Beckett’s WorksJune 28, 2021
The 1960s were a time of change for Beckett, both as a writer and personally.
He married Suzanne in 1961 in a secret ceremony in England, mostly for reasons related to French inheritance law. Upon the success of his plays, he was invited to rehearsals and plays in many parts of the world. At the end of this process, he had a new career as a theater director. In 1956 he received a fee for the radio play All Those Who Have Fallen for the first time from the BBC Third Programme. He continued to write sporadically for radio plays, eventually also writing for film and television. He also started to write his works again in English. On the other hand, he continued to write some of his works in French until the end of his life.
Actor Cary Elwes tells in the video-diary attached to the DVD of The Princess Bride that Beckett was neighbors with the Roussimoff family and that the family dropped one of their children to school every day because the boy was too big to get on the bus. This boy named André René Roussimoff would later become professional wrestler André the Giant (Giant André).
Beckett learned that he had won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969 while on vacation with Suzanne in Tunisia. Suzanne described the award as a “disaster”, seeing that her husband, who was overly devoted to her private life, would carry the burden of fame from then on. Beckett didn’t go to get his award. While Beckett did not devote much time to conversations, he did occasionally meet in person with artists, literary scholars, and fans who called him in the lobby of Paris’ Hotel PLM, near his Montparnasse home.
Suzanne died on July 17, 1989. Beckett, who suffered from emphysema and possibly Parkinson’s and was in a nursing home, also died in December that same year. The two are buried together in Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris and share a marble tombstone that complies with Beckett’s “any color as long as it’s gray” directive.
Beckett’s career as a writer can be roughly divided into three periods: His first works, which would last until the end of World War II; the middle period, from 1945 to the early 1960s, when he produced probably his best-known works; The last period, lasting from the early years of the 1960s until his death. In this recent period Beckett’s work has tended to be much shorter and his style much more minimalist.
Beckett’s early works were heavily influenced by the works of his friend James Joyce. Some parts of these meticulous texts, written in a language that can be considered a derivative of Joyce’s style, are quite incomprehensible. The opening sentences of the book Loveless Relations (1934), which is a collection of short stories, can be given as an example of this style:
It was morning, and Belacqua was stuck in the first of the cantos on the moon. He was so confused, he couldn’t understand anything. Cheerful Beatrice was there, and so was Dante; Beatrice explained to him the silhouettes seen on the moon one by one. First she showed where she was mistaken, then she quoted her own explanations. All of this was God’s teaching to Beatrice, so Belacqua could count on their righteousness.
This chapter is full of references to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and is confusing for readers unfamiliar with this work. Here, however, there are many indications of Beckett’s later works: the physical inactivity of Belacqua’s character, his obsession with his own thoughts, the irreverently comical last sentence, and so on.
Similar elements appear in Beckett’s first published novel, Murphy (1938). The recurring themes of madness and chess in his later works are also present to some extent in this novel. The opening sentence of the novel hints at the pessimistic undertones and dark humor that give life to all of Beckett’s works: The sun was always shining on the same world, because he had no choice. II. Watt, written while hiding in Roussillon during World War II, contains the same themes but has a less exuberant style. In some parts of this novel, human movements are constructed like mathematical permutations. This foreshadows the concern with precise definition of movements that would appear in Beckett’s later plays and novels.
It was during this period that Beckett began to write literary texts in French. Contrary to the intensity of the poems written in the same period in English and collected in the book Echo’s Bones and Other Precipitates (1935), the purity in some of the short poems written in French shows that Beckett initiated the simplification of his style, which is also evident in Watt, albeit by using another language.
After the Second World War, Beckett turned to French as a literary language. With this choice, the “experience” described above, living in his mother’s room in Dublin, which made him realize that his art must be subjective and emanate entirely from his inner world, would result in Beckett giving his best known works.
During the fifteen years after the war Beckett wrote four long plays: En atte.