Beckett, Samuel (Barclay)

views updated

BECKETT, Samuel (Barclay)

Nationality: Irish. Born: Foxrock, near Dublin, 13 April 1906. Education: Ida Elsner's Academy, Stillorgan; Earlsfort House preparatory school; Portora Royal School, County Fermanagh;Trinity College, Dublin (foundation scholar), B.A. in French and Italian 1927, M.A. 1931. Worked at the Irish Red Cross Hospital, St. Lô, France, 1945. Family: Married Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil in 1961 (died 1989). Career: French teacher, Campbell College, Belfast, 1928; lecturer in English, École Normale Supérieure, Paris, 1928-30; lecturer in French, Trinity College, Dublin, 1930-31; closely associated with James Joyce in Paris in the late 1920s and 1930s; settled in Paris, 1937, and wrote chiefly in French from 1945; translated his own work into English. Awards: Evening Standard award, 1955; Obie award, 1958, 1960, 1962, 1964; Italia prize, 1959; International Publishers prize, 1961; Prix Filmcritice, 1965; Tours Film prize, 1966; Nobel prize for literature, 1969; National Grand prize for theatre (France), 1975; New York Drama Critics Circle citation, 1984. D.Litt.: Dublin University, 1959. Member: German Academy of Art; Companion of Literature, Royal Society of Literature, 1984; Aosdána, 1986. Died: 22 December 1989.



The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989. 1995.

Short Stories and Texts

More Pricks than Kicks. 1934.

Nouvelles et Textes pour rien. 1955; as Stories and Texts for Nothing, translated by Beckett and Richard Seaver, 1967.

From an Abandoned Work. 1958.

Imagination morte imaginez. 1965; as Imagination Dead Imagine, translated by Beckett, 1965.

Assez. 1966; as Enough, translated by Beckett, in No's Knife, 1967.

Bing. 1966; as Ping, translated by Beckett, in No's Knife, 1967.

Têtes-Mortes (includes D'Un Ouvrage Abandonné, Assez, Bing, Imagination morte imaginez). 1967; translated by Beckett in No's Knife, 1967.

No's Knife: Collected Shorter Prose 1945-1966 (includes Stories and Texts for Nothing, From an Abandoned Work, Enough, Imagination Dead Imagine, Ping). 1967.

L'Issue. 1968.

Sans. 1969; as Lessness, translated by Beckett, 1971.

Séjour. 1970.

Premier Amour (novella). 1970; as First Love, translated by Beckett, 1973.

Le Dépeupleur. 1971; as The Lost Ones, translated by Beckett, 1972.

The North. 1972.

First Love and Other Shorts. 1974.

Fizzles. 1976.

For to End Yet Again and Other Fizzles. 1976.

All Strange Away. 1976.

Four Novellas (First Love, The Expelled, The Calmative, The End).1977; as The Expelled and Other Novellas, 1980.

Six Residua. 1978.

Company. 1980.

Mal vu mal dit. 1981; as Ill Seen Ill Said, translated by Beckett, 1982.

Worstward Ho. 1983.

Stirrings Still. 1988.

Nohow On (includes Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, Worstward Ho). 1989.


Murphy. 1938.

Molloy. 1951; as Molloy, translated by Beckett and Patrick Bowles, 1955.

Malone meurt. 1951; as Malone Dies, translated by Beckett, 1956.

L'Innommable. 1953; as The Unnamable, translated by Beckett, 1958.

Watt (written in English). 1953.

Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable. 1960.

Comment c'est. 1961; as How It Is, translated by Beckett, 1964.

Mercier et Camier. 1970; as Mercier and Camier, translated by Beckett, 1974.

Abandonné. 1972.

Au loin un oiseau. 1973.

Dream of Fair to Middling Women, edited by Eoin O'Brien and Edith Fournier. 1993.


Le Kid, with Georges Pelorson (produced 1931).

En Attendant Godot (produced 1953). 1952; as Waiting for Godot: Tragicomedy, translated by Beckett (produced 1955), 1954.

Fin de partie: suivi de Acte sans paroles, music by John Beckett (produced 1957). 1957; as Endgame: A Play in One Act; Followed by Act Without Words: A Mime for One Player, translated by Samuel Beckett (Endgame produced 1958; Act Without Words produced 1960), 1958.

All That Fall (broadcast 1957; produced 1965). 1957.

