Samuel Barclay Beckett grew up in a suburb of Dublin, Ireland, a Protestant in a Catholic country and therefore something of an exile in his own land. He attended Trinity College in Dublin, where he discovered his talent for languages and studied English, French, and Italian. He taught for two terms at Campbell College in Belfast and then, in 1928, traveled to Paris, where he lectured in English at the ècole Normale Supèrieure. It was during this tenure that he met his countryman James Joyce. Beckett returned to Ireland to teach four terms at Trinity College, but, in 1932, after much consideration and anguish, he left the teaching profession for good, convinced that he could not survive as a writer in academe. For the next five years, he wandered through Europe, and, in 1937, he settled in Paris permanently. It was in Paris that Beckett died in 1989, at the age of eighty-three.
There were probably many reasons for Beckett’s self-imposed exile and for his decision to write in a language not his by birth, but surely one reason was the influence of Joyce, who recommended exile for artists. It would be difficult to overestimate the effect that Joyce had on Beckett’s life and work. In the late 1930’s, the younger Irishman was an intimate member of Joyce’s inner circle. He worked on a translation of Joyce’s “Anna Livia Plurabelle” into French, took dictation for his friend, wrote a critical study of Joyce’s writings, ran errands for the Irish...
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