Edited by J. C. C. Mays
Murphy, Samuel Beckett's first novel, was published in 1938. Its work-shy eponymous hero, adrift in London, realises that desire can never be satisfied and withdraws from life, in search of stupor. Murphy's lovestruck fiancee Celia tries with tragic pathos to draw him back, but her attempts are doomed to failure. Murphy's friends and familiars are simulacra of Murphy, fragmented and incomplete. But Beckett's achievement lies in the brilliantly original language used to communicate this vision of isolation and misunderstanding. The combination of particularity and absurdity gives Murphy's world its painful definition, but the sheer comic energy of Beckett's prose releases characters and readers alike into exuberance.
Samuel Beckett was born in Dublin in 1906 and graduated from Trinity College. He settled in Paris in 1937, after travels in Germany and periods of residence in London and Dublin. He remained in France during the Second World War and was active in the French Resistance. From the spring of 1946 his plays, novels, short fiction, poetry and criticism were largely written in French. With the production of En attendant Godot in Paris in 1953, Beckett's work began to achieve widespread recognition. During his subsequent career as a playwright and novelist in both French and English he redefined the possibilities of prose fiction and writing for the theatre. Samuel Beckett won the Prix Formentor in 1961 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969. He died in Paris in December 1989.