repeated phrases, undermining this opening statement. The “bing’V‘ping” of the title appears with increasing regularity as the text progresses, suggesting the emergence of a new life force. On the cover of the English translation of his next prose work, Sans (1969; translated by Beckett as lessness, 1970) Beckett summarized its theme as “the collapse of some such refuge as that last attempted in Ping and with the ensuing situation of the refugee.” Like his other recent novellas, lessness is based on a structure of repetition and variation; but in place of the intense white heat and light, here everything is “ash grey” as in Endgame. The French texts of Imagination Dead Imagine, Enough, and Ping, along with Beckett’s French translation of From an Abandoned Work, were gathered together as Tetes-mortes (1967), the title being a play on the French tete-de-mort (skull and crossbones). Their English counterparts appeared in No’s Knife: Collected Shorter Prose, 1945-1966 (1967).
The decade ended with Beckett being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969, something he regarded not as an honor, but as a “catastrophe,” as he was well aware of the impact the ensuing increase in celebrity and public recognition would have on his modest lifestyle. Beckett had been nominated for the award several times during the previous decade, but, as someone who valued his privacy highly, he was secretly relieved that these earlier nominations had been unsuccessful. He immediately went into hiding in Tunis, sending his French publisher, Jérôme Lin-don, to Sweden to receive the prize. Beckett’s main reason for accepting the award was to avoid appearing discourteous to the Swedish Academy. He also hoped that it would benefit financially the publishers who had supported him, particularly during his early years. He subsequently gave away the prize money (some $45,000) to artists and institutions, including the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. A 1971 volume of the Collection des Prix Nobel de litterature, comprising Malone meurt and Oh les beaux jours, commemorated Beckett’s success. It included illustrations by Avigdor Arikha and a cover designed by Pablo Picasso. Beckett regarded the pressures he associated with being awarded the Nobel Prize as contributing greatly to his lack of artistic creativity at the time; yet, friends and colleagues felt it did not alter his modest and generous nature.
Beckett began the 1970s with the publication of le Depeupleur (1970; translated by Beckett as The lost Ones, 1972), the title of which is taken from Alphonse de Lamartine’s poem “L‘Isolement” (1820, Isolation). The piece depicts the existence of more than two hundred figures in a large cylinder. This environment, with its oscillating levels of light and heat, is an “abode where lost bodies roam each searching for its lost one.” The figures climb ladders to alcoves in the upper section of the cylinder following a complex system of rules—but there is ultimately no escape from this closed system. As the text proceeds, the narrator becomes increasingly confused, admitting, “All has not been told and never shall be.” Although portraying an ostensibly alien environment, the text is a clever parody of the human rat race.
Since the mid 1960s, Beckett had become increasingly involved with the direction of his stage and television drama. He had been particularly impressed by the patience and meticulousness of the German actors he had encountered when attending rehearsals for the world premiere of Play in Ulm in 1963 and while assisting with a German production of Waiting for Godot in Berlin in 1965. The following year he became involved with the production of his television play Eh Joe at the Süddeutscher Rundfunk (SDR) in Stuttgart, and in 1967 he was invited to direct a German-language production of Endgame in Berlin. Beckett had sufficient confidence in his command of the German language by this juncture to assume the role of director in this country. He felt that working with such enthusiastic and compliant actors might allow him to create a production that reflected his own precise plans for a particular play. Between 1967 and 1978, Beckett directed seven of his stage plays in German in Berlin to great acclaim— Endgame in 1967, Krapp’s last Tape in 1969, Happy Days in 1971, Waiting for Godot in 1975, That Time and Footfalls in 1976, and Play in 1978—exhibiting another side of his versatile, creative character. Although most of his directorial work took place at the Schiller-Theater Werkstatt in Berlin, he also directed stage productions in Paris and London as well as television productions at the BBC and the SDR in Stuttgart. As the years progressed, Beckett’s ability as a director grew, as evidenced by his attention to detail in the directorial notebooks he compiled for the later productions. It is not surprising that Beckett chose to direct the majority of his drama in German—a precise, technical language that reflected his own fastidious approach to writing and directing. Although Beckett claimed his productions were not intended to be definitive interpretations, the versions he directed in Berlin represent an almost perfect embodiment of his wishes. As a result, they have become regarded as authoritative productions and have been re-created worldwide.
