Samuel Beckett: Sound and Silence
February 15, 2013
Samuel Beckett was a world renown author of poetry, novels, and theatrical plays. He was born in Ireland and spent much of his adult life in Paris. His works were primarily written in French, and then translated, many times by the author himself, into English. He is known for creating works of dark comedy, and absurdism, and later in his career a minimalist. Due to his late start as an author, he is considered one of the last modernists, along with his good friend and mentor James Joyce. Samuel Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969, and was upset by the selection, claiming that James Joyce should have won it. For this reason he gave most of the 70,000 dollar prize to charities.
Beckett was born to a well off Protestant family in Dublin, Ireland, and matched much of the pursuits that this affluence predicted. He excelled as a pianist, in track, boxing, tennis, and most notably in Cricket. He still stands as the only Nobel Laureate with a listing in Wisden’s Cricketers Almanack, considered the oldest running sports publication in the world. Beckett was born on April 13, 1906, a date reported by Beckett himself. Beckett also claims that this is not entirely accurate, as he has recollection of being in his mother’s womb. The legal system refutes this even further, with legal documents reporting his birth a month later. As he grew older, Beckett turned more and more towards academia, and enrolled in Trinity College at the age of 17, where he studied French and Italian. During this time he was also exposed to theatre, as well as the silent films of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, all of which would have an influence on his future writings. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree from Trinity College in 1927, Beckett travelled to France, and was introduced to James Joyce, who was enjoying the success and fame of his books Ulysses, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The two men became friends, with much in common, including the rhyme and rhythm of words themselves. Joyce proved to be a great influence on Beckett. It was during this time that Beckett published his first short story, “Assumption” (1929) and his first award winning poem in “Whoroscope” in 1930, winning 10 pounds from The Hours Press. In 1931 Beckett returned to Dublin, where he penned a novel, which was later re-released in the series of stories, More Pricks Than Kicks in 1934. He took a job as an instructor at Campbell College, Belfast, but the job turned out to be an ill-fated and short job. Beckett turned out to be a harsh critic of his student’s work, and graded them accordingly, which drew many complaints and soon admonishment from the headmaster. When told that the students represented the best of what Belfast had to offer, Beckett only allowed that they were “rich and thick.” On a more famous note was his admission of a paper to the Modern Languages Society allegedly written by the French poet Jean du Chas, on the Concentricism movement, which several of the Society backed, vowing for du Chas’ relevance. Beckett had invented the entire movement, the paper and the author. This type of thing led to Beckett’s removal from instructing, and his disdain for the teaching profession as a whole. Given how the “experts” treated a work of complete fiction, it also foreshadowed his own disregard of critics later in life. These years also started the estrangement of Beckett from his mother, which would become a source from which his writings would draw from for years to come. Indeed, his novel Dream of Fair to Midling Women is widely regarded as very autobiographical, and began the development of Beckett’s unique writing style. After wandering for much of this period, Beckett settled in Paris by 1937, where he finished and published his work, Murphy. The next major event in his live occurred when he was walking home one...
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