Krapp's Last Tape (produced 1958). With Embers, 1959.

Embers (broadcast 1959). With Krapp's Last Tape, 1959.

Act Without Words II (produced 1959). In Krapp's Last Tape and Other Dramatic Pieces, 1960.

La Manivelle/The Old Tune (bilingual edition), from the play by Robert Pinget. 1960; Beckett's text only (broadcast 1960), in Plays 1, by Pinget, 1963.

Krapp's Last Tape and Other Dramatic Pieces (includes All That Fall, Embers, Act Without Words I and II). 1960.

Happy Days (produced 1961). 1961; bilingual edition, edited by James Knowlson, 1978.

Words and Music, music by John Beckett (broadcast 1962). In Play and Two Short Pieces for Radio, 1964.

Cascando, music by Marcel Mihalovici (broadcast in French, 1963). In Dramatische Dichtungen 1, 1963; as Cascando: A Radio Piece for Music and Voice, translated by Beckett (broad-cast 1964; in Beckett 3, produced 1970), in Play and Two Short Pieces for Radio, 1964.

Play (as Spiel, produced 1963; as Play, 1964). In Play and Two Short Pieces for Radio, 1964.

Play and Two Short Pieces for Radio. 1964.

Eh Joe (televised 1966; produced 1978). In Eh Joe and Other Writings, 1967.

Va et vient: Dramaticule (as Kommen und Gehen, produced 1966; as Va et vient, produced 1966). 1966; as Come and Go: Dramaticule, translated by Beckett (produced 1968), 1967.

Eh Joe and Other Writings (includes Act Without Words II andFilm). 1967.

Cascando and Other Short Dramatic Pieces (includes Words and Music, Eh Joe, Play, Come and Go, Film). 1968.

Film. 1969.

Breath (part of Oh! Calcutta!, produced 1969). In Breath and Other Shorts, 1971.

Breath and Other Shorts (includes Come and Go, Act Without Words I and II, and the prose piece From an Abandoned Work). 1971.

Not I (produced 1972). 1973.

Ghost Trio (as Tryst, televised 1976). In Ends and Odds, 1976.

That Time (produced 1976). 1976.

Footfalls (produced 1976). 1976.

Ends and Odds: Eight New Dramatic Pieces (includes Not I, That Time, Footfalls, Ghost Trio, Theatre I and II, Radio I and II). 1976; as Ends and Odds: Plays and Sketches (includes Not I, That Time, Footfalls, Ghost Trio, …but the clouds…, Theatre I and II, Radio I and II), 1977.

Rough for Radio (broadcast 1976). As Radio II, in Ends and Odds, 1976.

Theatre I and II (produced 1985). In Ends and Odds, 1976.

A Piece of Monologue (produced 1980). In Rockaby and Other Short Pieces, 1981.

Rockaby (produced 1981). In Rockaby and Other Short Pieces, 1981.

Rockaby and Other Short Pieces. 1981.

Ohio Impromptu (produced 1981). In Rockaby and Other Short Pieces, 1981.

Catastrophe et autres dramaticules: Cette fois, Solo, Berceuse, Impromptu d'Ohio. 1982.

Three Occasional Pieces (includes A Piece of Monologue, Rockaby, Ohio Impromptu). 1982.

Quad (as Quadrat 1+2, televised in German 1982; as Quad, televised 1982). In Collected Shorter Plays, 1984.

Catastrophe (produced 1982). In Collected Shorter Plays, 1984.

Nacht und Träume (televised 1983). In Collected Shorter Plays, 1984.

What Where (as Was Wo, produced in German, 1983; produced in English, 1983). In Collected Shorter Plays, 1984.

Collected Shorter Plays. 1984.

Ohio Impromptu, Catastrophe, and What Where. 1984.

The Complete Dramatic Works. 1986.


Film, 1965.

Radio Plays:

All That Fall, 1957; Embers, 1959; The Old Tune, from a play by Robert Pinget, 1960; Words and Music, 1962; Cascando, 1963; Rough for Radio, 1976.

Television Plays:

Eh Joe, 1966; Tryst, 1976; Shades (Ghost Trio, Not I, …but the clouds…), 1977; Quadrat 1+2, 1982 (Germany); Quad, 1982; Nacht und Träume, 1983.


Whoroscope. 1930.

Echo's Bones and Other Precipitates. 1935.

Gedichte (collected poems in English and French, with German translations). 1959.

