Samuel Beckett: 1906-1989

Brief Chronology

1906-23: Samuel Barclay Beckett, b. Sunday 13 April, 1906 [‘Good Friday’ in his own ccount; erron. registered 14 June and notified in The Irish Times as BECKETT - April 13th, at Cooldrinagh, Foxrock, the wife of W[illiam] F[rank] Beckett, of a son - citing his wife as Maria Jones (née) Roe - known as “May”]; son of Bill Beckett, a quantity surveyor (b.1871; son of William and Fannie Beckett, m. 1869; builder - purportedly acting as the contractor on the National Library, Dublin); family name Beckett of Huguenot descent; grew up in Kerrymount, Foxrock, and later “Cooldrinagh”, Foxrock [named after the home of Samuel Robinson Roe, a maternal grandfather of SB, a successful miller at Celbridge, residing in Cooldrinagh in Leixlip, Co. Dublin]; May was ed. at the Moravian Mission School, Gracefield, nr. Ballymena, Co. Antrim and m. Bill Beckett in 31 Aug. 1901 - having met when she nursed him after the disappointment his marriage hopes with a dg. of William Martin Murphy); a son Frank Edward Beckett, b.1902 - being four years older than SB; SB was educated by Ida Elsner and her sister, Leopardstown Rd., later at Earlsfort House, a prep. school on Earlsfort Tce., then at Portora Royal Sch., in Enniskillen, 1920 - there joining his br. Frank (b. 26 July 1902); taken by his father with Frank to view O’Connell St. burning from Glencullen Rd. during 1916 Rising; forms protective, poss. homoerotic relationship with younger boy (‘The Skivvy’); reads Keats; participates with Claud [C. E. R.] Sinclair in persecution of a schoolmaster, Thackaberry and suffers animosity from another, W. R. Tetley [of whom he later write ‘For Future Reference’]; distinguishes himself as all-round cricketer; adolescent adventures incl. throwing himself from 60 ft. fir-tree, trusting the lower branches to break his fall; proceeds to TCD, 1923-1927 on Foundation Schol.; assigned to A. A. Luce as his tutor; shares rooms with Gerald Stewart, also from Portora; drives his father’s car in Dublin; comes first in his year; attends ‘at homes’ chez T. B. Rudmose-Brown (Prof. of French) at Malahide, and with the Starkeys [Seumas O’Sullivan, q.v.]; attends premier of Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock (March 1924) and The Plough and the Stars (Feb. 1926); also Yeats’s Oedipus the King (Dec. 1926) and Oedipus at Colonus (Sept. 1927) and revivals of Synge; learns of Dante through language lessons from Bianca Esposito (model for Ottolenghi in “Dante and the Lobster”); plays cricket for TCD, touring in England in 1926-27 seasons and gaining citation in Wisden’s Cricket Almanac; enjoyed a - probably non-sexual - friendship with Ethna MacCarthy (the model for “the Alba” - a girl with ‘eyes […] like crysolite’) and extensive passages in Dream of Fair to Middling Women), who is also admired by Denis Johnston, and who subsequently conducts a life-long friendship with Con Leventhal, 1923 onwards; sees T. C. Murray’s Autumn Fire, Synge’s Well of the Saints, and the Dublin plays of O’Casey at the Abbey, being present in the balcony with Geoffrey Thompson during the Plough and the Stars riot, 1926; reading Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Apollinaire, and contemporary French poets; visits Loire, meeting Charles C. Clarke, 1926;
[ top ]
1927-29: BA (1st; Gold Medal and 50 prize), 1927; visits Florence, summer 1927, staying at pension run by Signora Ottolenghi (via Campanella 14), piazza Oberdam; undertakes to write MA on “Unanisme” [movement] at Rudmose-Brown’s instigation; spent two terms teaching French at Campbell College, Belfast (‘rich and thick’), 1928; visits the Sinclair household at Kassel (Cissie being his paternal aunt, married to William [‘Boss’] Sinclair); passive love affair with his first cousin Peggy; troubled by difference between romantic and physical love (later captured in Dream of Fair to Middling Women); appt. lecteur at École Normale Sup., Paris, Oct. 1928-30 [‘I slept through the École’], arriving 1 Nov. 1928; forms friendship with Tom MacGreevy, previous - and tenaciously still - holder of the ENS scholarship, and intro. by him to James Joyce, whose secretary SB is sometimes called; part of transition circle; contrib. essay ‘Dante… Bruno. Vico.. Joyce’ to Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress (June 1929), with Frank Budgen, Stuart Gilbert, MacGreevy, Elliot Paul, John Rodker, and William Carlos Williams; partial rift with Joyce over Lucia Joyce’s unrequited infatuation with him, 1929; contrib. “Che Sciagura” [“What a misfortune” - viz, castration in its Dantean context] to TCD Miscellany (14 Nov. 1929); subscribes to “Revolution of the word” manifesto (transition, 1929) and contrib. “Assumption” to transition, 16/17 (June 1929); travels to Dublin and Kassel, Christmas 1929; develops interest in theories of motion; informed by Thomas MacGreevy about a poetry contest on subject of ‘Time’ sponsored by the Hours Press late in the afternoon the day before deadline (16 June, 1930; wrote the winning poem Whoroscope (1930; ltd. edn. 300) - based on Descartes’ life, judged by Richard Aldington and Nancy Cunard with a prize of £10 for a poem on the theme of Time; socialises with Cunard and her boyfriend Henry Crowther;
