Project alumni profiled in the Emory News

‘There was so much to share’: A salute to ‘The Letters of Samuel Beckett’ project

Launch Event for Chercher


Recorded live at Emory University's Woodruff Library, 21st September 2023.


Chercher launch featured in the Emory News

September events celebrate culminating achievement of ‘The Letters of Samuel Beckett’ project

Emory Announces Chercher: The Interactive Index to the Letters of Samuel Beckett in Public Archives

Samuel Beckett wrote each of his letters to an audience of one. This readership has greatly expanded with publication of the four volumes of The Letters of Samuel Beckett (Cambridge University Press, 2009-2016), and the translation of these into German, French, Italian, and Chinese. And still, only about 2500 of Beckett’s more than 16,000 letters have been published.

The Interactive Index to the Letters of Samuel Beckett in Public Archives, developed with the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, democratizes access to the letters held in archives around the world. Its purpose is to facilitate research and to encourage discovery. Chercher alludes both to the opening of a letter (“Cher ami)” and to the French term meaning “to seek.”

The Interactive Index Project builds on the research done for The Letters of Samuel Beckett at Emory University. It incorporates the Location Register of the Letters of Samuel Beckett in Public Archives developed in collaboration with public archives. The Location Register gives archival identification and descriptions (recipient, physical description, sender and recipient addresses, language, repository, collection, and previous publication).

The Interactive Index goes a step further by providing rich and nuanced metadata from the contexts of each letter. Indexed content includes persons, places, organizations, productions, and publications, as well as Beckett’s writing, translating, and reading. It also notes his attendance at public events (from tennis to recitals); this includes virtual attendance (recordings, radio, and television). The index also includes mentions in his letters of works of art, music, and global events. Faceted searches allow for refinement and invite the user to discover patterns and inter-relationships in the searchable datasets.

Context is provided with timelines of Beckett’s life and works (1906-1989), and global events. Major figures have biographical profiles with a capsule history of their relationship with the author. Filmed interviews bring faces and voices of recipients to the historical record. Links are given to the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project and Staging Beckett, museum and theater websites, as well as standard references (viafs, geonames).

Lois Overbeck, director of the project, said: “The purpose of Chercher is to stimulate, not replace, reading of the letters in context. The curated database opens fields of inquiry organically from Beckett’s letters. Only letters in public archives are included in the metadata, but new letters or letters currently in private collections are prepared for inclusion when these become accessible in a public archive."

We welcome you to discover Chercher after its public launch on September 21st, 2023.

Chinese Translation of Volume 2 Released

The Chinese translation of The Letters of Samuel Beckett (Vol. 2) has now been released in 2 volumes. It was translated primarily by Prof. Zhang Helong of Shanghai International Studies University, assisted by 3 of his colleagues.

Support the Beckett Letters Interactive Index Project

The Samuel Beckett Letters Project is 30-plus-year research endeavor to locate, transcribe and annotate all extant letters written by Irish writer Samuel Beckett. Led by project director Lois Overbeck in the Laney Graduate School, it has resulted in the publication of four volumes of selected letters (Cambridge University Press, 2009-2016).

Following this publication, Overbeck’s team began collaborating with the library to create the Location Register which provides archival location and letter metadata for each item in public archives and with the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) to develop the Interactive Index website which curates searchable data from all Beckett letters in public archives.

With the launch of Chercher, The Letters of Samuel Beckett has entered the final phase of its project to make Beckett’s letters in public archives accessible to future scholars, students, and interested readers.

Just as Beckett’s letters offer a rich context for the events of the 20th century to many fields of inquiry, so the metadata of Chercher opens the door to Beckett’s life and works for digital humanities initiatives.

Emory students have played a significant role in establishing this unique resource, and have gained invaluable research skills by working with the editors of the project. They will carry on the legacy by forming The Advisory Board to maintain the website.

We invite your gifts to support this work as it continues to incorporate new letters as they are added to public archives. Gifts can be made online here. For more information about supporting the project, please contact Philip Brooks, Lead Director of Development at or (678) 801-5909.


Chinese Edition of "The Letters of Samuel Beckett Volume I" translated by Bo Cao, Emory Visiting Scholar

The Chinese translation of the first volume of The Letters of Samuel Beckett has been published in two volumes in Dec. 2021 by Hunan Literature and Art Publishing House (HLAPH), Changsha City, the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese translation is the first version rendered outside of Western Europe.  

The translator Bo Cao, a professor of English literature at Hunan Normal University in Changsha, began his work in 2015. As a visiting scholar at Emory University in 2019, sponsored by China Scholarship Council, he refined his translation under the guidance of the Director of The Letters of Samuel Beckett Project at Emory, Dr. Lois More Overbeck. She is one of the editors of the original edition of The Letters of Samuel Beckett published in four volumes by Cambridge University Press (2009-2016). The Beckett Letters project is based in the English Department of Emory University.  


Beckett’s letters from 1929-1940 present Beckett as a young writer who is growing in “sound and fury.” His letters are replete with colloquial phrases, local references, foreign languages, and even neologisms and word games. Translation also included the editorial prefaces and rigorous notes, which the editors strove to make value neutral and approachable for a world-wide readership. As a veteran translator, Bo Cao is both faithful to Samuel Beckett many voices in the letters and to the editorial contexts, while also considering how to make the letters accessible to Chinese readers – a task that is both linguistic and cultural.

Since 2005, Cao has been writing about Samuel Beckett and translating his works, including Murphy (2012), Watt (2012), More Pricks Thank Kicks (2016) as well as an edition of occasional pieces, Disjecta (2016). To be better prepared, he went to Trinity College Dublin in 2011 to further his studies under the supervision of Prof. Ian Ross. He was interested in the teaching of Irish Studies in United States and spent some time consulting with Dr. Geraldine Higgins, Director of the Irish Studies Program at Emory. Well-trained for the translation of The Letters, Cao has put to full use his knowledge of Samuel Beckett, western European culture, and both languages.

