Nobel Prize Recipient. Samuel Beckett, an Irish-born author, received world-wide acclaim after being awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature. According to the Nobel Prize committee, he received this coveted award "for his writing, which - in new forms for the novel and drama - in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation." He did not submit a biography to the Nobel Prize committee, did not accept the award personally, nor did he submit an acceptance speech to be read. He authored four novels, two dramas, a collection of short stories, essays, and art criticism. During an intensely creative period in the late 1940s. he settled in France and wrote in both French and English. The trauma of near starvation, insecurity, and exile, which he experienced during World War II, greatly impacted his writings. His most famous piece was a 1952 drama with dark humor, "Waiting for Godot." By 1953, he translated the drama from French to English. The play ran for 400 performances, enjoyed critical praises and since it was an untraditional bleak plot, it was called "Theater of the Absurd." Born Samuel Barclay Beckett, his father, a French Huguenot, was in the construction business and his mother a nurse. After attending local schools, he graduated in 1927 with a B.A. degree from Trinity College in Dublin. While in college, he had periods of depression, staying in bed all day. He studied under Irish author James Joyce, learning to push the boundaries in avant-garde literature. After traveling to Paris, he was an English reader at École Normale Supérieure from 1928 to 1929. In 1930 he accepted a position as a French reader at Trinity College, and had his debut publication of "Whoroscope : Poem on Time." In 1937 he moved to Paris, living in France most of his adulthood. He was stabbed during an altercation in the Paris nightlife. While in the hospital recuperating, he met a Parisian piano student, Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnuil, who became his agent and eventually, his wife. After France was occupied by Nazi Forces in World War II, he was allowed as an Irish citizen to remain in Paris as a citizen of a neutral country. He fought in the resistance movement until 1942 when members of his group were arrested by the Nazi Gestapo. At that point, he and his constant companion Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnuil fled in exile to the unoccupied zone in the south of France until the end of the war. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Resistance medal for bravery while serving in the French resistance. After 1945, he prolifically wrote only in French. In this period his works included the plays of "Eleutheria" in 1947 and "Endgame" in 1957; novels were "Mercier et Camier" in 1947, "Malloy" and "Malone Dies" in 1951, and "The Unnamable" in 1953;" and two books of short stories, and a book of criticism. In the 1960s, he enjoyed his success and became a theater director. In 1961, he and Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnuil married. A commission from the BBC in 1956 led to offers to write for radio and cinema through the 1960s. He retired to his Paris apartment, staying away from the public, but had other artists and writers as guests in his home. In the 1970s he resumed writing for his English-speaking audience. His two-act play, "Happy Day" was first performed September of 1952 in New York City, with English critics ranking it "as one of the 40 best plays of all time." By the late 1980s, his health was declining, thus he was admitted to a long-term nursing facility. While there, he continued to write and enjoyed visits from his long-time friends. He wrote his 1988 poem "What is the Word." In 1989 he published in English a collection of short stories, "Nohow On." His wife died in July of 1989 and his death was the following December in a hospital with respiratory failure. Posthumously in 1990, his last piece "As the Story Was Told: Uncollected and Late Prose" was published. Besides the Nobel Prize, he was elected in 1984 Saoi of Aosdana, the highest award in Irish literature; received the Off-Broadway Theater Award for "Endgame" in 1958, "Krapp's Last Tape in 1960, "Happy Days" in 1962, and "Play" in 1964; elected in 1969 as a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; co-shared the 1961 International Publishers' Formentor Prize; received an honorary degree from Trinity College in 1959; and an English Heritage Blue Plaque was mounted on his 1934 residence.
Bio by: Linda Davis
Suzanne Georgette Anna Dechevaux-Dumesnil Beckett
1900–1989 (m. 1961)