1930-32: publishes ‘For Future Reference’ in transition (June 1930); visits Joyce’s in order to disillusion Lucia about his attachment to her, 1930; engages in translating Joyce’s “ALP” with Alfred Péron; poem refused by AE (George Russell); commences learning German seriously, taking Arthur Schopenhauer as a chief reader - for style rather than content, according to Mark Nixon; appt. Jun. Lect. at TCD, 1930-32, initially on 3-year appointment, at salary of 200 p.a.; passes Christmas and New Year in Kassel, 1930-1931; teaches four terms at TCD under Prof. Rose, occupying rooms at No. 39 [New Square], and resigning afterwards because ‘he could not bear the absurdity of teaching to others what he did not know himself’; contribs. poetry to New Review, 1931; writes and produces Le Kid, at Players Theatre, TCD, Feb. 1931, a pastiche of Corneille’s Le Cid, not extant; has blazing argument with his mother, summer 1931; gives mock-serious lecture in French to Modern Languages Society as the invented poet, Jean du Chas, Oct. 1931; contribs. “Alba” to Dublin Magazine (Oct. 1931); forms friendships with Mervyn Wall, Cecil Salkeld, and others; experiences increasing mental ill-health, associated with his mother’s demands; introduced to Jack B. Yeats by MacGreevy in Killiney, Co. Dublin, 1932; writes Proust at invitation of Nancy Cunard and Richard Aldington - though SB personally found the author ‘offensively fastidious, artificial and almost dishonest’, 1930; Proust (1931); Proust pub. 5 March 1931; 2,600 of 3,000 printed copies sold by 1937; does not travel during summer of 1931; grad. MA, Dec. 1931; experiences catatonic episode in his TCD rooms; contribs. to European Caravan, ed. Samuel Putnam, Maida Castelhun Darnton, George Reavey and Jacob Bronowski (1931), providing his own ‘blurb’ to the effect that he had ‘adapted’ the Joyce method to his poetry with original results’ (Caravan, p.475); forms friendship with Jack Yeats; publishes “Text”, a poem, in The New Review, 11, No. 5 (April 1932; later included in Dream); moves out of home and takes rooms in Trinity, late 1931; completes Dream of Fair to Middling Women (unpublished till 1992), later presented to Lawrence Harvey and described by self as ‘immature and unworthy’; writes “Dante and the Lobster”, set on date of hanging of Henry McCabe in Dublin for murder (10 Dec. 1926), printed in Edward T. Titus’s Putnam review (This Quarter, V, Dec. 1932), and later as first story in More Pricks than Kicks (1934); subscribes to “Poetry is Vertical” manifesto, in transition (March 1932); moves back to Paris and sends letter of resignation to TCD from there (latter admitting that he had ‘behaved very badly’), arriving just after the assassination of Paul Doumer by White Russian Gorguloff; hides in rooms of Jean Lurcat while police checked residence papers; contracts to trans. Rimbaud’s Le bateau ivre for Titus’s magazine (700 frs.); returns to London to avoid deportation; stays at 4 Ampton Rd., nr. Gray’s Inn Rd., in rooms rented by Mrs Southon (17s. 6d. p.w.); seeks work as schoolmaster; attempts to place Dream with Rupert Grayson (Cape); attempts literary criticism but makes no progress with journals; exhorted by his mother to return to Dublin; lives off his family in Dublin; sees Ibsen’s The Wild Duck (Abbey 1932), and Mac Liammóir-Edwards’s Romeo and Juliet (Gate 1932); “Gnome” written Jan. 1932 (printed in Dublin Magazine, July-Sept 1934); reading Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones; visits Galway and Arran with Frank;
[ top ]