Poems in English. 1961.

Poèmes. 1968.

Collected Poems in English and French. 1977; revised edition, asCollected Poems 1930-1978, 1984.


"Dante … Bruno. Vico … Joyce," in Our Exagmination round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress. 1929.

Proust. 1931; with Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit. 1965.

Bram van Velde, with Georges Duthuit and Jacques Putman. 1958; as Bram van Velde, translated by Beckett and Olive Classe, 1960.

A Beckett Reader. 1967.

I Can't Go On: A Selection from the Work of Beckett, edited by Richard Seaver. 1976.

Disjecta: Miscellaneous Writings and a Dramatic Fragment, edited by Ruby Cohn. 1983.

Collected Shorter Prose 1945-1980. 1984.

Happy Days: The Production Notebook, edited by James Knowlson. 1985.

Production Notebooks, edited by James Knowlson. 3 vols., 1990.

As the Story Was Told: Uncollected and Late Prose. 1990.

The Theatrical Notebooks of Beckett, edited by James Knowlson. 3 vols., 1991-93.

Translator, Anthology of Mexican Poetry, edited by Octavio Paz. 1958.

Translator, with others, Selected Poems, by Alain Bosquet. 1963.

Translator, Zone, by Guillaume Apollinaire. 1972.

Translator, Drunken Boat, by Arthur Rimbaud, edited by James Knowlson and Felix Leakey. 1977.

Translator, with others, No Matter No Fact. 1988.



Beckett: His Works and His Critics: An Essay in Bibliography by Raymond Federman and John Fletcher, 1970 (through 1966); Beckett: Checklist and Index of His Published Works 1967-1976 by Robin John Davis, 1979; Beckett: A Reference Guide by Cathleen Culotta Andonian, 1988.

Critical Studies:

