Samuel Beckett looks miserable with success

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:


He remains hectically, miserably busy. ‘Forgive delay in answering yours of Jan 18,’ he writes to Alan Schneider in February 1966. ‘Have been up to my eyes since Xmas. Preparing and shooting here film of Play, then London for Eh Joe with Jack and a record and poetry reading with same. Back now finishing film and rehearsing new show at Odéon. Play, Come & Go, Pinget’s Hypothèse and two Ionesco shorts — Délire à Deux & La Lacune.’ When he’s not working he’s busy refusing work: declining Harvard over something or other, refusing to write an article for Esquire about the Democratic convention in Chicago, putting off Polanski from doing a film of Godot and generally ‘Fighting off TV louts on various fronts — successfully so far.’ The humiliations, the embarrassments and the frustrations never cease. ‘Abbey massacred PLAY in a big way. Have just refused them Godot. They don’t seem to have a clue.’ When he learns that the critic Richard Ellmann is ‘teaching’ Murphy at Yale he writes to a correspondent, ‘Keep off me, Dick, keep off me.’

Too late: the Dicks are all over him. These are the years when he is showered with honours: invitations to appear here, there and everywhere; enquiries and entreaties from scholars and academics; obligations to direct and oversee productions all over the world; and of course the Nobel. News of the award — which he did his best to refuse — reaches him while he’s on holiday in Tunisia and having trouble with his dentures (‘threatens to collapse any moment which would make plate unwearable and an end of speech & mastication’). ‘Should get on with translation but too overcome by mail to answer,’ he writes to Barbara Bray. ‘And by the effort now & then to look pleased.’