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12 Tragicomic Facts about Samuel Beckett

Born in 1906 in Dublin, Ireland, Samuel Beckett was a playwright, novelist, and poet who wrote about solitude, despair, and futility. Writing in both English and French, Beckett used dark humor to explore the human condition. He died at age 83 in 1989, but in honor of his birthday, here are a dozen facts about his life and work

1. BECKETT BROKE LITERARY RULES BY WRITING BOOKS WITHOUT CHARACTERS AND PLOT.

Considered one of the last Modernists, or sometimes the first Postmodernist, Beckett wrote novels and plays with minimal characters, plot, and scenery. Dubbed “Theatre of the Absurd,” Beckett’s plays—such as his most famous, Waiting For Godot—pessimistically portray the human condition as one that is hopeless and meaningless. The minimal characters and plot reflect this bleak view of life.

2. HE BEFRIENDED JAMES JOYCE, BUT THE TWO WRITERS HAD A FALLING OUT.

In the late 1920s in Paris, Beckett worked as writer James Joyce’s assistant, helping him transcribe and do research for Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake. Beckett greatly admired Joyce, and in 1929, he published an essay defending Joyce’s work. Joyce’s daughter, Lucia, had a crush on Beckett, but he didn’t return her feelings, and the unrequited love reportedly ruined the friendship between Joyce and Beckett.

3. HE LOVED PLAYING AND WATCHING SPORTS …

As a student at a boarding school in Northern Ireland, Beckett was a talented cricket player. When he was 20 years old, he even played a few games for the Dublin University Cricket Club. But his love of sports wasn’t limited to cricket. Beckett was also a lifelong tennis fan who both played and watched tennis matches on TV.

4. … AND HIS WRITING INSPIRED A TENNIS STAR’S TATTOO.

Swiss tennis player Stanislas Wawrinka has beaten favorites Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to win the 2014 Australian Open and 2015 French Open, respectively. To feel inspired on the court, Wawrinka looks down at the inside of his left forearm, which has a tattoo of Beckett’s words from his 1983 novella Worstward Ho: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Wawrinka told The Guardian, “I first saw the quote a long time ago. It always stayed in my mind. It’s how I see life and tennis.”

5. ENTREPRENEURS ALSO LOVE THAT QUOTE.

With the rise of startup culture, business owners have looked for pithy quotes that offer quick advice and motivation. Beckett’s words from Worstward Ho—“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”—have ironically become a popular motivational quote. Although Beckett was focused more on nihilism than self-help, entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson and Tim Ferriss have referred to Beckett’s “Fail better” quote.

6. HE DROVE ANDRÉ THE GIANT TO SCHOOL IN A BIG TRUCK.

In the 1950s, Beckett lived in a hamlet in France and befriended a neighbor, Boris Roussimoff. Because Roussimoff’s 12-year-old son, André, had gigantism, the boy couldn’t get to school—he didn’t fit on the school bus or in the car. Because Beckett had a pickup truck, the writer gave André rides to school. The two chatted about cricket, and André later became a professional wrestler and actor (he's best known for playing Fezzik in The Princess Bride).

7. HE FELT THAT HE HAD NEVER BEEN BORN.

After his dad died in 1933, Beckett experienced night terrors, stomach pain, and depression. He became a patient of Wilfred Bion, a British psychoanalyst, for two years. During this time, he attended a Carl Jung lecture where Jung discussed a girl who had never really been born, an idea with which Beckett identified. He reportedly told close friends that he felt the same way, and much of his work explores themes of alienation, existentialism, and emptiness.

8. HE FELL IN LOVE WITH HIS FUTURE WIFE AFTER BEING STABBED BY A PIMP.

In January 1938, a pimp on a Paris street stabbed Beckett, perforating his lung and seriously injuring him. A tennis acquaintance of Beckett’s, Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil, heard about the attack and visited Beckett regularly in the hospital during his two week stay. He and Suzanne, who was six years older, fell in love, lived together for many years, and eventually married in 1961. She died in July 1989, and he died a few months after his wife, in December 1989.

9. HE FOUGHT AGAINST THE NAZIS AS PART OF THE FRENCH RESISTANCE.

In World War II, Beckett participated in the French Resistance to fight against the Nazi occupation of France. Translating documents and using his apartment as an information drop, Beckett risked arrest to fight the Nazis. After some of his friends in the French Resistance were arrested, he fled to the south of France in 1942, but he continued to help the movement. The French government later gave Beckett the Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) and Médaille de la Résistance (Medal of the Resistance) for his courage.

10. HE MADE A WEIRD MOVIE WITH BUSTER KEATON.

Beckett wrote his only screenplay in the early 1960s and cast a 70-year-old Buster Keaton in his movie, called Film. Released in 1965, Film portrays Keaton in a city, trying to hurry past others on a street, and in a room with various pets and a lone piece of artwork. Highly experimental, Film got mixed reviews, and Beckett described it as an interesting failure.

