Samuel Beckett was born on April 13, 1906, in Dublin, Ireland, to William Frank Beckett, a civil engineer, and May Barclay, a nurse. The family belonged to the Church of Ireland. In 1919 he attended Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, where he excelled at cricket. In Trinity College, Dublin, he studied French, Italian, and English from 1923 to1927 and graduated with a B.A. He taught at Campbell College in Belfast and then became an English lecturer at a school in Paris where he met James Joyce and helped him do research for Finnegan’s Wake. He defended Joyce’s method of writing in a book of critical essays on Joyce in 1929. Beckett published poems, literary criticism, taught, and laid down his idea of a modern Irish poetic tradition. In 1933 he published his first book of short stories, More Pricks than Kicks. In 1935 he published a book of poetry, Echoes Bones and Other Precipitates. When he returned to Ireland he published his novel Murphy in 1938.
Beckett remained in Paris during World War II, associating with other artists such as Joyce and Marcel Duchamp. He began a lifelong companionship with Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil, with whom he worked in the French Resistance Movement during the German occupation of France. In 1945 back in Ireland, Beckett had a revelation that his literary path was opposite to the style of James Joyce: he would work with themes of ignorance in a minimalistic rather than lavish style. Beckett continued writing novels in French but became famous with his play “Waiting for Godot” (1953), a play in which nothing happens. It was written in French and became popular in Paris. He then translated it into English for its London premier in 1955. This began his successful career in the theater with “Endgame” (1957), “Krapp’s Last Tape” (1958), “Happy Days” (1961), and “Play” (1963).
In 1961 he married his companion Suzzane and became a theater director. He wrote for radio, TV, and cinema. In 1969 he won the Nobel Prize in literature. He died December 22, 1989, of emphysema and possibly Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes thought of as the last Modernist, his avant-garde work depicts the human condition in dark terms and black humor. He influenced other absurdist writers like Harold Pinter, but even beyond style, his work, especially “Waiting for Godot,” is considered among the most important of twentieth-century drama.