Sunday, 13 April 2014

On Samuel Beckett's Birthday

Although today, April 13th, is indisputably my own birthday (thanks for your congratulations), it might not actually be Samuel Beckett's birthday, despite what you may have read on your Twitter account or elsewhere today. It pleased Samuel Beckett to believe that he was born on a Friday that was simultaneously Good Friday and Friday the 13th: April 13th, 1906.

However, according to his biographer Anthony Cronin, Beckett's birth certificate indicates that he was born a month too late for such an auspicious entry into the world, on Sunday May 13th, 1906, with the birth being registered four weeks later, in June, as was customary. Of course, it might be an error on the birth certificate. The matter remains uncertain. In his biography Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist Cronin writes "Since Beckett was on the whole truthful about such matters and on at least one occasion claimed to have the authority of his mother for the Good Friday birth-date, the balance of probability is in its favour, but it is a pity nevertheless that there should be any doubt about it."

[Image: Samuel Beckett at Riverside Studios (1984), a lithograph by Tom Phillips that is in the collection of England's National Portrait Gallery. The words are from Beckett's Worstward Ho, and have been adopted as a personal motto both by Phillips and by me.]

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