The Trotskyite Joyce!

Biography, Conversations, Anecdotes

Samuel Beckett

Ronald Hayman
Heinemann, 1968, ISBN 043518427X; Paperback, Out of Print. [Browse/Search for a Copy]

We do not have any information regarding this work, and would welcome any reviews or other material.

Samuel Beckett

Deirdre Bair
Summit Books, 1978, ISBN 0671691732; Paperback $20.00. [Browse/Purchase]

A keystone study of the author's life, reissued in 1990.

Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist

Anthony Cronin
De Capo Press, Reprint 1999, ISBN 0306808986; Paperback $17.95 [

From the publisher:

Samuel Beckett has always been something of an enigma. Born and raised in Ireland, he moved to France as a young man and remained there, risking his life during the war in his work with the French Resistance. Kind, generous, and often funny in real life, his plays and novels are implacably dark, filled with despair, need, and isolation. In Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist, biographer Anthony Cronin limns a deft portrait of the great writer using Beckett's letters, early fiction, and Cronin's own acquaintance with both his subject and several of Beckett's friends in Dublin. Taken together, these sources reveal a multifaceted man. . . . Anthony Cronin admirably balances his portrayal of the man and the artist, rendering the details of Beckett's uneventful life and his rich imagination in a way that fleshes out the man even as it celebrates the genius.

Samuel Beckett: Damned to Fame

James Knowlson
Simon & Schuster, 1996, ISBN 0-684-80872-2; Hardcover $35.00. [

From Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1996:

The long-awaited authorized biography of the reclusive Nobel laureate, written by Knowlson (French/Univ. of Reading, England), who was not only a friend of Beckett's and his choice to do the book, but is also a noted Beckett scholar. This volume -- based on access to Beckett's correspondence, papers, friends and colleagues, and most important, five months of interviews with the subject himself -- will stand as definitive for the foreseeable future. Knowlson traces the familiar trajectory of Beckett's career in minute detail, from his comfortable, middle-class childhood in Dublin through his difficult period of shuttling between France, Germany, and his parents' home and his abandonment of an academic career. After settling in France more or less permanently, Beckett would become actively involved with the Resistance; one of the great strengths of this volume is the attention paid to Beckett's political views and activities, which were more extensive than generally imagined. In the aftermath of the war and its privations, Beckett underwent a burst of writing activity that included the play that would make him a famous if misunderstood name, Waiting for Godot. Knowlson is preoccupied with relating events and settings to the writings, something that few Beckett observers have troubled to do in such copious detail, and the result is that the first third of the book has a jagged, discontinuous feeling. But once Beckett's career takes off in the postwar period, Knowlson's narrative flows more graciously. He is an astute commentator on the later writings in particular, explaining how Beckett's love of painting and music inspired much of his work, showing how the passing of an entire generation of Beckett's friends and family inflected the darkening vision of his later works. Above all, Knowlson offers a convincing picture of a man who was better-rounded and better-adjusted than the bleak universe he depicted: a man of surpassing wit, generosity, and kindness, deserving not only of the kudos he garnered over his long life but of a well-rounded portrait, which this most definitely is.
-- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

The World of Samuel Beckett 1906-1946

Lois G. Gordon

1. Yale University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-300-06409-8; Hardcover $45.00 [Browse/Purchase]

2. Yale University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-300-07495-6; Paperback $17.00 [Browse/Purchase]

From the publisher:

Gordon's treatment of the modernist master and author of Waiting for Godot is less harsh than the influential 1978 biography by Deirdre Bair, in which Beckett was represented as neurotic, cold, and hermitic. Gordon's study presents Beckett as an alert, even compassionate observer of his times and an heir to the Great Tradition of literary heavyweights. Much of the book focuses on the times rather than the life, summarizing political and intellectual history. Beckett once said that while James Joyce worked toward "omniscience and omnipotence as an artist," he himself worked from "impotence, ignorance." Gordon's work belies that modesty.

Conversations With and About Samuel Beckett

Mel Gussow

1. Grove Press, 1996, ISBN 0-8021-1593-4; Hardcover $21.00 [Browse/Purchase]

2. Grove Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8021-3765-2; Paperback $13.00 [Browse/Purchase]

Despite its title, this volume does not truly contain startling new and revealing interviews with the reclusive author, who shunned such activities. Instead, Gussow has assembled interviews with certain famous Beckett actors (though the ones missing are among the most important) and state executors with the editor's own play reviews and reminiscences of meetings with Beckett. While the contents are on the whole slim and the collection somewhat repetitive, there are some salient exchanges.

No Author Better Served

Samuel Beckett & Alan Schneider
Edited by Maurice Harmon

1. Harvard University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-674-62522-6; Hardcover $35.00 [Browse/Purchase]

2. Harvard University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-674-00385-3; Paperback $19.95 [Browse/Purchase]

An invaluable collection of letters between Beckett and his favourite American director, written over the course of nearly thirty years, ending with Schneider's death in 1984. Harmon manages the rare blend of humane discretion and scholarly explication, offering apposite notes on certain texts, productions, and, where the odd hiatus appears in this or that letter, a brief allusion to personal matters. Because of the advice and comments Beckett offers his director on staging his works and on taking criticism, this is a very useful book for students, teachers, directors, and actors.

Samuel Beckett: Photographs

John Minihan

George Braziller, 1996, ISBN 0807614106; Paperback $18.50 [Browse/Purchase]

From the publisher:

In a remarkable piece of photojournalism, John Minihan documents the private world of playwright-novelist Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). The expatriate Dubliner is seen directing stage productions of his work, relaxing in a hotel room, chatting with friends in a London pub, and walking the streets of his adopted home, Paris. While the photographer's preface could have been more revealing, his pictures capture -- and humanize -- that most enigmatic of literary figures.

Samuel Beckett

Gerry Dukes
Overlook Press, 2002, ISBN 1585672661; Paperback $19.95 [

From the publisher:

Many of the items collected in this volume have never been published, among them the transcription of a 1938 letter from James Joyce to Beckett's brother Frank, assuring that Beckett was recovering under the Joyce family's care after an unprovoked stabbing by a Paris pimp. Photos from many of Beckett's play productions, his childhood home and family in Dublin, and manuscript pages complement an incisive biography by Beckett scholar Gerry Dukes, providing a unique introduction to the life and work of one of drama's great masters.

Go To:

Criticism Main Page -- Returns you to the Main Criticism page and the Quick Reference Card of titles.

General Criticism -- General literary criticism or commentary on Beckett and his writing.

Prose -- Guides and criticism for specific works of prose, critique, and poetry.

Drama -- Guides and criticism for specific dramatic works and stage pieces.

Specific Criticism -- Beckett criticism with a specific angle: existential, psychological, religious, nationalist, feminist, etc.

Theatre & the Arts -- Criticism and biography relating to Beckett in performance and non-print media.

Comparative -- Studies of Beckett in context with other authors or artists.

--Tim Conley
& A. Ruch
8 March 2003

"Damn the mail" -- Send email to Apmonia's Tim Conley and the Great Quail -- comments, suggestions, corrections, criticisms, submissions . . . all are welcome!