Although directing took up a great deal of his time, and despite increasing problems with his eyesight, Beckett continued to write, predominantly drama in English. His first play of the 1970s, Not I (1973), again focuses on the female voice. On this occasion, however, Beckett takes the premise of Happy Days a step further by removing all physical traits of the female form, leaving only a mouth visible in a spotlight, apparently floating high in the darkness, spouting a torrent of virtually unintelligible words. Inspired by Caravaggio’s painting The Beheading of St. John the Baptist (1608) and also by a figure he had seen in Morocco clad in a djellaba, the piece lasts around fifteen minutes. The aim of Mouth’s monologue is to avoid admitting that the tale she is relating is autobiographical: “what?... who?... no!... she!” A silent Auditor, dressed in a black djellaba, is present onstage to witness the stream of words. The physically and mentally demanding role of Mouth has become synonymous with Billie Whitelaw, who played the part under Beckett’s direction in the British premiere at the Royal Court Theatre in 1973. She reprised the role for a BBC production of the play in 1976, in which the Auditor was removed, focusing the audience’s attention exclusively on the raging mouth—a grotesque and unforgettable image.
Around the time of his seventieth birthday, in 1976, Beckett published two short plays, That Time and Footfalls. Combining elements of Not land Krapp’s Last Tape, That Time presents the face of a whitehaired male character suspended high in the darkness. The man is apparently on his deathed, listening to three voices, all his own, recounting different stories from three stages of his life: his youth by Voice B, his middle age by Voice A, and his old age by Voice C. At the close, a smile, “toothless for preference,” appears on the Listener’s face, suggesting perhaps relief that the voices have ceased their torment of him, perhaps acceptance of his impending death. In Footfalls, a female character, May, in a “worn grey wrap,” paces back and forth across the stage in mental turmoil, “revolving it all in her poor mind.” The disembodied voice of her mother speaks to her, possibly from beyond the grave, and May narrates a parallel story of a Mrs. Winter and her daughter, Amy (an anagram of May). As the play progresses, the lighting dims and the pacing slows, so that in the final scene, there is “no trace of May”—she all but disintegrates before the audience’s eyes. The plays were premiered in a double bill, directed by Beckett and featuring Whitelaw, at the Royal Court Theatre on 20 May 1976. Beckett also directed the two plays in German at the Schiller-Theater Werkstatt in Berlin in October that year.
Beckett returned to the medium of television the following year, writing and helping to direct two plays at the BBC. The first, Ghost Trio (1977), is based on a section of Ludwig von Bethoven’s Piano Trio No. 5 in D Minor, known as “The Ghost.” The title of the second,... but the clouds ...(1977), is taken from a line in William Butler Yeats’s poem “The Tower” (1928). Both plays are structurally similar to Eh Joe in that they feature a lone male figure and a disembodied voice—female in the former, male in the latter. They were broadcast, along with the filmed version of Not I on BBC 2 on 17 April 1977, under the collective title Shades. German-language versions were recorded at the SDR and broadcast in Germany on 1 November 1977, along with the BBC version oiNotl. In the last years of the decade, Beckett also wrote around three dozen short poems in French, which he gathered under the title Mirlitonades—a.n invented, diminutive term, which is a play on mirliton (kazoo/ toy flute) and vers de mirliton (doggerel), indicating their light, fragile nature. These brief verses were written on scraps of paper and transcribed into a tiny leather-bound notebook. Most are haiku-like in structure, being only a few lines in length. While their meanings can be translated literally, it is virtually impossible to convey the essence of the poems into English because of their succinct nature. They first appeared in Poémes suivi de Mirlitonnades (1978) and subsequently in Collected Poems 1930-1978 (1984), although only in French. As a group they remain among the few works that Beckett never attempted to render into English. By the end of the 1970s Beckett’s profile was at a peak. The decade closed with A Piece of Monologue in 1979. This contemplation of death was written for the bilingual actor David Warrilow, who first performed it at the La Mama Experimental Theatre Club in December of that year. Originally titled “Gone,” suggesting the passing of all but the lone figure reciting the monologue, it opens with the bleak phrase, “Birth was the death of him” and closes with the line, “Alone gone”—encapsulating a brief life cycle in just a handful of pages.
