Samuel Beckett’s sentiment from his acclaimed novel ‘The Unnamable’ captures the situation The Wild Geese found themselves in. Faced with boarding ships bound for foreign lands after the signing of The Treaty of Limerick in 1691, they had no other choice but to go on.
Beckett who, like The Wild Gees, settled in France knew this all too well. Like them, Beckett shared their vision of freedom.
He was one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century, and is often thought of as one of the last modernists. But when faced with the Nazi occupation of his adopted homeland, Beckett took action. He joined the French Resistance and fought for freedom.
After the Second World War, Beckett referred to his work with the Resistance as simply ‘boy scout stuff’, and although he rarely spoke about his activities, there is a sense that he did much more than this.
Beckett was awarded the Croix de guerre, a French military decoration, awarded to those who fought with the Allies; and the Médaille de la Résistance which was given ‘to recognise the remarkable acts of faith and of courage’.
He joined the Resistance in Paris in 1940, working as a courier. He avoided capture by the Gestapo many times, but was forced to flee south to Roussillon after his unit was betrayed. But, undeterred, Beckett continued to aid the Resistance from Roussillon by storing armaments in the back yard of his home. He is also said to have indirectly assisted the Marquis in sabotaging the German army in the Vaucluse mountains.
Samuel Beckett is regarded as an emancipator. Not just in his efforts with the French Resistance, but also in his writing. He was awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize ‘for his writing, which – in new forms for the novel and drama – in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation’.
He has also captured the imagination of other writers and artists, as well as readers from around the world. He was a focal point for the late artist Louis Le Brocquy’s ‘Portrait Heads’ and the latest bridge to cross the River Liffey in Dublin was named after him in 2009.