11. HE WON A NOBEL PRIZE, BUT WASN’T SUPER HAPPY ABOUT IT.

In 1969, Beckett won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his innovative novels and dramas. When he and his wife found out that he had won, she said, “Quelle catastrophe!” (What a catastrophe!) because she knew that her husband didn’t like to be in the spotlight. Because of Beckett’s dislike of fame and publicity, he refused to accept the Nobel Prize in person so he wouldn’t have to give a speech. Beckett’s publisher accepted the award on Beckett’s behalf, and Beckett gave away his prize money, mostly to the library at his alma mater, Dublin’s Trinity College.

12. THERE’S A VERY COOL BRIDGE NAMED AFTER HIM IN DUBLIN.

In December 2009, Beckett’s nephew and niece were present at the Samuel Beckett Bridge opening ceremony in Dublin. Suspended over the River Liffey, the bridge has a series of 31 cables that make it look like a giant harp. Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava (who also designed the nearby James Joyce Bridge), the Samuel Beckett Bridge accommodates car and pedestrian traffic.

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11 Popular Quotes Commonly Misattributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald
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F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a lot of famous lines, from musings on failure in Tender is the Night to “so we beat on, boats against the current” from The Great Gatsby. Yet even with a seemingly never-ending well of words and beautiful quotations, many popular idioms and phrases are wrongly attributed to the famous Jazz Age author. Here are 11 popular phrases that are often misattributed to Fitzgerald. (You may need to update your Pinterest boards.)

1. “WRITE DRUNK, EDIT SOBER.”

This quote is often attributed to either Fitzgerald or his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, who died in 1961. There is no evidence in the collected works of either writer to support that attribution; the idea was first associated with Fitzgerald in a 1996 Associated Press story, and later in Stephen Fry’s memoir More Fool Me. In actuality, humorist Peter De Vries coined an early version of the phrase in a 1964 novel titled Reuben, Reuben.

2. “FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE OR, IN MY CASE, TOO EARLY TO BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE.”

It’s easy to see where the mistake could be made regarding this quote: Fitzgerald wrote the short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 1922 for Collier's Magazine, and it was adapted into a movie of the same name, directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, in 2008. Eric Roth wrote the screenplay, in which that quotation appears.

3. “OUR LIVES ARE DEFINED BY OPPORTUNITIES, EVEN THE ONES WE MISS.”

This is a similar case to the previous quotation; this quote is attributed to Benjamin Button’s character in the film adaptation. It’s found in the script, but not in the original short story.

4. “YOU’LL UNDERSTAND WHY STORMS ARE NAMED AFTER PEOPLE.”

There is no evidence that Fitzgerald penned this line in any of his known works. In this Pinterest pin, it is attributed to his novel The Beautiful and Damned. However, nothing like that appears in the book; additionally, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Association, although there were a few storms named after saints, and an Australian meteorologist was giving storms names in the 19th century, the practice didn’t become widespread until after 1941. Fitzgerald died in 1940.

5. “A SENTIMENTAL PERSON THINKS THINGS WILL LAST. A ROMANTIC PERSON HAS A DESPERATE CONFIDENCE THAT THEY WON’T.”

This exact quote does not appear in Fitzgerald’s work—though a version of it does, in his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise:

“No, I’m romantic—a sentimental person thinks things will last—a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t. Sentiment is emotional.” The incorrect version is widely circulated and requoted.

6. “IT’S A FUNNY THING ABOUT COMING HOME. NOTHING CHANGES. EVERYTHING LOOKS THE SAME, FEELS THE SAME, EVEN SMELLS THE SAME. YOU REALIZE WHAT’S CHANGED IS YOU.”

This quote also appears in the 2008 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button script, but not in the original short story.

7. “GREAT BOOKS WRITE THEMSELVES; ONLY BAD BOOKS HAVE TO BE WRITTEN.”

There is no evidence of this quote in any of Fitzgerald’s writings; it mostly seems to circulate on websites like qotd.org, quotefancy.com and azquotes.com with no clarification as to where it originated.

8. “SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, BUT NOT LIKE THOSE GIRLS IN THE MAGAZINES. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR THE WAY SHE THOUGHT. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR THE SPARKLE IN HER EYES WHEN SHE TALKED ABOUT SOMETHING SHE LOVED. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR HER ABILITY TO MAKE OTHER PEOPLE SMILE, EVEN IF SHE WAS SAD. NO, SHE WASN’T BEAUTIFUL FOR SOMETHING AS TEMPORARY AS HER LOOKS. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, DEEP DOWN TO HER SOUL.”