As Beckett approached his seventy-fifth birthday in 1981, he continued to divide his time between writing and directing. His first prose text of the decade was Company (1980), a loosely autobiographical novel that deals with the themes of solitude, the unreliability of memory, and the difference between the self and the other. Reminiscent of his recent stage and television plays, the novel describes a “man alone in the dark, listening to a voice he can’t control and which he both dreads and longs to hear,” as Katharine Worth describes it. The opening line sets the scene: “A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine.” The narrator’s language has an archaic feel-“whence,” “thither,” “hitherto”-words from a bygone age. Beckett still clearly enjoys playing with language, as he introduces a character named “H. Aspirate. Haitch.” His next work, Mal vu mal dit (1981; translated by Beckett as III Seen, III Said, 1981), is considered by Ruby Cohn as “The Beckett Masterwork” and features a white-haired woman clad in black, encircled by twelve mysterious figures and drawn toward a white tombstone. The novel explores the themes of existence, consciousness, and perception, as indicated by its title. The passage of time is again prominent, with one paragraph dedicated to a “close-up of a dial.” Like much of Beckett’s later prose, this piece has a structure of repetition and variation. Bleaker than its predecessor, it ends with the lines, “Not another crumb of carrion left. Lick chops and basta. No. One moment more. One last. Grace to breathe that void. Know happiness.” Worstward Ho (1983) formed the final part of what has become regarded as Beckett’s second prose trilogy, its title being a parody of Charles Kingsley’s Westward Ho! (1855). Taking Edgar’s speech in William Shakespeare’s King lear (circa 1606) that “The worst is not so long as one can say, This is the worst” as its starting point, it describes the (artist’s) need to “Try again. Fail again. Fail better,” echoing Beckett’s comments in the Three Dialogues almost forty years earlier. It begins with the narrator urging himself, “On. Say on. Be said on. Somehow on” and ends with the ominous phrase, “Said nohow on.” The three novels were published together under the title Nohow On in 1989.
Beckett continued to alternate between prose and drama and, in 1981, produced and published two short plays, Rockaby and Ohio Impromptu. The first features a woman being rocked gently in a rocking chair to the sound of her own recorded voice reciting a poem. Toward the end of the play, the rocking slows down to a halt and the woman apparently dies, as the words “time she stopped” are uttered. It was premiered at the State University of New York at Buffalo on 8 April 1981. Ohio Impromptu was written at the request of the Beckett scholar S. E. Gontarski for an international symposium on Beckett’s work at Ohio State University, where it was premiered on 9 May 1981. Two almost identical white-haired figures, dressed in long gowns like figures from a Rembrandt painting, sit at a table as one reads from a book and the other listens. It ends with the poignant line, “Nothing is left to tell,” suggesting that Beckett knew he was nearing the end of his creative life.
Beckett had continued to involve himself with television work, both at the BBC and the SDR in Stuttgart. In 1981 he wrote and directed Quadrat 1+ 2 (the later English version is simply titled Quad). Described as “a piece for four players, light and percussion,” the play has no dialogue but is merely a series of movements across and around the edges of a designated square. As they move diagonally across the square, the four players veer sharply as they approach the central point, suggesting it represents some kind of vortex or terrible danger. Beckett’s most overtly political play, Catastrophe (1983), dedicated to the imprisoned Czech playwright Václav Havel, was premiered at the Avignon Festival on 21 July 1982. The play features a brutal theater director barking instructions at his assistant and an ostensibly meek actor, who appear to be trying to please their master. In the final scene, however, the actor raises his head and stares fixedly at the audience in a gesture of defiance that asserts his own individuality.
