Novelist, poet, dramatist. Nobel Prize for Literature (1969)
Beckett was born in Foxrock, a prosperous area of Dublin. He attended Portora Royal School in Enniskillen where Oscar Wilde had attended before him. There he excelled at playing cricket, rugby and at boxing. He went to college at Trinity College Dublin where he briefly taught French.
Having become a trusted friend of James Joyce, whom he met in Paris, he settled there from 1937 until 1942. On one occasion, in 1938, he was stabbed in the street by a local pimp. A passing student, Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil, helped him and called an ambulance. The close relationship which started then survived service together in the French wartime Resistance, their betrayal to the Gestapo, and their escape together. They were married at last, in 1961, and Beckett outlived Suzanne by less than a year.
Beckett experimented with writing poetry and drama from the 1920s. His first novel to be published, in 1938, was Murphy. After his next novel, Watt, finished in 1946, he turned to writing primarily in French ("the better to write without a style" he commented), and later translating his works into English.
The great period of work which won him the Nobel Prize began with the trilogy of novels Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnameable, finished in 1950. The play En Attendant Godot, translated by himself as Waiting for Godot, won him worldwide fame and notoriety for its unconventional blending of comedy and despair, after the first production in 1953.
He followed these successes with many others, written in an increasingly spare style, paring down the text to its barest essentials. Apart from novels and plays, he composed original work for radio, television, and film, and was still adding to a series of enigmatic prose texts even in his last few years.