The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume 1, 1929-1940
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About the Author
Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) was born in Dublin, Ireland. He was educated at Portora Royal School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated in 1927. He made his poetry debut in 1930 with Whoroscope and followed it with essays and two novels before World War II. He wrote one of his most famous plays, Waiting for Godot, in 1949 but it wasn't published in English until 1954. Waiting for Godot brought Beckett international fame and firmly established him as a leading figure in the Theater of the Absurd. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969. He continued to write prolifically for radio, television, and the theater until his death in 1989.
The Los Angeles Times
"Admirers of Samuel Beckett, arguably the greatest writer in English of the second half of the twentieth century, have grown used to waiting for Godot, who will surely come tomorrow or, just possibly, the day after. In the meantime, these similarly anticipated letters have quite definitely arrived, and in an edition more sumptuous than one ever imagined. Has any modern author been better served by his editors than Beckett? ... Best of all, each letter is annotated in detail, with every person, event and allusion scrupulously identified."
Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"The editorial work behind this project has been immense in scale. Every book that Beckett mentions, every painting, every piece of music is tracked down and accounted for ... The standard of the commentary is of the highest ... The Letters of Samuel Beckett is a model edition."
J. M. Coetzee, The New York Review of Books
"It is hard to credit the magisterial scholarship and publishing expertise that has gone into the editing of this first of four volumes of the letters of Samuel Beckett. Reading [it] is like rediscovering Beckett the man in high definition and hearing in full stereo the emerging voice that would, quite literally, transform the world of literature and theatre in the last half of the twentieth century ... a breathtaking and essential work of human understanding ... This is a great book; simply priceless."
Gerald Dawe, The Sunday Business Post
"For all of us who love Samuel Beckett, there can be no more thrilling book. These letters not only cast light on his life and work, they are a considerable addition to his writing ... This is a volume to treasure, not just study. No Beckett reader will need it recommended, merely announced."
David Sexton, The Evening Standard
"This first volume of letters presents a young, itinerant Beckett at 22, living in Paris and writing to James Joyce. His first works are coming out: a study of Proust, a book of poetry, short stories and a novel, Murphy. In these letters, as in his career, he is warming up, assembling a style. Beckett grumbles better than anyone in the history of literature ... Here is a Beckett absent from the more polished, public works: simultaneously feeling and writing, caring for words yet movingly unguarded."
Daniel Swift, The Financial Times
"One of the highlights of the year was the publication of The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1929-1940 ... Every page is a hoot. Beckett comes across as even smarter, and more smarting, than one already knew."
Paul Muldoon, 'Books of the Year 2009', Times Literary Supplement
"The first of four projected, this first volume is a marvel."
"In literary annals, 2009 may well go down as the year that saw the publication of not this or that novel, set of poems, or 'important' theory book, but, quirkily enough, the first of four promised volumes of the letters of Samuel Beckett ... Can a writer's letters - occasional and ephemeral as these tend to be - really qualify as great literature? In Beckett's case, yes. For here is the most reticent of twentieth-century writers, one who refused to explain his plays and fictions, wrote almost no formal literary criticism, and refused to attend his own Nobel Prize ceremony - revealing himself in letter after letter as warm, playful, unfailingly polite even at his most vituperative and scatological, irreverent but never cynical, and, above all, a brilliant stylist whose learning is without the slightest pretension or preciosity."
Marjorie Perloff, Bookforum
"There is fluent and brilliant evidence here of Beckett's development of his unique and irreplaceable voice ... Unfalteringly brilliant, this volume is of the same order as the letters of Van Gogh, or the diaries of Kafka."
Nicholas Foxton, Time Out
"Beautifully edited and annotated."
Philip Hensher, The Spectator
"This is an important work of impeccable scholarship directed not only at Beckett academics but informed fans seeking the man behind Godot. This volume is a landmark in our quest to understand Beckett's great esoteric works and has definitely been worth the wait."
The Washington Independent Review of Books
"One can hardly wait for Volume 2."
John Walsh, The Independent
"For Beckett enthusiasts, these letters are crammed with unexpected treasures, including displays of his dazzling erudition as an amateur art historian and his charmingly impractical ideas for the alternative careers he might pursue: gallery curator? Advertising man? Commercial pilot? Assistant to the Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein? There will be three more volumes in this admirable series; the next will cover 1945 to 1956 (the year Waiting for Godot was first produced in Britain, and the unknown author suddenly became world famous). Like Vladimir and Estragon, we fans will find it hard to wait."
Kevin Jackson, The Sunday Times
"The most bracing read [of 2009] was The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1929-1940, a portrait of the Dubliner as a young European with a hard gemlike gift for language, learning and mockery. Beckett's genius exercises itself most exuberantly in the correspondence with Thomas MacGreevy, another Irish poet more at home in Paris, his senior but his soulmate. Constantly Beckett is veering between certainty about his need to write and doubt about the results, all expressed in prose that is undoubting, delighted and demanding."
Seamus Heaney, 'Books of the Year 2009', Times Literary Supplement