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Beckett on Film
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail Again. Fail better. -Samuel Beckett
Becket on Film backstage Samuel Beckett credits resources

Samuel Beckett: Playwright

The Writing of Samuel Beckett Samuel Barclay Beckett changed the way we see the world, and changed the way the world sees theater. He is acknowledged as one of the most important, and visionary, writers of the 20th Century, whose stark depictions of human isolation captured the spirit of a rapidly changing, chaotic world.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, the second son of an affluent Protestant family, Beckett's early years were spent in comfort. As a boy Beckett split his interests of sports and academics, excelling at both. Upon entering Trinity College in Dublin, Beckett became a star student, studying French and Italian. After graduation Beckett held several teaching positions though the appeal of academia was short lived. Beckett wandered in his early life, eventually settling in Paris where he began what was to become a prolific writing career.

When the Second World War broke out, Beckett joined the French Resistance. Narrowly escaping capture by the Gestapo, Beckett and his companion, Suzanne Descheveaux-Dumesnil (whom he would marry in 1961) spent the rest of the war in hiding. After Paris was liberated they returned and in the years immediately following, Beckett's slow-to-start career as a writer exploded with a burst of creativity that resulted in several novels, short stories, critical works, poems, and plays.

Though Beckett had been writing, and receiving praise, for several years, it was his second play that made his reputation, and remains his best-known work. "Waiting for Godot" premiered in Paris in 1953 and was an immediate success, running for over 300 performances. Soon productions followed in London and New York, and has since been performed innumerable times around the world and translated into dozens of languages.

Beckett's playwriting continued to produce a series of masterpieces through the 1960s, culminating in 1969 when Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for, in the Academy's citation, "writing, which -- in new forms for the novel and drama -- in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation." Beckett shied away from the fame and accolades preferring to continue working, perfecting his writing to be the barest essentials of expression.

From the late 1970s into the 1980s, Beckett turned more toward his prose work, though he did continue to write plays. Beckett's failing health began to affect his work. He wrote his last pieces in 1986 before being hospitalized and eventually moved into a nursing home. Beckett died in Paris on December 22, 1989, nearly six months after Suzanne died. They are buried together in Paris' Cimitière du Montparnasse.

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