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The Letters of Samuel Beckett


  • 18 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 866 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 1.32 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: n/a
  • Dewey version: n/a
  • LC Classification: PR6003.E282 Z48 2009
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Beckett, Samuel,--1906-1989--Correspondence
    • Authors, Irish--20th century--Correspondence
    • Authors, French--20th century--Correspondence

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521867931)

The letters written by Samuel Beckett between 1929 and 1940 provide a vivid and personal view of Western Europe in the 1930s, and mark the gradual emergence of Beckett's unique voice and sensibility. The Cambridge University Press edition of The Letters of Samuel Beckett offers for the first time a comprehensive range of letters of one of the greatest literary figures of the twentieth century. Selected for their bearing on his work from over 15,000 extant letters, the letters published in this four-volume edition encompass sixty years of Beckett's writing life (1929–1989), and include letters to friends, painters and musicians, as well as to students, publishers, translators, and colleagues in the world of literature and theatre. For anyone interested in twentieth-century literature and theatre this edition is essential reading, offering not only a record of Beckett's achievements but a powerful literary experience in itself.

• The only authorised publication of Beckett's selected letters • The most important new contribution to Beckett scholarship for decades, making his letters accessible to scholars for the first time • Includes chronologies, explanatory notes, profiles of correspondents, manuscript descriptions and index


General introduction; French translator's preface George Craig; German translator's preface Viola Westbrook; Editorial procedures; Acknowledgments; Permissions; Abbreviations; Introduction to Volume 1; Letters, 1929–1940; Appendix; Profiles; Bibliography; Index.

Prize Winner

Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2009 - Winner

Morton N. Cohen Award for a Distinguished Edition of Letters, Modern Language Association 2009–10 - Winner


'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 … 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

'There is so much in the pages of this volume, and the editors honour both the writer and the reader with the painstaking detail with which they frame each carefully chosen letter. The excitement generated in this reader is not only from the perusal of the contents of this amazing collection of correspondence but of the promise of three more volumes to come.' Beverley Curran, Journal of Irish Studies

'The first volume of Beckett's letters, The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1929–1940 (Cambridge University Press), was the funniest, most intelligent and most poignant book I read this year, and since three more volumes are promised by Cambridge University Press we should be moved and entertained for some years to come.' Gabriel Josipovici, The Times Literary Supplement

'This edition is beautiful to read. It sets the very highest standards of presentation and organizes inherently complex and often partial material most coherently. For example, many letters written to Beckett are lost, yet the reader is able to infer the tone and scope of his correspondence through the editors' meticulous annotation.' M. S. Byron, The Review of English Studies

'One can hardly wait for Volume Two.' John Walsh, The Independent

'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. … 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, The Times Literary Supplement

'… 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

'Be in no doubt about it, if Godot and Molloy lit up the dreary landscape of writing in the immediate post-war era, these letters are set to do the same for the new century.' Gabriel Josipovici, The Times Literary Supplement

'Beautifully edited and annotated.' Philip Hensher, The Spectator

'Since Samuel Beckett was incapable of writing a duff sentence, the first volume of his letters, 25 years in the making, has been awaited with high anticipation … There are, of course, some superbly dark Beckettisms among these letters. His most characteristic utterances are what he calls 'shining agates of negation'.' Jonathan Bate, The Sunday Telegraph

'Judging by this exemplary inaugural selection, the overall enterprise promises to be an extraordinary commitment, not only to the scholarly virtues of patience, concentration and scrupulousness but to a deep sense of the cultural value of the writer as a twentieth-century avatar … we must be grateful for the opportunity this magnificent work of scholarship provides to reflect on what there is to be known, and the conflicts and crises its subject underwent in his fidelity to the strange, demanding and all too human need to speak his mind.' George O'Brien, Dublin Review of Books

'Impossible to mistake these letters for anyone else's work. Parts of them read like a nonfictionalized version of a Beckett novel.' Robin Moroney, The Wall Street Journal

'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 …' Marjorie Perloff, Bookforum

'It would be an understatement to say we look forward to the sequel.' Bert Keizer, The Threepenny Review

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