Samuel Barclay Beckett (13 April 1906 22 December 1989) was an Irish dramatist, novelist and poet. Beckett's work is stark, fundamentally minimalist, and, according to some interpretations, deeply pessimistic about the human condition. The perceived pessimism is mitigated both by a great and often wicked sense of humour, and by the sense, for some readers, that Beckett's portrayal of life's obstacles serves to demonstrate that the journey, while difficult, is ultimately worth the effort. Similarly, many posit that Beckett's expressed "pessimism" is not so much for the human condition but for that of an established cultural and societal structure which imposes its stultifying will upon otherwise hopeful individuals; it is the inherent optimism of the human condition, therefore, that is at tension with the oppressive world. His later work explores his themes in an increasingly cryptic and attenuated style. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969 "for his writing, whichin new forms for the novel and dramain the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation". Beckett was elected Saoi of Aosdana in 1984. Early life and education The Beckett family (originally Becquet) were rumoured to be of Huguenot stock and to have moved to Ireland from France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, though this theory seems unlikely. The Becketts were members of the Church of Ireland. The family home, Cooldrinagh in the Dublin suburb of Foxrock, was a large house and garden complete with tennis court that was built in 1903 by Beckett's father William. The house and garden, together with the surrounding countryside where he often went walking with his father, the nearby Leopardstown Racecourse, Foxrock railway station and Harcourt Street station at the city terminus of the line, all feature in his prose and plays. At the age of five, Beckett attended a local playschool, where he first started to learn music, and then moved to Earlsford House School in the city centre near Harcourt Street. In 1919, Beckett went to Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, County Fermanaghthe school Oscar Wilde had also attended. A natural athlete, Beckett excelled at cricket as a left-handed batsman and a left-arm medium-pace bowler. Later, he was to play for Dublin University and played two first-class games against Northamptonshire. As a result, he became the only Nobel laureate to have an entry in Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, the bible of cricket. Early writings Beckett studied French, Italian and English at Trinity College, Dublin from 1923 to 1927. While at Trinity one of his tutors was the eminent Berkeley scholar and Berkelian Dr. A.A.Luce. Beckett graduated with a B.A., andafter teaching briefly at Campbell College in Belfasttook up the post of lecteur d'anglais in the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris. While there, he was introduced to renowned Irish author James Joyce by Thomas MacGreevy, a poet and close confidant of Beckett who also worked there. This meeting was soon to have a profound effect on the young man, and Beckett assisted Joyce in various ways, most particularly by helping him do research for the book that would eventually become Finnegans Wake. In 1929, Beckett published his first work, a critical essay entitled Dante...Bruno.Vico..Joyce. The essay defends Joyce's work and method, chiefly from allegations of wanton obscurity and dimness, and was Beckett's contribution to Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress, a book of essays on Joyce which also included contributions by Eugene Jolas, Robert McAlmon, and William Carlos Williams, among others. Beckett's close relationship with Joyce and his family, however, cooled when he rejected the advances of Joyce's daughter Lucia. It was also during this period that Beckett's first short story, "Assumption", was published in Jolas' periodical Transition. The next year he won a small literary prize with his hastily composed poem "Whoroscope", which draws from a biography of Rene Descartes that Beckett happened to be reading when he was encouraged to submit. In 1930, Beckett returned to Trinity College as a lecturer. He soon became disillusioned with his chosen academic vocation, however. He expressed his aversion by playing a trick on the Modern Language Society of Dublin, reading a learned paper in French on a Toulouse author named Jean du Chas, founder of a movement called Concentrism; Chas and Concentrism, however, were pure fiction, having been invented by Beckett to mock pedantry. Beckett resigned from Trinity at the end of 1931, terminating his brief academic career. He commemorated this turning point in his life by composing the poem "Gnome", inspired by his reading of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship and eventually published in the Dublin Magazine in 1934: Spend the years of learning squandering Courage for the years of wandering Through a world politely turning From the loutishness of learning. After leaving Trinity, Beckett began to travel in Europe. He also spent some time in London, where in 1931 he published Proust, his critical study of French author Marcel Proust. Two years later, in the wake of his father's death, he began two years treatment with Tavistock psychotherapist, Dr. Wilfred Bion, who took him to hear Carl Jung's third Tavistock lecture, an event which Beckett would still recall many years later. In 1932, he wrote his first novel, Dream of Fair to Middling Women, but after many rejections from publishers decided to abandon it; the book would eventually be published in 1993. Despite his inability to get it published, however, the novel did serve as a source for many of Beckett's early poems, as well as for his first full-length book, the 1933 short-story collection More Pricks Than Kicks. Beckett also published a number of essays and reviews around the time, including "Recent Irish Poetry" (in The Bookman, August 1934) and "Humanistic Quietism", a review of his friend Thomas MacGreevy's Poems (in The Dublin Magazine, JulySeptember 1934). These two reviews focused on the work of MacGreevy, Brian Coffey, Denis Devlin and Blanaid Salkeld, comparing them favourably with their Celtic Revival contemporaries and invoking Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot and the French symbolists as their precursors. In describing these poets as forming 'the nucleus of a living poetic in Ireland', Beckett was in fact tracing the outlines of an Irish poetic modernist canon. In 1935the year that Beckett successfully published a book of his poetry, Echo's Bones and Other Precipitateshe was also working on his novel Murphy. In May of that year, he wrote to MacGreevy that he had been reading about film and wished to go to Moscow to study with Sergei Eisenstein at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography in Moscow. In the summer of 1936, he wrote to Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin, offering to become their apprentices. Nothing came of this, however, as Beckett's letter was lost due to Eisenstein's quarantine during the smallpox outbreak, as well as his focus on a script re-write of his postponed film production. Beckett, meanwhile, finished Murphy, and then in 1936 departed for extensive travel around Germany, during which time he filled several notebooks with lists of noteworthy artwork that he had seen, also noting his distaste for the Nazi savagery which was then overtaking the country. Returning to Ireland briefly in 1937, he oversaw the publishing of Murphy (1938), which he himself translated into French the next year. He also had a falling-out with his mother, which contributed to his decision to settle permanently in Paris (where he would return for good following the outbreak of World War II in 1939, preferringin his own
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