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The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett


The first edition of the letters of Samuel Beckett was authorized by the author in 1985. He facilitated the research through interviews with the editors until his death in December 1989. The project became affiliated with the Graduate School of Emory University (1990) and with their support, has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (1991-1995). Further awards from the Florence J. Gould Foundation (1992-2000) enabled The American University of Paris to become a center for the edition in France. By involving students in the work of the edition and with innovative computer applications for research and editing, the editorial process of The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett serves as a "laboratory for humanities research."

The four volumes of this edition will publish about 2500 letters from Beckett, with annotations incorporating portions of another 4000-5000 letters to, from, and about Beckett and his work. All extant letters are consulted to make this selection. To foster further scholarship, a fifth volume will include a Calendar of Extant Correspondence that records a bibliographical description of each letter consulted, as well as a selection of the letters found after publication of the chronologically appropriate volume. It is anticipated that publication will be complete by Beckett's centenary year, 2006.

The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett will give students, scholars, critics and interpreters access to primary sources now scattered in archives and private collections, providing a sound basis for future research. Through the letters, scholars will be able to trace the evolution of Beckett's work with increased insight into his choices as a writer and a glimpse into the creative process itself.

Samuel Beckett's life and work is seminal to the comparative study of languages, literature and theater in this century. As a creative innovator, Beckett extended the limits of every genre in which he worked, adapting the resources of fiction, drama, poetry and criticism to express the concerns and anxieties of the modern age. His interest in the visual arts and music pervades the work; close associations with other writers, theater artists, painters and musicians have led to collaborative works and continuing dialogue among the artists and their media. Interpreters will make discoveries to inform their own choices as actors and directors.

Through Beckett's letters the general reader will find a man whose life and art is a paradigm for the cross-currents of the twentieth century, one whose classical training brings past cultures to bear on the issues of our time. What is perhaps most striking about Beckett's work is the esteem in which it is held by the general audience, especially those for whom living is difficult. Beckett has the compassion and grace to speak to them directly. The Nobel Prize awarded in 1969 affirmed this, honoring Beckett for writing "in which the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation."

For more information about the project, contact Lois Overbeck at