This quote may have originated in a memoir/advice book published in 2011 by Natalie Newman titled Butterflies and Bullshit, where it appears in its entirety. It was attributed to Fitzgerald in a January 2015 Thought Catalog article, and was quoted as written by an unknown source in Hello, Beauty Full: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You by Elisa Morgan, published in September 2015. However, there’s no evidence that Fitzgerald said or wrote anything like it.

9. “AND IN THE END, WE WERE ALL JUST HUMANS, DRUNK ON THE IDEA THAT LOVE, ONLY LOVE, COULD HEAL OUR BROKENNESS.”

Christopher Poindexter, the successful Instagram poet, wrote this as part of a cycle of poems called “the blooming of madness” in 2013. After a Twitter account called @SirJayGatsby tweeted the phrase with no attribution, it went viral as being attributed to Fitzgerald. Poindexter has addressed its origin on several occasions.

10. “YOU NEED CHAOS IN YOUR SOUL TO GIVE BIRTH TO A DANCING STAR.”

This poetic phrase is actually derived from the work of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who died in 1900, just four years after Fitzgerald was born in 1896. In his book Thus Spake ZarathustraNietzsche wrote the phrase, “One must have chaos within to enable one to give birth to a dancing star.” Over time, it’s been truncated and modernized into the currently popular version, which was included in the 2009 book You Majored in What?: Designing Your Path from College to Career by Katharine Brooks.

11. “FOR THE GIRLS WITH MESSY HAIR AND THIRSTY HEARTS.”

This quote is the dedication in Jodi Lynn Anderson’s book Tiger Lily, a reimagining of the classic story of Peter Pan. While it is often attributed to Anderson, many Tumblr pages and online posts cite Fitzgerald as its author.

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Harry Potter's Childhood Home Can Be Yours for $1.3 Million
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Carter Jonas

Harry Potter may have spent his childhood years sleeping in a cupboard under the stairs at 4 Privet Drive, but his origin story really begins at Godric’s Hollow, the quaint village where Harry's parents lived when he was a baby. There, Voldemort first met his downfall and Harry became “The Boy Who Lived.” Now, The Telegraph reports that the historic home that served as Godric’s Hollow in 2010's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is on the market—giving fans the rare chance to own a fictional piece of wizarding history.

Known as the de Vere House, the historic home is located in the medieval village of Lavenham, in Suffolk, England. The country’s wealthiest non-royal family, the de Veres, owned the home from the 14th to the 17th centuries, and it’s said that King Henry VIII once paid a visit to the property during a hunting trip in 1498.

According to current homeowners Tony and Jane Ranzetta, Harry Potter producers used creative editing techniques to transform footage of the de Vere House into the village of Godric’s Hollow: "The crew arrived without actors and filmed both the front and the back in the height of summer,” Tony told The Telegraph in 2012. "They then used parts of the house like pieces of a massive three dimensional jigsaw, cutting and pasting them to form the streets of Godric's Hollow.”

Historic and pop culture credentials aside, de Vere House—a six-bedroom structure that's currently divided in two—is replete with entertaining spaces, and has two kitchens and a dining room. The backyard has a flower garden and an outdoor dining terrace, and the property also contains an old stable, garden shacks, and a kitchen garden.

This isn’t the first time de Vere House has hit the market: The Ranzettas first listed the home for sale in 2012, but for unknown reasons, it didn’t sell. That said, it’s naturally a magnet for tourists, so whoever purchases it will need to be comfortable with cameras—and with shelling out a cool £995,000 (about $1.3 million) for their magical new digs.

Check out some photos of Harry Potter’s “birthplace” below, or visit the home’s online listing for more details.

The historic De Vere House in Lavenham, Suffolk, which was used in the 'Harry Potter' films to create Godric’s Hollow, is for sale.
Carter Jonas

 The historic De Vere House in Lavenham, Suffolk, which was used in the 'Harry Potter' films to create Godric’s Hollow, is for sale.
Carter Jonas

 The historic De Vere House in Lavenham, Suffolk, which was used in the 'Harry Potter' films to create Godric’s Hollow, is for sale.
Carter Jonas

 The historic De Vere House in Lavenham, Suffolk, which was used in the 'Harry Potter' films to create Godric’s Hollow, is for sale.
Carter Jonas

The historic De Vere House in Lavenham, Suffolk, which was used in the 'Harry Potter' films to create Godric’s Hollow, is for sale.
Carter Jonas

The historic De Vere House in Lavenham, Suffolk, which was used in the 'Harry Potter' films to create Godric’s Hollow, is for sale.
Carter Jonas

 The historic De Vere House in Lavenham, Suffolk, which was used in the 'Harry Potter' films to create Godric’s Hollow, is for sale.
Carter Jonas

[h/t The Telegraph]

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