Beckett: A Critical Study, 1961, revised edition, 1968, and A Reader's Guide to Beckett, 1973 both by Hugh Kenner; Beckett: The Comic Gamut, 1962, Back to Beckett, 1974, and Just Play: Beckett's Theater, 1980, all by Ruby Cohn, and Beckett: A Collection of Criticism, 1975, and Waiting for Godot: A Casebook, 1987, both edited by Cohn; Beckett: The Language of Self by Frederick J. Hoffman, 1962; Beckett by William York Tindall, 1964; Beckett by Richard N. Coe, 1964; The Novels of Beckett, 1964, and Beckett's Art, 1967, both by John Fletcher; Journey to Chaos: Beckett's Early Fiction by Raymond Federman, 1965; Beckett: A Collection of Critical Essays edited by Martin Esslin, 1965; Beckett at 60: A Festschrift edited by John Calder, 1967; Beckett by Ronald Hayman, 1968, revised edition, 1980; Beckett Now: Critical Approaches to His Novels, Poetry, and Plays edited by Melvin J. Friedman, 1970; Beckett: A Study of His Novels by Eugene Webb, 1970; Beckett: A Study of His Plays by John Fletcher and John Spurling, 1972, revised edition, 1978, as Beckett the Playwright, 1985; Angels of Darkness: Dramatic Effect in Beckett by Colin Duckworth, 1972; The Fiction of Beckett: Form and Effect by H. Porter Abbott, 1973; Beckett by A. Alvarez, 1973; Beckett the Shape Changer edited by Katharine J. Worth, 1975; Art and the Artist in the Works of Beckett by Hannah Case Copeland, 1975; Beckett's Dramatic Language by James Eliopulos, 1975; Beckett and Broadcasting: A Study of the Works of Beckett for and in Radio and Television by Clas Zilliacus, 1976; Beckett by John Pilling, 1976; Beckett/Beckett by Vivian Mercier, 1977; A Student's Guide to the Plays of Beckett by Beryl S. Fletcher, 1978, revised edition, with John Fletcher, 1985; Beckett: A Biography by Deirdre Bair, 1978; The Shape of Paradox: An Essay on Waiting for Godot by Bert O. Slates, 1978; Frescoes of the Skull: The Later Prose and Drama of Beckett edited by John Pilling and James Knowlson, 1979; Beckett: The Critical Heritage edited by Raymond Federman and Lawrence Graver, 1979; The Beckett Manuscripts: A Critical Study by Richard L. Admussen, 1979; The Transformations of Godot by Frederick Busi, 1980; Waiting for Death: The Philosophical Significance of Beckett's En attendant Godot by Ramona Cormier, 1980; Beckett and the Voice of Species: A Study of the Prose Fiction by Eric P. Levy, 1980; Accommodating the Chaos: Beckett's Nonrelational Art by J. E. Dearlove, 1982; Abysmal Games in the Novels of Beckett by Angela B. Moorjani, 1982; Beckett: Humanistic Perspectives edited by Morris Beja, S. E. Gontarski, and Pierre Astier, 1983; Beckett by Charles Lyons, 1983; Beckett's Real Silence by Hélène L. Baldwin, 1983; Canters and Chronicles: The Use of Narrative in the Plays of Beckett and Harold Pinter by Kristin Morrison, 1983; The Development of Beckett's Fiction by Rubin Rabinovitz, 1984; Beckett's Theaters: Interpretations for Performance by Sidney Homan, 1984; Beckett and the Meaning of Being: A Study in Ontological Parable by Lance St. John Butler, 1984; Beckett on File edited by Virginia Cooke, 1985; The Intent of Undoing in Beckett's Dramatic Texts by S.E. Gontarski, 1985, and On Beckett: Essays and Criticism edited by Gontarski, 1986; Understanding Beckett: A Study of Monologue and Gesture in the Works of Beckett by Peter Gidal, 1986; Beckett at 80/Beckett in Context edited by Enoch Brater, 1986, and Beyond Minimalism: Beckett's Late Style in the Theater, 1987, and Why Beckett, 1989, both by Brater; Beckett by Linda Ben-Zvi, 1986, and Women in Beckett: Performance and Critical Perspectives edited by Ben-Zvi, 1990; As No Other Dare Fail: For Beckett on His 80th Birthday, 1986; The Broken Window: Beckett's Dramatic Perspective by Jane Alison Hale, 1987; Beckett's Later Fiction and Drama: Texts for Company edited by James Acheson and Kateryna Arthur, 1987; Beckett's New Worlds: Style in Metafiction by Susan D. Brienza, 1987; Beckett Translating/Translating Beckett edited by Alan Warren Friedman, Charles Rossman, and Dina Sherzer, 1987; Beckett in the Theatre: The Author as Practical Playwright and Director 1: From Waiting for Godot to Krapp's Last Tape by Dougald McMillan and Martha Fehsenfeld, 1988; Myth and Ritual in the Plays of Beckett by Katherine H. Burkman, 1988; Beckett's Critical Complicity: Carnival, Contestation and Tradition by Sylvie Debevec Henning, 1988; Beckett: Repetition, Theory, and Text by Stephen Connor, 1988; Beckett and Babel: An Investigation into the Status of the Bilingual Work by Brian T. Fitch, 1988; Theatre of Shadows: Beckett's Drama 1956-1976 by Rosemary Pountney, 1988; Beckett: Teleplays (exhibition catalogue), 1988; The Humour of Beckett by Valerie Topsfield, 1988; Beckett by Andrew K. Kennedy, 1989; Beckett: Waiting for Godot by Lawrence Graver, 1989; Beckett in Performance by Jonathan Kalb, 1989; Waiting for Godot: Form in Movement by Thomas Cousineau, 1990; Rethinking Beckett: A Collection of Critical Essays edited by Lance St. John Butler and Robin J. Davies, 1990; Beckett's Fiction: In Different Words by Leslie Hill, 1990; Beckett's Self-Referential Drama by Shimon Levy, 1990; The World of Beckett edited by Joseph H. Smith, 1990; Understanding Beckett by Alan Astro, 1990; Unwording the World: Beckett's Prose Works after the Nobel Prize by Carla Locatelli, 1990; Paradox and Desire in Beckett's Fiction by David Watson, 1990; Samuel Beckett and the End of Modernity by Richard Begam, 1996; Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist by Anthony Cronin, 1996; Beckett before Godot: The Formative Years by John Pilling, 1997.

* * *

Samuel Beckett wrote plays, novels, poems, some criticism, and a substantial body of short fiction during a career that spanned the modernist and postmodernist periods. His work divides fairly neatly into early, middle, and late sections corresponding roughly to prewar, postwar, and post-1960. Equally at home in English and French, Beckett translated the majority of his work (though not all of his short fiction) from one language into the other.

