Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, who lived in Paris for most of his adult life and wrote in both English and French. He is widely regarded as among the most influential writers of the 20th century.
Beckett’s work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human existence, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour, and became increasingly minimalist in his later career. He is considered one of the last modernist writers, and one of the key figures in what Martin Esslin called the “Theatre of the Absurd”. Beckett was awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his writing, which—in new forms for the novel and drama—in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation.” He was elected Saoi of Aosdána in 1984. Here, we are sharing some of the popular quotes and saying by Samuel Barclay Beckett.
“Memories are killing. So you must not think of certain things, of those that are dear to you, or rather you must think of them, for if you don’t there is the danger of finding them, in your mind, little by little.”
One of the most eminent thinkers of the present era Samuel Beckett is remembered mostly for his enormous contribution to the theatre of absurd which is pioneer to the philosophy of finding absurdity in life. In his philosophical teaching this quotation is relevant for us to have a different perspective of memory which when confronted unprepared, becomes fatal for one with its destructive nature. Hence according to Beckett it is rather useful to think of one’s memory so that the sudden unwanted recurring of some thoughts does not paralyse an otherwise healthy living.
“Perhaps my best years are gone. When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now. No, I wouldn’t want them back.”
In Beckett’s famous work Krapp’s Last Tape these lines occur. Irrelevant to the context this is best suited for anybody who has walked far through his/her age and at some point wishes to look back and tries to have a glimpse of the collections and those which were left-over in order to have a self evaluation of the life lived so far. It might have been much happier in the past or otherwise, but one should not wish to get that time back because there is no use of it. That which is past will never come back with the same flavour no matter how desperate one may be to live in the past.
“No, I regret nothing, all I regret is having been born, dying is such a long tiresome business I always found.”
A very close resemblance to Buddhist philosophy of life and death is identifiable in this quotation. The matter of taking birth is considered as the prime sin and thus life becomes the process of purgation in order to achieve the ultimate peace through the serene death. Here also Beckett utters the same sentiment that he does not regret anything apart from being born into this world; his activities being merely chain reactions to the event of birth. The only thing that he waits for and finds peace and recognition in is death but the course of life seems to be too long to get close to attain death.
“The end is in the beginning and yet you go on.”
This is in Endgame, one of Beckett’s masterpieces, a completely different context than the previous quotation, but the very same idea of the absurdity of life resonates here too. Beckett describes life as a circle where the end of everything is marked at the very beginning itself and yet the process of its life takes a prolonged journey to complete. The moment when anything starts, its end is ensured and is only matter of time and this ‘time’ of reaching the end is an absurd passage that everybody has to undergo.
“You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that.”
The post-modernist notion of everything vague and the modernist concept of hollowness in human existence is prominent in Beckett’s utterance of this line as he points out the fact that being human is a curse in itself because on earth there is no place for a wise human being. So no matter how benevolent one can be the necessary vices of an earthly life, with all its materialistic approaches and competitive endeavour to not only survive but surpass all others, can never be turned down and it will always try to spoil anything that attempts to be pure.
“The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh.”
Samuel Beckett’s magnum opus, Waiting for Godot is the source of these lines and conveys his worldview in a rather humorous tone. One can almost find resemblance to Newton’s law of mass in this context as Beckett assumes to measure the quantity of our sorrow. In a light approach Beckett determines that the total amount of universal sorrow is constant; it only changes place and touches everyone at some point or the other. If at all one finds himself/ herself in great distress it should be believed that the distress is only temporary and we should not lose our hope.
“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
One of Beckett’s optimistic teachings and an existentialist view of life and one’s endeavour are reflected in this quotation. It is really inspiring in its temperament. There are many who never try anything new and remain confined in a self restricted territory. It is rather demoralising than respectful. Beckett is of the opinion that failure is better than not trying; even repetition of failure is also of no harm because it gives a better understanding of finding and thereby excluding the ways of not to find the success. Someday or the other it will definitely lead to success.
“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
Yet another similar inspiring quotation from the master is this. Here Beckett declares his limitation and yet announces his will to go on. It is an indomitable spirit that never admits failure even if it attains destruction. Life is found in the moments lived in attempt of progress; the attainment of success is irrelevant. If one stops walking because he/ she can’t walk anymore, the journey ends; the amount of time he lives after stopping will not be counted. But if he keeps on crawling, there will be progress as long as he moves on.
“My mistakes are my life.”
This is a very bold comment about himself that Beckett makes in this quote. Critics may start debating about his credentials and find new energy to dig into his academic and personal career in search of testimony to such claim. But if one wants to find inspiring element through this comment there are ample scopes to understand that the very idea of learning from one’s mistakes is again recurring in this line. Therefore mistakes become the actual teacher in life. The amount of mistake one has committed does not denote one’s incapability, rather identifies how experienced he/ she is.
“Poets are the sense, philosophers the intelligence of humanity.”
Among all his quotes about humanity, morality and absurdity in life Samuel Beckett does proper justice to the generation of poets and philosophers in this line as with no hesitation he states the importance and necessity of them in human society. The society is crippled without philosophers and thinkers as they consist the central nervous system being the main driving forces towards sensibility. Just like Aristotle supported poets in his Poetics in the ancient ages and Philip Sidney did in An Apology for Poetry in the Sixteenth Century, Beckett almost holds a similar stance in saying this in the post modern age.
Hope you’ve drawn some inspiration by reading the Top 10 Samuel Beckett’s Quotes. Do visit Beaminngnotes for interesting poem summaries and quotes.