At the request of the SDR, Beckett wrote another television play, Nacht und Träume, based on Franz Schubert’s 1825 lied of the same name, and returned to Stuttgart to direct a German-language version of the piece, which was broadcast on 19 May 1983. The medium of television seemed perfect for the stark, imposing images of his later, minimalist pieces. Later that year, his final play, What Where, premiered at the Harold Clurman Theatre in New York. Based on a series of interrogations to establish the “what” and the “where” of the title, the play ends with the prophetic lines: “Time passes. That is all. Make sense who may. I switch off.” Beckett returned to the SDR one last time, in order to create a radical reworking of What Where for German television under the title Was wo, which was broadcast on his eightieth birthday, 13 April 1986. In this production, as in Not I, all physical attributes are removed except for the faces of the four characters, focusing the audience’s attention on the stark, imposing image on the screen and the bleak words of the text.
Despite the apparent impasse suggested by the final lines of his recent prose and drama, Beckett produced two further works. Stirrings Still (1988), dedicated to Rosset, his American publisher, was published as a limited, illustrated edition of 226 copies, signed by Beckett and the illustrator Louis le Broquy, costing £1000. It also appeared in The Guardian on 3 March 1989, making it much more readily available to the public. Named after a line from Company, the text conveys a sense of farewell, of Beckett still stirring creatively but marking his intention to sign off. Beckett’s last published work, the poem Comment dire (1989; translated by Beckett as What Is the Word, 1989), has also been included in collections of his prose, because of the nature of the text. Written in the Hôpital Pasteur after a fall and translated in the Tiers Temps nursing home, the piece echoes Beckett’s own aphasia and is a meditation on the impossibility of language, reflecting his constant struggle throughout his literary career to find the appropriate words to “express the inexpressible.” Beckett remained a bilingual author to the end, creating French and English versions of almost all his texts. Perhaps fittingly, the final line of his final published work reads, “what is the word.”
By this juncture, Beckett was eighty-three and was suffering with severe respiratory problems that were diagnosed as emphysema. After moving into the Tiers Temps nursing home permanently, he fell ill on 6 December and died in the Hôpital St. Anne of respiratory failure on 22 December 1989, less than six months after his wife, who had been his partner and constant supporter since the late 1930s. (The couple had no children.) In keeping with his simple lifestyle, Beckett was laid to rest in a private ceremony shortly after Christmas in the Cimetiére de Montparnasse in Paris.
Beckett is often described as being apolitical, as he never aligned himself or his work to any particular political movement or party. In reality, his political views were broadly left-wing. He championed the underdog and the victim, both in his work and also in real life. Although shy and self-absorbed as a young man, in later life he became noted for his caring and generous nature. Beckett was fiercely opposed to any form of censorship in his own work and that of others, offering practical and financial support to oppressed writers and directors in various countries. His refusal to be interviewed about himself or his work created an air of mystery and secrecy, which served to protect his privacy.
Although he is often depicted as a pessimist, Beckett’s work has a thick vein of black humor running through it, as well as more obvious visual gags, particularly in his drama. Although apparently without hope or prospects, and often on the verge of death, his characters somehow find the strength to continue against all odds. Almost a century after Beckett’s birth, the Nobel Academy’s citation still holds true. His work is more popular than ever, and his influence on contemporary artists of all kinds is unquestionable.
No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider, edited by Maurice Harmon (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).
Robin J. Davis, Jackson R. Bryer, M. J. Friedman, and P. C. Hoy, eds., Samuel Beckett: Calepins de bibliographie, no. 2 (Paris: Lettres Modernes Minard, 1971);
Robin J. Davis, Samuel Beckett: Checklist and Index of His Published Works, 1967-1976 (Stirling: University of Stirling, 1979);
Cathleen Culcotta Andonian, Samuel Beckett: A Reference Guide (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989);
P. J. Murphy, Werner Huber, Rolf Breuer, and Konrad Schoell, eds., Critique of Beckett Criticism: A Guide to Research in English, French and German (Columbia, S.C.:Camden House, 1994);
Mary Bryden, Julian A. Garforth, and Peter Mills, Beckett at Reading: Catalogue of the Beckett Manuscript Collection at the University of Reading (Reading: Whiteknights Press/Beckett International Foundation, 1998).
Deirdre Bair, Samuel Beckett: A Biography (London: Cape, 1978);
Enoch Brater, Why Beckett (London: Thames & Hudson, 1989);
Anthony Cronin, Samuel Beckett: The last Modernist (London: HarperCollins, 1996);
James Knowlson, Damned to Fame (London: Bloomsbury, 1996);
Gerry Dukes, Samuel Beckett (London: Penguin, 2001).