1933-34: stays unhappily in London, 1933-35; enters hospital to have cysts lanced; death of Peggy Sinclair, from tuberculosis, 3 May 1933 - same day has his own operation; proposes to vote for de Valera in 1933 elections, but accepts his father’s ‘bribe’ of 1 to vote for Cosgrave’s party’ (or did he?), 24 Jan. 1933; does not renew acquaintance with Ethna MacCarthy at this period; works at writing in attic room of father’s premisses at 6 Clare St., dismembering Dream to make More Pricks Than Kicks, a collection of stories centred on Belacqua Shuah, a Dantean TCD student, and based on the Purgatorio, Canto IV, ll.130ff (‘Shuah’ being Hebrew word for ‘depression’ - a ‘barely fictionalised Beckett’ acc. Deirdre Bair [1978, 130ff.]); adds further stories following the Dantean plot to a scabrous ending for Belacqua on the operating table; death of father following heart-attack, 26 June 1933 (his last words apparently being ‘fight, fight, fight’, spoken to himself); receives annuity of 200 from his father’s estate of 35,000; More Pricks than Kicks accepted by Charles Prentice at Chatto & Windus (24th May 1934); a final story (“Echo’s Bones”) at first solicited but ultimately refused by Prentice on grounds that ‘people would shudder and be confused’ at the resurrection of Belacqua [later printed in 2014]; initially sells only 500 copies; greeted by TLS reviewer as ‘[a] definite fresh talent at work, though it is a talent not yet quite sure of itself’; meets Nuala Costello, a friend of Lucia Joyce (educ. Paris, and Sorbonne), Sept. 1933, and embarks on ‘an affair, such as it was’ (but more a dining friendship) till December; applies for post at National Gallery, London, Oct. 1933, but not shortlisted; contemplates seeking work as copy-writer; suffers palpitations and night-sweats; consults Geoffrey Thompson, by then a psychologist; convinces his mother to pay for psychoanalysis; travels to England, 20 Jan. 1934; “Gnome”, written Jan. 1932, printed Dublin Magazine (July-Sept 1934); “Home Olga”, a poetical tribute to James Joyce, appears in Hours Press anthology Negro (Jan. 1934); settles at 48 Paultons Sq., nr. King’s Rd., Chelsea, and within range of MacGreevy at Cheyne Gdns.; underwent intense sessions with Wilfred Bion at Jungian Tavistock Clinic, London, 1934-35; contribs. “A Case in a Thousand”, story, to The Bookman (1934); castigates the ‘antiquarians’ of Irish literature in “Recent Irish Poetry” - ‘delivering with the altitudinous complacency of the Victorian Gael the Ossianic goods’, pseud. as Andrew Belis, in The Bookman, No. 86 (1934), dismissing ‘the altitudinous complacency of the Victorian Gael’ and literary revival poets who ‘flee from self-awareness’, while aspersing Austin Clarke’s ‘prosodoturfy’ in particular; publication of More Pricks than Kicks (24 May 1934; 1,500 copies); reviewers incl. Edwin Muir (Listener, 4 July 1934); contrib. review of Feuillerat on Proust to Spectator (ed. Derek Vershoyle), 23 June 1934; changes accommodation to 34 Gertrude St. on returning to London, Aug. 1934, resuming sessions with Bion in Oct.; returns to Dublin, Christmas 1934;
1935-36: Sinclair family, now living at Howth, offended by the inclusion of Peggy’s illnalysis (now at session 133); reading Jane Austen; receives and ignores insane letters from Lucia Joyce, from Zurich, then from London; reads The Imitation of Christ in copy lent by MacGreevy; returns to Dublin for 3 weeks, late April 1935; taken by Bion to C. J. Jung’s lecture at Institute of Psychological Medicine and hears him speak of girl who ‘had never really been born’; completes ‘Censorship in the Saorstat’, 1935 (orig. commissioned for The Bookman, by then defunct); Reavey publishes Echo’s Bones and Other Precipitates (Dec. 1935), based on Ovid’s version of the story of Narcissus; proceeds rapidly with Murphy, a Cartesian novel of ideas embodied by the mind/body dilemma of the title-character, an occasionally catatonic Irish intellectual in Dublin - of which the initial inspiration being based on the episode of the kites and whose eponymous hero was originally called “Sasha Murphy” [later simply Murphy]; writes ‘Censorship in the Saorstat’ commissioned by The Bookman 1935, but unpub. until 1983 (in Disjecta), and in which he notes that by 30 Sept. 1935, the Board has banned 618 books of which More Pricks than Kicks was No. 465; returns to Dublin with intention of remaining, Dec. 1935; reviews Jack Yeats, The Amaranthers (“An Imaginative Work”, Dublin Magazine, 1936); purchases a painting by Jack Yeats (“Morning”) at 30 on down-payment of borrows 10; meets Clarke and finds him oblivious to his 1934 Bookman review; reading Geulincx (Ethica) in TCD Library (‘Ubi nhil vales, ibi nihil velis’); contribs. to Authors Take Sides on the Spanish War (1936); continues writing Murphy at Clare St., completing it in June 1936; sends typescript to Chatto & Windus; hands over agency for the book to Reavey, who offers it to Dent, Faber, Hogarther Press, et al.; infatuation with Betty Stockton, summer 1936, producing poem in Dublin Magazine (Dec. 1936); departs for Wanderjahr in Germany, 29 Sept. 1936, looking at Old Masters - such as Rembrandt’s “The Money-changer” which provided the mise-en-scène for Krapp's Last Tape; while avoiding further contact with the Joyces; departs by