Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett

Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett

Paperback

By (author) James Knowlson

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  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • Format: Paperback | 896 pages
  • Dimensions: 130mm x 196mm x 60mm | 739g
  • Publication date: 4 September 1997
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0747531692
  • ISBN 13: 9780747531692
  • Edition: New edition
  • Edition statement: New edition
  • Illustrations note: Illustrations, ports.
  • Sales rank: 145,152

Product description

Samuel Beckett's long-standing friend, James Knowlson, recreates Beckett's youth in Ireland, his studies at Trinity College, Dublin in the early 1920s and from there to the Continent, where he plunged into the multicultural literary society of late-1920s Paris. The biography throws new light on Beckett's stormy relationship with his mother, the psychotherapy he received after the death of his father and his crucial relationship with James Joyce. There is also material on Beckett's six-month visit to Germany as the Nazi's tightened their grip.;The book includes unpublished material on Beckett's personal life after he chose to live in France, including his own account of his work for a Resistance cell during the war, his escape from the Gestapo and his retreat into hiding.;Obsessively private, Beckett was wholly committed to the work which eventually brought his public fame, beginning with the controversial success of "Waiting for Godot" in 1953, and culminating in the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969.;James Knowlson is the general editor of "The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett".

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Author information

James Knowlson is Emeritus Professor of French at the University of Reading where he founded the Beckett Archive (now the Beckett International Foundation). He was a friend of Samuel Beckett for twenty years and is his authorised biographer, publishing Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett with Bloomsbury in 1996. He has written or edited many other books and essays on Beckett and modern drama, including most recently Images of Beckett with theatre photographer John Haynes.

Review quote

'A landmark in scholarly criticism... Knowlson is the world's largest Beckett scholar. His life is right up there with George Painter's Proust and Richard Ellmann's Joyce in sensitivity and fascination' Daily Telegraph 'Essential, not only for the fact and details it offers, but for emphasising less well-known aspects of Beckett's life... the result is a clear, authoritative and exhaustively annotated biography' Independent on Sunday 'A triumph of scholarship and sympathy... James Knowlson presents us here with a tremendous act of elucidation and synthesis, ballasted with hitherto unseen diaries and underpinned by the bonus of Beckett's own plain reminiscences... Its amplitude, its oceanic research and tireless intelligence, its pacing and verve and critical acuity mark it as one of the great post-war biographies. Whatever celestial or infernal zone he currently occupies, Beckett must be permitting himself a brief wintry smile at last' Independent 'It is hard to imagine a fuller portrait of the man who gave our age some of the myths by which it lives' Evening Standard

Editorial reviews

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. (Kirkus Reviews)