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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett (1906 - 1989) was born on Good Friday, April 13, 1906 to William Frank Beckett, a 35 year old Civil Engineer, and May Barclay (also 35 at Beckett's birth).

A natural athlete, Beckett played two first-class cricket matches for his university, Trinity College Dublin, against Northamptonshire in the Twenties. He was a left-handed batsman and a left-arm medium-pace bowler.

Beckett is the only Nobel laureate to have an entry in Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, the bible of cricket.

After graduating from Dublin, Becket took up the post of lecteur d'anglais in the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. He found himself there a member of the same circle of artists as renowned Irish writer James Joyce. Beckett assisted Joyce in various ways, one of which was research towards the book that became Finnegans Wake.

Beckett's close relationship with Joyce and his family cooled, however, when he rejected the advances of Joyce's daughter Lucia owing to her progressing schizophrenia.

In 1932, Beckett wrote his first novel, Dream of Fair to Middling Women, but after many rejections from publishers decided to abandon it (it was eventually published in 1993).

In January 1938 in Paris, Beckett was stabbed in the chest and nearly killed when he refused the solicitations of a notorious pimp called Prudent.  A tennis acquaintance of Beckett’s, Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil, heard about the attack and visited Beckett regularly in the hospital during his two week stay. 

Beckett and Suzanne, who was six years older, fell in love, lived together for many years, and eventually married in 1961.

Beckett joined the French Resistance after the 1940 occupation by Germany, in which he worked as a courier. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government for his efforts in fighting the German occupation.

Beckett first won international acclaim for his play En attendant Godot, which was first performed in Paris in 1952, and then in his own translation as Waiting for Godot in London in 1955 and New York in 1956.

He was renowned for the bleakness of his work. Beckett's most well-known line of prose was arguably: "Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Samuel Beckett bought some land in 1953 near a hamlet around 60 km (40 mi) northeast of Paris. He built a cottage for himself with the help of Boris Roussimoff, the father of French professional wrestler and actor André the Giant. 

Beckett used to drive a young André the Giant to school in his truck because he was too large for the bus. When André recounted the drives with Beckett, he revealed that they rarely talked about anything other than cricket.

In October 1969 while on holiday in Tunis with his wife Suzanne, Beckett heard that he had won the Nobel Prize For Literature. In true ascetic fashion, he gave away all of the prize money.

Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil and Samuel Beckett

Confined to a nursing home and suffering from emphysema and possibly Parkinson's disease, Samuel Beckett died on December 22, 1989. He was interred together with his wife Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris. They share a simple granite gravestone that follows Beckett's directive that it should be "any colour, so long as it's grey."


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