Beckett's entire literary output, the narrative prose as well as the dramatic works, reduce basic existential problems to their most essential features. Thus his concerns are fundamental, but never simplistic - the evanescence of life; time and eternity; the individual's sense of loneliness and alienation as a result of the impossibility of establishing genuine communication and contact with others; the mystery of self.

Beckett's major early works constitute a trilogy of interior monologues: Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnameable (1953; Eng. trans., 1958). in these explores the paradox of the self that can never know itself; in the very act of observing itself the self splits in two, an observing consciousness and an object that is being observed. The self perceives itself as a stream of words, a narration. Each time it tries to catch up with itself, it merely turns into another story, thus putting before the reader a succession of storytellers. Beckett's other prose works also view in various ways the entrapment and anguish of the individual in increasingly grotesque situations and the self's quest for identity from within. These include Murphy (1938); Watt (1953), his last novel in English; and, Stories and Texts for Nothing (1955), a collection of short stories. He has also written radio and television plays. In his later stage and television plays, Beckett's style is so concise that each work is ultimately reduced to a highly compressed and immensely powerful image.

*Critique Text Copyright © 1993 Grolier Incorporated

Waiting for Godot was first performed at the Theatre Babylone in Paris in 1953, and soon won Beckett international acclaim. Written in French and translated into English by the author, the play fused music-hall style comedy with philosophic musings about the nature of human existence. Its nearly bare stage and disconnected dialogue defied the conventions of realistic theater, and both puzzled and captivated early audiences. With the international success of the play, Beckett's literary and economic situation turned, and publisher's were soon eager to bring out all of his work. From 1953 onward he wrote in both English and French, and translating his own work from the original language in which it was composed to the other. From 1967 onward he staged most of his own plays,chiefly in Germany and France. Beckett continued to write fiction as well: How It Is(1961), The Lost Ones (1972), and three short novels: Company (1980), Ill Said Ill Seen (1981)and Worstward Ho (1983)- these were published as the trilogy Nohow On in 1986. The novels of Nohow On contain ghostly, almost mystical scenes from a narrator's memory, all in Beckett's compact prose. At his death, Beckett was hailed as the most innovative and influential dramatist of the 20th century for his unconventional approach to language and plot and his uncompromising, often shocking dramatizations of human relationships.

by S.E. Gontarsli





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