Samuel Barclay Beckett was born on the Good Friday of 1906 in Dublin, Ireland, to a middle class Protestant family. Having studied at Portora Royal School – a boarding school also attended by Oscar Wilde – Beckett went on to major in French and Italian at Trinity College, Dublin, emerging with a BA in 1927 and an MA in 1931. During his studies at Trinity, he travelled in Europe and taught English at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. While in Paris, Beckett was introduced to James Joyce, to whom he became a close friend, even reading aloud for him as Joyce's sight faded.
After spells in Dublin and London, Beckett settled in Paris towards the end of 1937. Murphy, his first published novel, was released in March of 1938. When war was declared in 1939, Beckett remained in Occupied France, and was a member of the French Resistance in Paris. In 1942, he was forced to flee to Unoccupied France, where he lived in hiding as an agricultural labourer in the Vaucluse.
In a period of intense creativity (1946-50) he wrote an unpublished play (Eleutheria) and En attendant Godot (Waiting for Godot), as well as his famous trilogy of prose narratives, Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable, all originally written in French. Among his other numerous works of prose fiction are Watt (1953, in English), Sans (1969, as Lessness, 1971), and Mercier et Camier (1970, in English 1974). He wrote the screenplay for Film (1965), which starred Buster Keaton. Beckett also wrote radio and television plays, several books of poetry and translated the works of French writers into English.
Beckett’s other dramatic works include: Fin de Partie (1957, Endgame), Krapp’s Last Tape, which was first performed in London in 1958; Happy Days, written in English and first performed in New York in 1961; Play, first performed in German in Ulm, 1963, and in the original English in New York and London in 1964; Breath, a short piece lasting less than a minute, was the opening sketch of the revue Oh! Calcutta! in New York in 1969.
Beckett won a series of awards for his works, including: the Evening Standard Award in 1955; the Obie Award in 1958, 1960, 1962, 1964; the Italia Prize, 1959; and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1959. He died in 1989.
Did you know that Beckett was stabbed by a pimp? Brush up on your Beckett trivia with 10 Things About Beckett.
Endgame, 31 Mar - 9 May 2015, Sydney Theatre