plane from Dublin [ 28 Sept. 1936], flying first to Amstersdam and onwards by boat, visiting Hamburg, Dresden, Berlin [arrives New Year - Dec. 1936], where he remained remain six months; afterwards to Potsdam and Munich via Würzburg and Nuremburg; travels by foot and train, keeping a diary of his ideas in six notebooks (discovered by Edward Beckett in his uncle’s trunk after his death and made available to by James Knowlson, now resting in the Reading Beckett Centre); mostly centred on Berlin and surrounding town - now Berlin suburbs incl. the Grunewald Forest; suffered from herpes on his lip, a sceptic thumb and finger, and a lump behind his scrotum (‘between water and wind’); cogitating a new way of writing (‘I want the straws, flotsam etc., names, dates, births and deaths, because that is all I can know’, he tells his diary); edges towards a simpler conception of style (‘How absurd the struggle to learn to be silent in another language’); unmoved by German politics and ‘all the usual sentimental bunk about Nazi persecutions’ [letter], he describes himself in his diary as ‘without purpose alone and pathologically indolent’ [diary], 1936;
[ top ]
1937-39: hears Hitler on the radio and foresees war (‘They must fight soon or burst’); buys ill-fitting blue suit in charity from unemployed tailor - and first suspects that he was being cheated, though not ‘in [his] face’]; returns to London by Lufthansa, 2 April 1937; returns to Ireland; refuses suggested agency to Lord Rathdowne; begins work on play about Samuel Johnson and Mrs Thrale (“Human Wishes”), postulating Johnson’s impotence (‘the time I spent on that red herring’); affair with Mary Howe [née Manning], Summer 1936, poss. involving some sexual incapacity on SB’s side; applies for teaching post at Cape Town, using A. A. Luce, (FTCD), Thomas C. Ross (solicitor, S. Frederick St.) and Dr. Geoffrey Thompson (Harley St.) as referees, 29 July 1937 [letter of application addressed 3 Clare St. extant]; involved in car crash with lorry during period of heavy drinking, in which Ethna McCarthy was injured as his passenger; travels by boat to England, 16 Oct. 1937, and proceeds to Paris, 26 Oct. 1937; returns to give evidence at the Gogarty-Sinclair libel trial, and cross-examined by J. M. Fitzgerald, KC; reported in The Irish Times as ‘the bawd and blasphemer from Paris’; leaves Dublin immediately after without visiting his mother, on his br. Frank’s advice, Nov. 1937; William ‘Boss’ Sinclair, d. 1937, of tuberculosis [q.d.];finds accommodation at The Liberia Hotel [hôtel Liberia]; Murphy accepted by T. M. Ragg at Routledge through good offices of Herbert Read; contrib. poem “Ooftish”, to final issue of transition (1938), along with review of Denis Devlin’s current collection; became friends with Geer and Bram van Velde, Alberto Giacometti, and Marcel Duchamp; shares a night of love with Peggy Guggenheim, and leaves abruptly at the end; studies psycho-analytical texts by Freud, Jung, Adler and Rank; turns to writing in French, to ‘cut away the excess, strip away the colour’; stabbed by Robert Jules Prudent, a pimp [var. panhandler], in the street, on leaving a film with Alan and Belinda Duncan, early hours of 7 Jan. 1938, and removed to the Broussais hospital; visited in hospital by Joyce, who insisted on moving him to a private room, and also by Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil (1900-1989), an acquaintance from 1929 [his tennis-partner], and a pianist, with whom he lived in a companionate relationship for fifty-two years though maintaining different social circles; the stabbing reported in The Irish Times (8 Jan. 1929); corrects proofs of Murphy in hospital; infuriated by blurb; discharged 23 Jan, 1938; visited his assailant in prison asked the reason for the attack (‘Je ne sais pas, Monsieur.’) approached by Jack Kahane (f. of Maurice Girodias) to translate Marquis de Sade’s Les cent-Vingt Jours de Sodom, and decides against though attracted by the work; affair with Peggy Guggenheim, whom he handed over to Brian Coffey; settles on the seventh floor of 6 rue des Favorites, off rue de Vaugirard (15ième Arr.), at first entirely unfurnished and then provided with some furniture by Nora Joyce; accompanied there increasingly often by Suzanne; affair with Guggenheim lapses; commences writing poetry in French, 1938; commences French trans. of Murphy, with Péron, March 1938; visits Dublin, Nov. 1938-New Year 1939; read and impressed with La Nausée; photographed with Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon, Mauriac, Robert Pinget, Claude Ollier, Nathalie Sarraute and the publisher Jérôme Lindon of éditions de minuit, as ‘Nouveau romanciers’; commences writing poetry in French, 1938 (‘plus facile d’écrire sans style’; remarks to Niklaus Gessner); Proust (1939), French edn., trans by Edith Fournier with Beckett’s permission;
