Samuel Beckett was born in the Dublin suburb of Foxrock; he attended the Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, in what became Northern Ireland, and Trinity College in Dublin. After graduating with a degree in Romance Languages in 1927, he lectured at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris from 1928 to 1930. During this time he befriended Irish author James Joyce, who was to have a profound influence on his work.

In 1930 Beckett returned to Dublin to complete his M.A. degree and to accept a lectureship in French at Trinity College. However, academic life had little appealto Beckett, and he resigned his post in 1931. In 1936 he spent a year traveling in Germany, and in 1937 he settled in Paris.

In 1940, when Paris fell to the Nazis, Beckett joined the French Resistance. However,his unit of the Resistance was betrayed in 1942 and he fled to the south of France and spent the remaining years of the war in the village of Roussillon, where he wrote the novel Watt. For his efforts in fighting the German occupation, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Medaille de Ia Resistance in 1945 by the French government. After the war Beckett returned to Paris and entered his most prolific creative period and began writing in French. In the French language he was able to break free of the English literary tradition and the erstwhile influence James Joyce whom, as much as he admired, he wanted to break from (in literary terms) so that he might discover his own creative voice. During this period he completed three novels:Molloy in 1947, Malone Dies in 1948, The Unnamable in 1950, Eleutheria and Waiting for Godot in 1949. Among his principal plays, pioneering works in the Theater of the Absurd, are Endgame (1957), Knapp's Last Tape (1959), Happy Days (1961), Play (1964), Not I (1973), That Time (1976), and Footfalls (1976).

Beckett received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1969. His 16-volume Collected Works were published in 1970.