His first short fiction, which remained untranslated, was the English collection More Pricks than Kicks, a series of stories about one Belacqua Shua, a down-at-the-heels student and a sort of anti-gallant about Dublin. Probably quarried from the novel A Dream of Fair to Middling Women, the stories are written in a super-erudite, even Baroque prose, and depend for their effect on highly self-conscious tricks of language, zany characterization, and amusing or grotesque situations. The first story in the collection, widely regarded as the best, is "Dante and the Lobster." The other stories follow Belacqua through parties, affairs, even a marriage, to his death on the operating table. The stories, thus, are linked together, more strongly than those of James Joyce's Dubliners, on which More Pricks than Kicks is to some degree modeled—the Dublin setting and the themes of knowledge, religion, drink, and the flesh are what the two collections have in common, and Beckett was an associate of Joyce's in Paris at the time he published his volume.

More Pricks is the only work of shorter fiction Beckett wrote in his early period; it is the work of a young man involved in the literary experiments of his time, and it fits well with his novel of the period, Murphy. It has linguistic associations with Beckett's poetry, much of which also was written during this time.

During his middle period (the years that produced the trilogy of novels and the plays that made Beckett famous), Beckett wrote a series of short fictions that act as an excellent introduction to his major work. Premier Amour (First Love), the trio of novellas (The Expelled, The Calmative, and The End), and, above all, the Novelles et Textes pour rien (Stories and Texts for Nothing) show that Beckett had found his voice, a voice, as he said, in which monologue predominates. The style here is less ornate and the purpose less satirical than in the early work and the central figure of the alienated, elderly, masculine consciousness chewing the long cud of its memories more obvious. The narrators of these pieces are, for the first time, truly "Beckettian" in that they resemble the tramps in Waiting for Godot or Krapp in Krapp's Last Tape.

It is principally the voice or tone that we remember in these short fictions. It is the same tone that we hear in the trilogy—sardonic, desperate, stoical, more than a little mad. The prewar work is odd but anchored in reality, while the postwar work enters into a new realm altogether. Elements of the real world are recognizable, such as hansom cabs, railway stations, fathers, home; but overall these are dream-like monologues in which the focus is on the consciousness performing its narrative task. Rejection of the world is a theme hard to miss, together with a sense of the world rejecting the protagonist. Decay of body and mind, inability to understand the world, and a sense of loss permeate these fictions.

Beckett was in an impasse by the end of the trilogy (a position signaled in the Texts for Nothing), and his way forward was to be through short plays and short fictional texts. It is in his late period that he becomes one of the most significant writers of short prose in the postwar world. It is hard to say what genre his later texts belong to; the plays, however bizarre (Not I consists of a mouth babbling alone on the stage), are clearly plays but the fictions can be read as prose-poems, or read aloud in performance versions, or regarded simply as tests. They test the limits of our literary categories. They tend to be monologues but the consciousness is more dispersed, less definite, less identifiable, than in the earlier pieces. Most characteristic in this respect is Company (the only one of these later pieces written only in English), with its opening sentence, "A voice comes to one in the dark". The title of the earlier version, Imagination Dead Imagine, is the same title as its first sentence. Here a consciousness, an imagination, explores a series of often-repeated words, circling round and round a few givens as if obsessively unable to abandon them.

In all Beckett's late prose familiar themes are picked up, kneaded into slightly different shapes, abandoned (a characteristic title is "From an Abandoned Work"). Beckett found these themes during his middle period and developed them: decay, age, frailty, mathematical calculations, the inability to remain silent, loneliness, and imprisonment. Typical is The Lost Ones, a text set in a cylinder; the inhabitants of the cylinder move through a range of quasi-ritual actions and gestures in their attempts to escape from their world; the light and heat vary in intensity; no escape is possible; some of the inhabitants give up and seem to die. We are a very long way indeed here from the stylistic fireworks of More Pricks than Kicks.

Beckett's last pieces were shorter fictions in this same vein. As late as December 1988 he published Stirrings Still, in which the same old cuds are chewed and the same haunting tone achieved. The title here is appropriate; Beckett saw himself for years as producing leftover texts and he called them "fizzles," "ends and odds," "residua," and "stirrings." Here the human condition is seen, or heard, at its last gasp, yet there is a stoical strength present that can hearten us against the odds.

—Lance St. John Butler

See the essay on "Dante and the Lobster."

About this article

Beckett, Samuel (Barclay)

Updated About content Print Article