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Samuel Beckett: A Celebration


Samuel Beckett
The Irish writer, Samuel Beckett, was born April 13, 1906 in Foxrock, Dublin, Ireland. His parents, William Frank Beckett and Mary Roe Beckett, provided Beckett and his older brother Frank with a comfortable Protestant, middle-class upbringing. During his school years Beckett excelled at cricket and rugby, but it was not until his third year at Trinity College, Dublin, that he began to display academic talent.

At Trinity College Beckett studied modern languages and, in 1927, he graduated first in his class. After a brief teaching job in Belfast, Beckett held the post of lecturer at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris from 1928-1930. Beckett met James Joyce during his time in Paris and he began to associate with the literary circle that centered on his fellow Dubliner. Beckett held Joyce in the highest literary regard and Joyce, in turn, admired Beckett's intelligence and affinity for silence.

Beckett's first published work, "Dante…Bruno…Vico…Joyce" (1929), was an essay on the work in progress that would become Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. At this time, he also published Proust (1931), a study on Marcel Proust's A la Recherche du Temps Perdu.

After his return to Dublin in 1931, Beckett briefly taught at Trinity College, but quickly turned away from the academic life and Dublin, both of which he found unendurable. He spent most of the mid-1930's traveling in Europe and working on his writing. A collection of stories, More Pricks than Kicks (1934), and the novel, Murphy (1938), were published in London.

With his first novel just accepted for publication, Beckett returned to Paris in October 1937. Shortly afterward he met Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil, a French pianist with whom Beckett lived for the rest of his life; they were married in 1961. During World War II, Beckett and Suzanne were members of the French Resistance, but in 1942 they were betrayed to the Gestapo and fled Paris. The Becketts continued to support the resistance while living in the southeastern French town of Roussillon, and after the war Beckett was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille de la Résistance. His novel Watt (1953) was written during his time in Roussillon.

The postwar years were Beckett's most productive period of writing, and it also marks the moment when he began writing his works in French. Many of his best-known works, including the trilogy of novels, Molloy (1951), Malone Meurt (1951), and L'Innommable (1953), were written during a creative surge in the late 1940's and early 1950's.

In October 1948, Beckett sought a break from the fiction he had been writing and decided to write a play. He had no experience in theater, yet he wrote his most renowned work, En Attendant Godot (1952; Waiting for Godot, translated by the author, 1955), in just four months. Waiting for Godot was first staged at a small theater in Paris, where it was quickly recognized as an important achievement. The play, which stunned theater audiences and definitively changed the nature of drama in the second half of the twentieth century, has been variously described as "a parable for Christian salvation, an illustration of Schopenhauer's metaphysics, an exercise in the meaninglessness of existentialism, an allegory of French resistance to German occupation or the English occupation of Ireland." Waiting for Godot earned Beckett respect and recognition in literary circles and made him famous throughout the world.

Although his following work did not received the same attention, plays such as Fin de Partie (1957; Endgame, 1958), Krapp's Last Tape (1958), and Happy Days (1962) were all well received.

In 1969 Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, for "a body of work that, in new forms of fiction and the theater, has transmuted the destitution of modern man into his exaltation." Beckett shunned the publicity that came with the honor, but unlike Jean-Paul Sartre, who rejected the prize five years earlier, Beckett accepted the award, giving the prize money away to the Library at Trinity College and to various writers and artists in need of financial support.

As Beckett's career progressed he sought to express the themes of futility and non-being in simpler language, using fewer and fewer words. Beckett wrote and directed several works for television and film, including a silent piece, Film (1964), with Buster Keaton, and two wordless pieces, Quad I and II (1988).

Beckett died in Paris, France on December 22, 1989, after a long and distinguished career as a poet, playwright, and novelist.


Sir Joseph Gold

The attorney and author Joseph Gold was born in London, England, on July 12, 1912; he died on February 22, 2000 in Bethesda, Maryland. Gold was educated at the University of London (LLB, 1935, and LLM, 1936) and Harvard University (SJD, 1942).

As an attorney Gold spent most of his career working for the International Monetary Fund's legal department. He joined the IMF in 1946 as a Counselor and served in several senior positions before becoming General Counsel and Director of the IMF's Legal Department in 1960. He retired in 1979, but served as Senior Counsel until shortly before his death. In 1980 Joseph Gold was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions as an international civil servant.

A prolific scholar on monetary law, Gold published over twenty volumes of work on the interpretation of the IMF's Articles of Agreement and other legal aspects of the Fund. Gold also served as a legal lecturer at several universities, including Southern Methodist University, University of Michigan, and Columbia School of Law. Gold's scholarly work was well respected by the legal and academic communities and he served on the editorial board of several legal journals.

Gold was also passionate about literature and was a respected collector of modern first editions of British and American writers and poets. Among the authors that interested Gold most were Dylan Thomas, Ezra Pound, Harold Pinter, and Ted Hughes, but his greatest interest was for Samuel Beckett. The more than 3,000 items in Gold's Beckett collection include books written by and about Samuel Beckett, scholarly journals, magazines, playbills, and photographs. Gold was determined that his Beckett collection be placed in an institution where it would be available for future generations. Accordingly, in December 1999, Sir Joseph donated the Samuel Beckett Collection to the University of Delaware Library, just two months before his death.

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Last modified: 12/21/10

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