Samuel Beckett Quotations

Samuel Beckett / 1906–1989 / Ireland (then the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) / Poet, Short Story Writer, Literary Critic, Dramatist, Novelist

Note: Beckett lived most of his adult life in France and wrote many of his most important works in French; he translated most of these works into English himself.


But he had hardly felt the absurdity of those things, on the one hand, and the necessity of those others, on the other (for it is rare that the feeling of absurdity is not followed by the feeling of necessity), when he felt the absurdity of those things of which he had just felt the necessity (for it is rare that the feeling of necessity is not followed by the feeling of absurdity).

Watt (1943).

Day and Night

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.

Murphy (1938).

One night as he sat at his table head on hands he saw himself rise and go. One night or day. For when his own light went out he was not left in the dark. Light of a kind came then from the one high window. Under it still the stool on which till he could or would no more he used to mount to see the sky. Why he did not crane out to see what lay beneath was perhaps because the window was not made to open or because he could or would not open it. Perhaps he knew only too well what lay beneath and did not wish to see it again. So he would simply stand there high above the earth and see through the clouded pane the cloudless sky. Its faint unchanging light unlike any light he could remember from the days and nights when day followed hard on night and night on day. This outer light then when his own went out became his only light till it in its turn went out and left him in the dark. Till it in its turn went out.

Stirrings Still” (1988).


“Christ!” he said, “it’s alive.”

His aunt looked at the lobster. It moved again. It made a faint nervous act of life on the oilcloth. They stood above it, looking down on it, exposed cruciform on the oilcloth. It shuddered again. Belacqua felt he would be sick.

“My God,” he whined, “it’s alive, what’ll we do?”

The aunt simply had to laugh. She bustled off to the pantry to fetch her smart apron, leaving him goggling down at the lobster, and came back with it on and her sleeves rolled up, all business.

“Well,” she said, “it’s to be hoped so, indeed.”

“All this time,” muttered Belacqua. Then suddenly aware of her hideous equipment: “What are you going to do?” he cried.

“Boil the beast,” she said, “what else?”

“But it’s not dead,” protested Belacqua, “you can’t boil it like that.”

She looked at him in astonishment. Had he taken leave of his senses?

“Have sense,” she said sharply, “lobsters are always boiled alive. They must be.” She caught up the lobster and laid it on its back. It trembled. “They feel nothing,” she said.

In the depths of the sea it had crept into the cruel pot. For hours, in the midst of its enemies, it had breathed secretly. It had survived the Frenchwoman’s cat and his witless clutch. Now it was going alive into scalding water. It had to. Take into the air my quiet breath.

Belacqua looked into the old parchment of her face, grey in the dim kitchen.

“You make a fuss,” she said angrily, “and upset me and then lash into it for your dinner.”

She lifted the lobster clear of the table. It had about thirty seconds to live.

Well, thought Belacqua, it’s a quick death, God help us all.

It is not.

“Dante and the Lobster,” in More Pricks Than Kicks (1934).

I shall soon be quite dead at last in spite of all. Perhaps next month. Then it will be the month of April or of May. For the year is still young, a thousand little signs tell me so. Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps I shall survive Saint John the Baptist’s Day and even the Fourteenth of July, festival of freedom. Indeed I would not put it past me to pant on to the Transfiguration, not to speak of the Assumption. But I do not think so, I do not think I am wrong in saying that these rejoicings will take place in my absence, this year.

Malone meurt [Malone Dies] (1951).

Birth was the death of him.

A Piece of Monologue” (1979).


All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

Worstward Ho” (1983).


God is a witness that cannot be sworn.

Watt (1943).


Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.

Reported by John Gruen in “Samuel Beckett Talks About Beckett,” Vogue, December, 1969.

The expression that there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express.

Three Dialogues,” with Georges Duthuit, transition 49, 1949.


Personally of course I regret everything. Not a word, not a deed, not a thought, not a need, not a grief, not a joy, not a girl, not a boy, not a doubt, not a trust, not a scorn, not a lust, not a hope, not a fear, not a smile, not a tear, not a name, not a face, no time, no place, that I do not regret, exceedingly. An ordure, from beginning to end.

Watt (1943).

In me there have always been two fools, among others, one asking nothing better than to stay where he is and the other imagining that life might be slightly less horrible a little further on.

Molloy [Molloy] (1951).

Estragon: Nothing to be done.
Vladimir: I’m beginning to come round to that opinion.

En attendant Godot (Waiting for Godot) (1952).

. . . it will be the silence, where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

L’Innomable [The Unnamable] (1953).

1. Faint light on stage littered with miscellaneous rubbish. Hold for about five seconds.
2. Faint brief cry and immediately inspiration and slow increase of light together reaching maximum together in about ten seconds. Silence and hold about five seconds.
3. Expiration and slow decrease of light together reaching minimum together (light as in 1.) in about ten seconds and immediately cry as before. Silence and hold for about five seconds.

Breath” (1969).


For the only way one can speak of nothing is to speak of it as though it were something, just as the only way one can speak of God is to speak of him as though he were a man, which to be sure he was, in a sense, for a time, and as the only way one can speak of man, even our anthropologists have realized that, is to speak of him as though he were a termite.

Watt (1943).


Nothing is more real than nothing.

Malone meurt [Malone Dies] (1951).


The only sin is the sin of being born.

Reported by John Gruen in “Samuel Beckett Talks About Beckett,” Vogue magazine, December, 1969.


Nell: Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.
Nagg: Oh?
Nell: Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it’s always the same thing. Yes, it’s like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don’t laugh any more.

Fin de partie [Endgame] (1957).