“We are all born mad. Some remain so.” –Samuel Beckett
An Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, who lived in Paris for most of his adult life and wrote in both English and French. Beckett is widely regarded as among the most influential writers of the 20th century.
During the 1930s and 1940s he wrote his first novels and short stories. He wrote a trilogy of novels in the 1950s as well as famous plays like Waiting for Godot. In 1969 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His later works included poetry and short story collections and novellas.
In January 1938 in Paris, Beckett was stabbed in the chest and nearly killed when he refused the solicitations of a notorious pimp (who went by the name of Prudent). James Joyce arranged a private room for Beckett at the hospital.
Beckett joined the French Resistance after the 1940 occupation by Germany, in which he worked as a courier. On several occasions over the next two years he was nearly caught by the Gestapo. In August 1942, his unit was betrayed and he fled south on foot to the safety of the small village of Roussillon, in the Vaucluse département in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. There he continued to assist the Resistance by storing armaments in the back yard of his home. During the two years that Beckett stayed in Roussillon he indirectly helped the Maquis sabotage the German army in the Vaucluse mountains, though he rarely spoke about his wartime work in later life.
Beckett was awarded the Croix de guerre and the Médaille de la Résistance by the French government for his efforts in fighting the German occupation; to the end of his life, however, Beckett would refer to his work with the French Resistance as “boy scout stuff”. While in hiding in Roussillon, he continued work on the novel Watt (begun in 1941 and completed in 1945, but not published until 1953, though an extract had appeared in the Dublin literary periodical Envoy).
He died on 22 December 1989 in Paris, France.
An Post, issued a commemorative stamp of Beckett in 1994. The Central Bank of Ireland launched two Samuel Beckett Centenary commemorative coins on 26 April 2006: €10 Silver Coin and €20 Gold Coin.
On 10 December 2009, the new bridge across the River Liffey in Dublin was opened and named the Samuel Beckett Bridge in his honour. Reminiscent of a harp on its side, it was designed by the celebrated Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who had also designed the James Joyce Bridge further upstream opened on Bloomsday (16 June) 2003. Attendees at the official opening ceremony included Beckett’s niece Caroline Murphy, his nephew Edward Beckett, poet Seamus Heaney and Barry McGovern.