C. J. Ackerley and S. E. Gontarski, The Grove Companion to Samuel Beckett (New York: Grove, 2004);
Richard L. Admussen, The Samuel Beckett Manuscripts: A Study (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1979);
Anne Atik, How It Was: A Memoir of Samuel Beckett (London: Faber & Faber, 2001);
David Bradby, Beckett: Waiting for Godot (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001);
Enoch Brater, Beyond Minimalism: Beckett’s Late Style in the Theater (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987);
Mary Bryden, Women in Samuel Beckett’s Prose and Drama (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993);
Richard Coe, Samuel Beckett (New York: Grove, 1967);
Ruby Cohn, Back to Beckett (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973);
Cohn, fust Play-. Beckett’s Theater (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980);
Steven Connor, Samuel Beckett: Repetition, Theory and Text (Oxford: Blackwell, 1988);
John Fletcher, The Novels of Samuel Beckett (London: Chatto & Windus, 1964);
S. E. Gontarski, The Intent of Undoing in Samuel Beckett’s Dramatic Texts (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985);
Lawrence Graver and Raymond Federman, Samuel Beckett: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979);
Lawrence Harvey, Samuel Beckett: Poet and Critic (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1970);
Ludovic Janvier, Pour Samuel Beckett (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1966);
Janvier, Samuel Beckett par lui-même (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1969);
Journal of Beckett Studies (Univerity of Reading: Calder/ Beckett Archive, 1975-1985; Tallahassee: Florida State University, 1989- );
Jonathan Kalb, Beckett in Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989);
Hugh Kenner, Samuel Beckett: A Critical Study (New York: Grove, 1961);
James Knowlson and John Pilling, Frescoes of the Skull: The Later Prose and Drama of Samuel Beckett (London: Calder, 1979);
Knowlson, ed., Happy Days: Samuel Beckett’s Production Notebooks (London: Faber & Faber, 1985);
Dougald McMillan and Martha Fehsenfeld, Beckett in the Theatre (London: Calder, 1988);
Anna McMullan, Theatre on Trial: Samuel Beckett’s Later Drama (London: Routledge, 1993);
Vivian Mercier, Beckett/Beckett (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977);
John Minihan, Samuel Beckett: Photographs (London: Seeker & Warburg, 1995);
Eoin O’Brien, The Beckett Country: Samuel Beckett’s Ireland (London: Black Cat Press in association with Faber & Faber, 1986);
John Pilling, Beckett Before Godot (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997);
Pilling, Samuel Beckett (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976);
Rosemary Pountney, Theatre of Shadows: Samuel Beckett’s Drama, 1956-1976 (Gerrards Cross, U.K.: Colin Smythe, 1988);
Jean-Marie Rabaté, ed., Beckett avant Beckett: Essais sur le jeune Beckett (1930-1945) (Paris: Presses de l’Ecole Normale Supeérieure, 1984);
Christopher Ricks, Beckett’s Dying Words: The Clarendon Lectures, 1990 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993);
Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1992- );
Anthony Uhlmann, Beckett and Poststructuralism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999);
Klaus Völker, Beckett in Berlin (Berlin: Frolich & Kaufmann, 1986);
Billie Whitelaw, Billie Whitelaw... Who He? (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1995);
Katharine Worth, Samuel Beckett’s Theatre: Life Journeys (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999);
Clas Zilliacus, Beckett and Broadcasting: A Study of the Works of Samuel Beckett for and in Radio and Television (Abo, Finland: Abo Akademi, 1976);
Nicholas Zurbrugg, Beckett and Proust (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1988).
The major collections of Samuel Beckett’s papers are held at the Beckett International Foundation, University of Reading; Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin; and Trinity College, Dublin. Other collections are housed at John J. Burns Library, Boston College; Baker Library, Dartmouth College; The Lilly Library, Indiana University; Institut des Mémoires de l’Edition Contemporaine, Paris; Ohio State University Libraries, Columbus; Princeton University Library; Syracuse University, New York; University of Washington, St. Louis, Missouri; and The Beinecke Library, Yale University.