Samuel Beckett

Franklin Library Samuel Beckett books

Three Plays - Greatest Books of the Twentieth Century - 1981 
Plays include:
Waiting for Godot
Krapp's Last Tape

Who is Samuel Beckett?

Samuel Barclay Beckett, an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, and poet, was born on April 13, 1906, in Foxrock, a suburb of Dublin. He came from a Protestant family, and his father worked as a quantity surveyor. Beckett attended Portora Royal School and later studied French, Italian, and English at Trinity College, Dublin. His early exposure to languages and literature laid the foundation for his later experimentation with language in his artistic works. In 1928, Beckett moved to Paris to teach English and pursue a postgraduate degree. It was in Paris that he became acquainted with influential literary figures such as James Joyce, whose work had a profound impact on Beckett's writing style. Beckett served as Joyce's secretary for a brief period and developed a deep intellectual and personal connection with the renowned modernist writer. During World War II, Beckett joined the French Resistance and worked as a courier, eventually fleeing to the unoccupied zone to avoid arrest by the Gestapo. This period of turmoil and uncertainty had a lasting influence on his later works, which often explored themes of existentialism, despair, and the human condition.

Beckett's most famous work, Waiting for Godot, premiered in Paris in 1953. The play is a masterpiece of absurdism, depicting the existential struggles of two characters waiting for someone named Godot who never arrives. The play's success marked Beckett as a leading figure in the Theater of the Absurd, a movement that questioned the meaning of human existence in a seemingly chaotic and meaningless world. His writing, characterized by its spare style and exploration of the absurdity of human experience, earned Beckett the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969. In addition to his plays, he produced a significant body of prose, poetry, and critical essays. Some of his other notable works include Endgame, Krapp's Last Tape, and the novel Molloy.

In his later years, Beckett lived a reclusive life in Paris, where he continued to write and create until his death on December 22, 1989. His legacy endures as a pioneering force in literature and drama, with his works continually studied, performed, and celebrated for their profound exploration of the human condition. Samuel Beckett's contributions to the arts have left an indelible mark, solidifying his place as one of the most influential and innovative writers of the 20th century.

Waiting for Godot

The story revolves around two seemingly homeless men simply waiting for someone or something named Godot. Vladimir and Estragon wait near a tree, inhabiting a drama spun of their own consciousness. The result is a comical wordplay of poetry, dreamscapes, and nonsense, which has been interpreted as mankind’s inexhaustible search for meaning. Beckett’s language pioneered an expressionistic minimalism that captured the existential post-World War II Europe. His play remains one of the most magical and beautiful allegories of our time.


Samuel Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969; his literary output of plays, novels, stories, and poetry has earned him an uncontested place as one of the greatest writers of our time. Endgame, originally written in French and translated into English by Beckett himself, is now considered by many critics to be his greatest single work. A pinnacle of Beckett's characteristic raw minimalism, it is a pure and devastating distillation of the human essence in the face of approaching death.

Krapp's Last Tape

Samuel Beckett, one of the great avant-garde Irish dramatists and writers of the second half of the 20th century, was born on 13 April 1906. His centenary will be celebrated throughout 2006 with performances of his major plays, including Waiting for Godot. Here are the two most famous plays for a single actor. Krapp's Last Tape finds an old man, with his tape recorder, musing over the past and future.

Samuel Beckett quotes

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
"You're on Earth. There's no cure for that."
"We are all born mad. Some remain so."
"Nothing is funnier than unhappiness."
"I can't go on. I'll go on."
"The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new."
"To be an artist is to fail, as no other dare fail."
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

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