1940-49: visits Joyces at Saint Gerand-le-Puy, Feb. 1940; quit Paris for Ireland, June 1940; returns to Paris ( ‘war Europe preferable to peace in Ireland’); moves with Caroline to Alcachon, returning to Paris, Nov. 1940; became active in ‘Gloria’ group of Paris Resistance, collating information on Germany troop movements; a postcard he addresses to James Joyce at Vichy with news of Lucia’s well-being (12 Jan. 1941) was redirected to Zurich but only arrived several days after Joyce’s death; Alfred Péron arrested, 16 Aug. 1942 (d. Red Cross camp, Switzerland, June 1945); Gloria resistance group betray by Abbé Robert Alesch (later tried, and executed Jan. 1949); SB escapes Nazi round-up in Paris, first hiding in the Bois de Boulogne, 1942; briefly hides in home of Nathalie Sarraute; takes refuge in Unoccupied France at Roussillon in the Vauclose (behind Avignon), 1942, and registers there as originating in ‘Dublin, England’; writing Watt, begun in Paris 11 Feb. 1941; stalled at Hôtel Escoffier, and resumed at La Croix [Roussillon], 1 March 1943 - taking 4 years to complete in all [vide J. M. Coetzee, 1972, p.472]; continues it in evenings in mostly at Roussillon, and finishes it in Dublin and Paris, 1945; engages in night missions with the local resistance; types intelligence and delivered reports; forms friendship with Noelle Beamish, a 60 yr.-old Irish lesbian residing there with her Italian companion; also with Henri Hayden, a painter, and his wife Josette, who arrives from Paris in Dec. 1942; Roussillon liberated by Americans (i.e., one non-commissioned officer in a jeep), 1943; reaches Paris with Suzanne, Nov. 1944; reviews MacGreevy’s Jack B. Yeats: An Appreciation, in Irish Times (4 Aug. 1945); settles at Liberia Hotel, Suzanne joining her mother at Troyes; travels to Dublin via London, stopping over with George Reavey, April 1946 (‘taking things easy here, writing a little and walking a lot’, 25 April - Dublin); First Love, written in French as “Le Premier Amour” during 28 Oct.-12 Nov. 1946 (pub. 1970; English 1974), while writing “L’Expulsé”, “Le Calmant ” and “La Fin” (all in Textes pour rien) at about the same time - a ‘grisly afterbirth’ of the Trilogy; awarded Croix de Guerre, and Médaille de la Résistance, 1945; travels to see his mother, 1945; experiences vision of darkness in his mother’s room, then dying from Parkinson’s disease - as narrated in Krapp’s Last Tape and therein misleadingly assigned to anemometer on Dublin Laoghaire pier; contrib. “Dieppe” to The Irish Times, 9 June 1945 (written in French, 1937; rev. vers. in Collected Poems, 1977); spent some months as volunteer in Irish Red Cross hospital established in Saint-Lô [St.-Lô], Normandy, working as storekeeper and interpreter, August 1946; writes “The Capital of the Ruins” for broadcast on Radio Eireann, but rejected; printed as “Saint-Lô” in The Irish Times (24 June 1946); transfers his prose-writing into French; began Mercier et Camier, July 1946 (publ. 1970; English trans. 1974); writes Eleutheria, a play dealing with the household of one burgher Krap and his worrisome son Victor; Jan.- Feb. 1947; Molloy commenced in French at his mother’s house and continued in Paris and Menton at the house of ‘an Irish friend’ (his cousin Maurice Sinclair), “I would like my love to die” [poem], appears in transition forty-eight (Jan. 1948); Malone meurt [Malone Dies], orig. called “L’absent”, written between Oct. 1948 and Jan. 1949; began En Attendant Godot, 9 Oct. 1948-28 Jan. 1949, as ‘a relaxation from the awful prose I was writing at that time’, and ‘an attempt to escape from the wildness and rulelessness of the novels’ (Fletcher, 1971); rents room in farmhouse at Ussy-sur-Marne, 1949; gave three-part interview with George Duthuit, speaking of Tal Coat, Masson, and Bram van Velde, the last an artist who has interested him for 20 years ( “Art has always been bourgeois”); printed in transition forty-nine [49], No 5 (1949, pp.97-103); began l’Innommable [The Unnamable], 29 March 1949, and continued through Winter 1950;
[ top ]