While at Emory in 2019, he presented a study of the Chinese reception of Samuel Beckett’s work, for a colloquia series on translation at the Center for Humanistic Inquiry: “The Chinese Translation of Samuel Beckett: A Critical History” (Irish University Review 51.2, November 2021). He gave that talk in Chinese at the Chinese Flagship Program, Indiana University (Bloomington), and presented it in English with a paper, “The Chinese Translation of a Samuel Beckett Letter,” at a symposium at Washington University of St. Louis. Also in 2019, he prepared a study of Beckett’s awareness of Chinese culture: “Terms of Chinese Culture in Samuel Beckett’s Dream of Fair to Middling Women and their (Re- /Back) Translations.”

The progress of the Chinese translations of Samuel Beckett’s work since the turn of the twentieth-century “mirrors both the re-evaluation of Beckett as an innovative artist and the ‘inward turn’ of Chinese intellectual circles,” writes Cao. The Chinese version of The Letters is “the heroic conclusion of Samuel Beckett’s reception in China, which began reproachfully with the publication of Waiting for Godot in 1965 by China Theatre Press, and reached its climax with the Chinese translation of the Complete Works of Samuel Beckett, in 22 volumes, by HLAPH.

To Cao, the Chinese translation is also a mark of the constructive cooperation in the international SB community. His stay at Emory opened for him a second window on Samuel Beckett and Irish studies outside of Ireland. In July 2021, he published some conclusions drawn from his talks with Lois Overbeck: “Recent Trends of Samuel. Beckett Studies” Foreign Language and Literature, a journal of Sichuan International Studies University in Chongqing City of China.

Translations are underway of the following three volumes of The Letters of Samuel Beckett, from 1941 to 1989, each undertaken by a different translator. The balance of the Chinese edition is expected to be published by 2023. It will join the German (Suhrkamp) French, (Gallimard), and Italian (Adelphi) translations of the edition. “Beckett’s correspondents and consequently his letters can be found in archives all over the world,” says Lois Overbeck, so it is both appropriate and exciting that the edition of his letters has reached such a wide audience.”



July 2021: The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation awarded a grant to Emory University to support the Letters of Samuel Beckett Location Register

The award will be applied to confirmation of the letters of Samuel Beckett in European and non-western archives. It is expected to be completed by 30 June 2022.

The Letters of Samuel Beckett Project is grateful for this continued support that will serve archives and future scholarship.


29 June 2021: Festival of Modernism 2021, British Association of Modernism

Editing Modernist Letters: A Roundtable discussion
Editors of The Collected Letters of Ford Maddox Ford

Laurence Davies, also editor of the Collected Letters and Selected Letters of Joseph Conrad
Martin Stannard
Barbara Cooke

Scott McCracken, editor of Dorothy Richardson’s letters
Sandra Spanier, editor of Kay Boyle: A Twentieth-Century Life in Letters, and The Letters of Ernst
      Hemingway and Editor of the Letters of Kay Boyle,
Lois Overbeck, an editor of the Letters of Samuel Beckett
Editing Modernist Letters - video.mp4 - OneDrive (


June 2021: Publication of Volume 2 of the Italian edition of The Letters of Samuel Beckett

 Cover of Vol 2, Italian edition

Samuel Beckett, Lettere, II, 1941 – 1956 

Traduzione di Leonardo Marcello Pignataro 
A cura di George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn e Lois More Overbeck 
Edizione italiana a cura di Franca Cavagnoli 
La collana dei casi, 139 
2021, pp. 517, 21 ill. b/n 
isbn: 9788845935886 

April 29 2021: Trinity College Dublin awards Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters to Martha Fehsenfeld, founding editor of The Letters of Samuel Beckett

Martha Dow Fehsenfeld in TCD doctorate regalia Martha Dow Fehsenfeld was the Founding Editor of the 4 volumes of ‘The Letters of Samuel Beckett’ – a task for which she was personally chosen by Beckett himself and which was successfully completed on the publication of Vol 4 in 2016. To quote the letter to her from Beckett in 1985 “it will be a most difficult job, and I am relieved at the thought of it being in such devoted and capable hands as yours”. In 2016 the Financial Times wrote, “It is now possible to say with some certainty that his relief was not misplaced”. These volumes are highly regarded among academics and literary critics, for example a review in The Guardian held that “the editorship of these letters provides a model of scholarship and a masterclass in selection”. Martha Dow Fehsenfeld studied at Bennington College (B.A.), the University of North Carolina (M.A.) and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Trinity awards honorary degrees to pioneer of international family law and editor of Samuel Beckett letters - Trinity News and Events (

Honorary Degrees April 2021 - YouTube

5 February 2021: The Irish Influence, Boston College Ireland

Lois Overbeck, Emory University, an Editor of the Letters of Samuel Beckett: The Irish Influence on the Life and Works of Samuel Beckett

This Boston College Ireland webinar series explores the lives and works of the four Irishborn winners of the Nobel Prize in Liteature: George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, and Seamus Heaney.

Busts of Irish writers at Boston College

 “The Four Irish Nobel Literary Laureates”—William Butler   Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney—in cast bronze by internationally noted Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie. The piece was commissioned and donated by former BC Trustee and Burns Library benefactor  Brian P. Burns for installation at Boston College Ireland. 

Lois More Overbeck, Scholar, on Samuel Beckett

Highlights: Lois Overbeck On Beckett's Transition to French