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Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett is sui generis...He has given a voice to the decrepit and maimed and inarticulate, men and women at the end of their tether, past pose or pretense, past claim of meaningful existence. He seems to say that only there and then, as metabolism lowers, amid Godís paucity, not his plenty, can the core of the human condition be approached...Yet his musical cadences, his wrought and precise sentences, cannot help but stave off the void...Like salamanders we survive in his fire. -- Richard Ellman

The farther he goes the more good it does me. I donít want philosophies, tracts, dogmas, creeds, ways out, truths, answers, nothing from the bargain basement. He is the most courageous, remorseless writer going and the more he grinds my nose in the shit the more I am grateful to him. Heís not f---ing me about, heís not leading me up any garden path, heís not slipping me a wink, heís not flogging me a remedy or a path or a revelation or a basinful of breadcrumbs, heís not selling me anything I donít want to buy ó he doesnít give a bollock whether I buy or not ó he hasnít got his hand over his heart. Well, Iíll buy his goods, hook, line and sinker, because he leaves no stone unturned and no maggot lonely. He brings forth a body of beauty. His work is beautiful. -- Harold Pinter

Samuel Beckett was born in a suburb of Dublin. Like his fellow Irish writers George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and William Butler Yeats, he came from a Protestant, Anglo-Irish background. At the age of 14 he went to the Portora Royal School, in what became Northern Ireland, a school that catered to the Anglo-Irish middle classes.
From 1923 to 1927, he studied Romance languages at Trinity College, Dublin, where he received his bachelor's degree. After a brief spell of teaching in Belfast, he became a reader in English at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris in 1928. There he met the self-exiled Irish writer James Joyce, the author of the controversial and seminally modern novel Ulysses, and joined his circle. Contrary to often-repeated reports, however, he never served as Joyce's secretary. He returned to Ireland in 1930 to take up a post as lecturer in French at Trinity College, but after only four terms he resigned, in December 1931, and embarked upon a period of restless travel in London, France, Germany, and Italy.
In 1937 Beckett decided to settle in Paris. As a citizen of a country that was neutral in World War II, he was able to remain there even after the occupation of Paris by the Germans, but he joined an underground resistance group in 1941. When, in 1942, he received news that members of his group had been arrested by the Gestapo, he immediately went into hiding and eventually moved to the unoccupied zone of France. Until the liberation of the country, he supported himself as an agricultural labourer.
In 1945 he returned to Ireland but volunteered for the Irish Red Cross and was back in France as an interpreter in a military hospital in Saint-Lo, Normandy. In the winter of 1945, he finally returned to Paris.

Bitter End
As Beckett matured he shaved his work down to the barest and bitterest essentials. His writing became semaphoric, telegraphic, staccato word bursts divided by ellipses, fronted by the plainest of titles. In Play (1963) a man and two women blabber about their unending cycle of adultery, completely unaware of one another. Film (1966), almost a silent film full of shifting camera angles and perceptions, features an aged Buster Keaton, who later noted of the production: "I didn't know what the hell was going on." Breath (1970), written as a contribution to Kenneth Tynan's revue Oh! Calcutta!, consists of a few lighting effects, cries, and the sound of breathing. One novel, Imagine Dead Imagine (Imagination morte imaginez, 1965) expires after fourteen pages. Fizzles (Foirades) appeared in 1976, a collection of prose "farted out," according to Beckett. "They really are what they claim to be," one critic noted. Out of his despair Beckett attained a kind of dignity in facing the unnamable, and in life he seemed to dwell somewhere beyond his writing. He remained comparatively healthy until old age, a man who enjoyed good drink and friends, and vastly improved over the wretch he had been back in Ireland with his mother. He lived for decades with Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil, in what biographer Deirdre Bair - sometimes taken to task for the alleged inaccuracies of her work - has described as a "parallel relationship," marrying the Frenchwoman in 1961 to protect her financial future. By nature diffident, distant, and reclusive, Beckett nevertheless was known for his kindness and politesse. He once was said to have traveled around Paris in search of bicarbonate of soda at 3 a.m. when a friend, the playwright Harold Pinter, became ill after a night of pub crawling topped off by a bowl of onion soup. After Beckett won the Nobel Prize in 1969, he gave much of the prize money away to other writers.

Confined to a French nursing home at the end of his days, Beckett was asked by a visiting Irish poet what he had found worthwhile about life. "Precious little," came the reported reply. "For bad measure, I watched both my parents die." He himself died in Paris 22 December 1989. His remains were buried with those of his wife.