1950-56: began Textes pour rien, Dec. 1950 (publ. Nov. 1955); Molloy submitted by Suzanne to Jérôme Lindon at Edition de minuit (corner of Bvds. St.-Germain and St-Michel), autumn 1950 [‘I read Molloy in a few hours as I have never read a book before ... a sacred masterpiece’ -‘the only essential moment of my life as a publisher - as I was reading Molloy, I suddenly had the feeling that what was happening was the event of my publishing life’); Lindon offers contract for all three novels, 15 Nov. 1950; Molloy published, 15 March 1951; SB sends as portion of Watt to David Marcus for Irish Writing, in response to a request, 1951; contrib. extract from Watt to John Ryan's Envoy (‘massacred by the compositor ... filthy new Irish ray Envoy’ - letter to Reavey); photographed by Gisele Freund; settles in a house with extensive gardens, built with the legacy in mother’s will, at Ussy-sur-Marne, nr. Paris, 1952; Jerôme Lindon publishes En attendant Godot in his Éditions de minuit (17 Oct. 1952); comes to public prominence with Paris staging of En attendant Godot, dir. Roger Blin - also acting the part of Pozzo with Lucien Raimbourg as Vladimir, Pierre Latour as Estragon, and Jean Martin as Lucky, at Théâtre de Babylone (bvd. Raspail, Montparnasse), 19 Jan. 1953 [var. 5 Jan. 1953]; recognised by Sylvain Zegel in La Liberation review as ‘one of today’s best playwrights’, and praised by Jean Anouilh as ‘a masterpiece that will cause despair for men in general and for playwrights in particular’; premiered in London as Waiting for Godot (3 Aug., 1955) and in Dublin (28 Oct. 1955); SB embarks on affair with Pamela Mitchell, an American, Sept. 1953; Watt published by Olympia Press (Paris), 1953, later trans. into French as Watt by Ludovic and Agnès Janvier in collab. with the author (publ. 1968); Mitchell moves to Paris, 1954; death of Frank Beckett, 13 Sept. 1954; Fin de partie, first version, 1955; one-act version, June 1956, trans. into English as Endgame (1958), premiered at Royal Court, Oct. 1958, and widely staged thereafter, and called ‘more inhuman than Godot’ by Beckett; SB trans. Godot, 1953, the English version being published as Waiting for Godot (Feb. 1956); opens disasterously in Miami, dir. Alan Schneider, 3 Jan. 1956 [‘we always want to do what you want’]; Malone Dies issued in New York by Barney Rosset (Grove Press 1956); returned to English to write All That Fall, commissioned by the BBC on 4 July in 1955 (prod. & broadcast. 13 Jan. 1957), under the direction of directed by Donald McWhinnie; SB turned down membership of Irish Academy of Letters, proffered by Seumas O’Sullivan (‘distressed if you were to think of me, because of this, unfriendly and systematically aloof. / I could not belong and could not be a credit to any academy’, letter of refusal, 21 Jan. 1956); finds himself ‘unexpectedly pleased’ on hearing that Liam O’Brien would translate Godot into Irish, 1956; contribs. “From an Abandoned Work” to Trinity News [TCD], June 7 1956, marking his return to writing in English; it appeared as a single page spread with inset photo-port., and numerous editorial errors;
1957-59: SB withdraws mimes from Dublin Theatre Festival in protest against supposed censorship of O’Casey’s Drums of Father Ned and a dramatisation of Joyce’s Ulysses by McClelland, imposing an embargo on performance of his works in Dublin, 1958-60; living at 6 Rue des Favorites, Paris 15ième, when applying for Irish passport renewal, 15 Feb. 1957 (‘writer/single’ - and travelling for purpose of attending his place at the Royal Court Th., Sloan Sq., London); SB asks for Jack Magowran to play the part of the Station-master, having heard his voice Beckett had heard in a BBC radio play by M. J. Molloy; also casted was Patrick Magee as Mr. Slocum; the title being based on the biblical text, ‘The Lord upholdest all that fall and raiseth up all those that be bowed down’; SB gives financial assistance to Douglas Rick Cluchey, San Quentin inmate, to produce Waiting for Godot there, 1957; issues Embers (1959), a radio play, also written in English and steeped in nostalgia for Dublin but deemed unsuccessful; meets Anne Atik, through introduction of her future husband the artist Avigdor Arikha; his conversations, memorialised by her in notebooks, later published in 2001; begins to write Krapp’s Last Tape (1959) for Patrick Magee - having heard his distinctive gravelly voice reading extracts from Molloy and From an Abandoned Work on radio (both directed by MacWhinnie); heard tapes in Paris studio of the BBC, and witnessed operation of tape-recorder for the first time; commenced writing the play, Feb. 1958; premiered in double bill with Endgame at the Royal Court, London (28 Oct. 1958; publ. 1959); SB begins work on Comment c’est [How It Is] as “Pim”, Dec. 1958-summer 1960; receives D. Litt.[hon. degree] from TCD, 2 June 1959; received Prix Italia for Embers, entered by the BBC in October, 1959; persuaded by Suzanne to attend the award-giving in Sorrento (Italy) and makes an acceptance speech, Sept. 1959 - resenting the forced outings to Capri arranged by the organisers; bought a small Citroën at first to travel from the station to his house in Ussy, and afterwards to drive to Paris, enjoying his return to driving greatly;
