Waiting for Godot: Biography

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Samuel Beckett was born into a wealthy Dublin family in Ireland 1906.  He attended Portora Royal School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he majored in French and Italian. In Paris, he wrote a dissertation on the famous French writer and philosopher Marcel Proust (1871-1922) who wrote about memory and imagination in his famous 1913, Remembrance of Things Past.  Scholars claim that Proust provides insights into understanding Beckett. After graduating Beckett decided to devote his life to writing and settled in Paris where he wrote fiction and drama in both English and French and then translated his own works. Here also he befriended the famous Irish novelist James Joyce. In the late 1930’s, immediately before World War II, he found his voice, as it were: “I began to write what I feel.” During the War, Beckett lived with Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil and worked as a courier for the French Resistance. He hid in a barn in Roussillon where he wrote his novel, Watt, “to stay sane.”


Scholars explain that Beckett experienced a difficult relationship with his mother, May, and that his work reveals this troubling dependency, a theme in Waiting for Godot.  As a result, they further maintain, Beckett experienced complex and troubled relationships with women throughout his life. While he had numerous affairs with women, when the relationships got serious, he would invariably break them off. Throughout his life, Beckett experienced psychological problems, among them depression, and sought psychotherapy at the Tavistock Clinic in London. Beckett died in 1989.


 As a writer, Beckett’s life is divided into two periods: before and after Waiting for Godot, the work that catapulted him from unknown author into a firm niche within the literary canon.  He published his enigmatic En attendant Godot in 1952 and translated it into English in 1954. The first of the author’s plays to be staged, Waiting for Godot highlights the absurdity of human existence, the hopeless search for meaning, the alienation of the individual and the inability of language to express our desires. Simultaneously thrilling and bewildering to audiences, this radical dramatic work liberated theatre by redefining dramatic boundaries and consequently influenced the way plays are written and performed.


As for his other work, his first novel Dream of Fair to Middling Women, made offensive autobiographical references and was published posthumously. His comic novel Murphy was published in 1938, his puzzling novel Watt in 1953, and in between 1951 and 1955, his trilogy of novels Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnameable. His comic existentialist Endgame was published in 1958 and How It Is, which is written in unpunctuated, unparagraphed pieces of prose that read like telegrams, in 1961. Beckett spent the rest of his life writing concentrated “distilled” dramatic forms of plays and fiction, some that contain only a few pages of text. He published Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, and Worstward Ho between 1979 and 1984. Although Beckett met with little early success, as a writer time was on his side.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969.

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