[ top ]
1960-69: moved into an apartment on the Boulevard Saint-Jacques (Paris), Oct. 1960 - facing Santé Prison opposite, on Rue Jean-Dolent; Krapp’s Last Tape translated into French by author with Pierre Leyris, performed Théâtre Recamier (Paris, 22 March 1960); joined in Paris by Barbara Bray (b.1924), a BBC script-editor whom he met in London in 1958; Bray moves Paris and resumes relationship, 1961; m. Suzanne, Folkestone, Kent, March 1961; Prix International des Editeur, with Jorge Luis Borges, may 1961; writes Cascando, radio play in French, Dec. 1961; Krapp’s Last Tape, with Cyril Cusack (Dublin 1960); premiers Happy Days (NY 1961; London 1962), his first play written in English [or Hiberno-English], and trans. into French as Oh les beaux jours; writing Play, in English, 1961-1962; premiered as Spiel at the Ulmer Theater, Ulm-Donay (14 June 1963); first performed as Play in Britain at Old Vic (7 April 1964), and in France at Pavillion de Marson (Paris, 11 June 1964); first published in German as Spiel in Theater Heute (July 1963); publ. in English (1964) and in French (1964; author’s trans.); travels to America to make Film (1965) with Buster Keaton and directed by Schneider, enacting Berkeleys precept ‘esse est percipi’, summer 1964; wins Prix Filmcritica, Venice 1965 and Special Jury Prize, Tours 1966; writes and issues Imaginez morte imaginez (1965); his first TV play; another follows, Eh Joe (BBC2, July 1966); glaucoma diagnosed, 1967; writes Assez and begins Le dépeupleur, Autumn 1965; trans. Textes pour rien as Texts for Nothing (1966); notified of his election by Nobel panel in telegram from Lindon (‘Dear Sam and Suzanne. In spite of everything, they have given you the Nobel Prize - I advise you to go into hiding. With affection’); receives the Prize, Oct. 1969 (with commendation for ‘sounding liberation to the oppressed and comfort to those in need’); shelters in Tunisia from world acclaim [or simply remains there when it is announced];
[ top ]
1970-97: undergoes first operation for glaucoma, Oct. 1970; second operation, Feb. 1971; Mercier et Camier and Premier amour issued by Lindon (1970); More Pricks than Kicks reprinted (1970); writes Not I, 1970 (publ. 1973), in which the part of Mouth is brilliantly played by Billie Whitelaw [d. 2014; aetat. 82] to his coaching, Jan. 1973; trans. Not I into French as Pas Moi, 1973; trans. and revises Mercier Et Camier, Aug. 1973; That Time written June 1974-Aug. 1975 (publ. 1976); directed Godot in German, Berlin March 1975; writes Footfalls, 1975; directs Pas Moi, Paris (April 1975); issues Mirlotonnades (1978), poetic sequence; issues Company/Compagnie (1979; written May 1977-Aug. 1979; performed 1980); begins Mal vu mal dit, 1980; writes Worstward Ho!, 1981 - parodying the title of a novel by Charles Kingsley itself based on Devonshire town-name (Westward Ho!, 1855); late works incl. Rockaby and Ohio Impromtu, Catastrophe, and Nacht und Träume, and ‘dramaticules’ such as Come and Go, Breath, &c.; responds to Deirdre Bair’s request for permission to write a biography with the statement that he would ‘neither help nor hinder’ [1971]; besides his Paris flat, he spent much time away from Paris in a two-room apartment at Ussy-sur-Marne, 40 miles from Paris; latterly drank in the Falstaff, in Montparnasse; composed unpublished “Mongrel Mime” [1982-83]; lent his name to the Help Quê Me campaign against Communist authorities in Vietnam (NY Review, 12 May 1982); elected Saoi of Aosdána, 1984; Waiting for Godot revived at Lincoln Centre, 1988 ((dir. Mike Nichols, with Steve Martin, Robin Williams and Bill Irwin acting; his last prose work, Stirrings Still, was printed in The Guardian (Friday, 3 March 1989, p.25); a festival of Beckett broadcast on National Public Radio (USA), also 1988; SB suffered a fall and moved from his apartment to a Tiers Temps a nursing [retirement] home, Montparnasse; watched sport on TV and read books, incl. his including his student copy of Dante’s Divina Commedia; Suzanne d. 17 July 1989; Beckett troubled by emphysema; wrote, and watched tennis and soccer on TV; d. 22 Dec.; bur. Montparnasse, Paris, in a small funeral;
[ top ]
An authorised edition of the letters was undertaken by Martina Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck; a Beckett archive was established by James Knowlson, the authorised biographer, with Prof. John Pilling, at Reading University; a two-part “Bookman” programme on Beckett was commissioned from Sean Ó Mórdha; the Beckett home, Cooldrinagh, sold for 898,000 in Summer 1996; the standard academic biography is James Knowlson, Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (1996), appearing in the same year and season as Anthony Cronin’s The Last Modernist (1996), a more informal but perhaps accurately attuned version of the life; 680 letters from Beckett to Barbara Bray were sold to TCD Library for an estimated 200,000 in early 1997; a Journal of Beckett Studies has appeared from Florida State University since 1976; Beckett always refused to appear on radio or television, with the result that his voice is unrecorded; the literary estate was latterly managed by his nephew, the musician Edward Beckett in conference with Jeromé Lindon; there are distinguished photo-ports. by John Minahan and Jane Brown (Observer); Gate production of Waiting for Godot toured to China in 2004; Gate Theatre Beckett Festival stages 19 of the plays, with various directors, Spring 2004; the Grove Centenary Edition of his collected writings was edited by Paul Auster (NY Grove 2006), with an introduction by Colm Tóibín; Krapp’s Last Tape was revived at the Gate Th., Dublin, with Michael Gambon in the solo rôle, dir. Michael Colgan, May 2010; Gerard Murphy rturned to the stage for his last role as Krapp at the Citizens Theatre in 2012, and John Hurt played Krapp for Beckett on film, dir. Atom Egoyan (2000), and again on tour in Washington, New York, and Los Angeles for Michael Colgan (Gate Th.) in 2011-12; Dr. Mark Nixon is head of the Beckett Foundation in 2011; there is an annual Samuel Beckett Summer School at TCD in July; 6 notebooks of 700 pages, with notes and doodles including sketches of Murphy in the eponymous novel [Murphy] and an off-hand caricature of James Joyce, were purchased by Reading University for the Beckett Centre for £962,500, July 2013 - and displayed June 2014; a 945pp. set of 2 notebooks for Watt is held in the Ransom Center, Texas University; Journal of Beckett Studies (Edinburgh UP) is the leading academic venue in the field; there is a Beckett Digital Manuscript Project at the Centre for Manuscript Genetics at Antwerp University; the unpublished story “Echo’s Bones” was edited by Mark Nixon for Faber & Faber in 2014; there is a Samuel Beckett Bridge on the Liffey (opened Dec. 2009); notes of Beckett's TCD lecture by Aileen Conan [of Monte Alverno, Dalkey] in Hilary Term 1931, were sold to TCD Library by Gerry Conan, a nephew. NCBE DIW DIB OCEL DIL KUN OXTH FDA HAM DUB OCIL WJM
[ top ]

Watt Notebook

Visit the Ransom Center, Univ. of Texas - online.

[ For more pages see attached.]

[ top ]

The Samuel Beckett Literary Estate
18 months before he died, Beckett as his nephew Edward Beckett, a professional flautist, to help Jérôme Lindon ‘manage things’ respecting the rights attached to his works - viz., performance permissions - in conjunction with Curtis Brown who handles the estate. From 2001 Edward Beckett was sole manager of the estate largely consisting of 19 plays and 7 novels, rigorously controlling production permission in keeping with Beckett’'s own insistence that the close details of his production notes be followed to the letter - in which spirit Beckett himself had famously refused to permit an all-female production of Waiting for Godot on the grounds that the actors lacked the necessary equipment. In 1992 the use of female actors contrary to the writer's wish was judge a violation of author's rights in a Paris court, but in 2006 a company in Pontedera, Tuscany, received court permission to do so on the basis that the theatrical roles cannot be said to belong to either gender.

 The Beckett Estate stepped in to terminate the future production of Dorothy Walker’s Footfalls with Fiona Shaw at the Garrick Theatre in 1994 when the play was given an in-the-air production with some altered text. The performance was attended by Edward Beckett who registered his surprise. The Garrick production was permitted to finish but the planned tour to France was forbidden. (The Walker-Shaw production was hilariously reviewed by S. E. Gontarksi (‘Samuel Beckett’s Madwoman in the Attic’, in Journal of Beckett Studies, Spring 1994, pp. 105-107 - available at JSTOR online]

In 2003 Edward Beckett refused to join the actors after a production of Waiting for Godot at the Belvoir St. Theatre’s 50th Anniversary performance of the playas part of the Sydney Arts Festival on account of the percussion accompaniment used in the performance.(‘War drums beat over Beckett’, in The Irish Times (17 Jan. 2003 - available online; accessed 21.12.2020.)

The Estate of Samuel Beckett
c/o Curtis Brown
Haymarket House
28/29 Haymarket
London, SW1Y 4SP UK
Fax: +44 (020) 7396 0110

Electronic contact—

EmBeckett Estate - email; or Agent - email
Website—Curtis Brown > Samuel Beckett - online