Parisian Lives (Hardcover)

Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir, and Me: A Memoir

By Deirdre Bair

Nan A. Talese, 9780385542456, 368pp.

Publication Date: November 12, 2019

List Price: 29.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Description

National Book Award-winning biographer Deirdre Bair explores her fifteen remarkable years in Paris with Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir, painting intimate new portraits of two literary giants and revealing secrets of the biographical art.

In 1971 Deirdre Bair was a journalist and recently minted Ph.D. who managed to secure access to Nobel Prize-winning author Samuel Beckett. He agreed that she could write his biography despite never having written--or even read--a biography herself. The next seven years of intimate conversations, intercontinental research, and peculiar cat-and-mouse games resulted in Samuel Beckett: A Biography, which went on to win the National Book Award and propel Deirdre to her next subject: Simone de Beauvoir. The catch? De Beauvoir and Beckett despised each other--and lived essentially on the same street. While quite literally dodging one subject or the other, and sometimes hiding out in the backrooms of the great cafés of Paris, Bair learned that what works in terms of process for one biography rarely applies to the next. Her seven-year relationship with the domineering and difficult de Beauvoir required a radical change in approach, yielding another groundbreaking literary profile.
     Drawing on Bair's extensive notes from the period, including never-before-told anecdotes and details that were considered impossible to publish at the time, Parisian Lives is full of personality and warmth and give us an entirely new window on the all-too-human side of these legendary thinkers.


About the Author

DEIRDRE BAIR received the National Book Award for Samuel Beckett: A Biography. Her biographies of Simone de Beauvoir and Carl Jung were finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Simone de Beauvoir biography was chosen by The New York Times as a Best Book of the Year. Her biographies of Anaïs Nin and Saul Steinberg were both New York Times Notable Books. Her most recent book is Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend.


Praise For Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir, and Me: A Memoir

“Full of encounters, reflections, tribulations, and revelations—an enthralling account of a biographer’s lot, by one of the art’s most distinguished practitioners.”
—Sarah Bakewell, author of How to Live and At the Existentialist Cafe

“This memoir is one of a kind. The backstory of two of the great biographies of our time, it is absorbing from start to finish. I read it in two sittings: that’s how eager I was to know what came next.”
—Vivian Gornick, author of The Odd Woman and the City
 
Parisian Lives is a signal achievement. Deirdre Bair’s engrossing account of nearly two decades of adventures in Paris brings the city to vivid life. And her personal story, told here in gripping fashion, becomes as compelling as those of her illustrious biographical subjects."
—Mary V. Dearborn, author of Ernest Hemingway

“Any book by Deirdre Bair is a treasure that is sure to leave readers with a deeper and richer understanding of some of the most important and notorious characters of twentieth century life and literature—from Anaïs Nin to Al Capone. But Parisian Lives goes even further. It gives readers insight into Bair herself as a woman and writer undertaking the alternately arduous and thrilling, hilarious and inspiring task of writing the biographies of Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir. As pure memoir it is transporting, and as tribute to the art of biography it is a crucial guide for those aspiring to take a similar journey into someone else’s life. Bair shows how it should be done, which is to say how she did it.”
—Mary Gabriel, author of Ninth Street Women

“A totally compelling account by a master biographer of the joys and frustrations of writing another’s life. While some of her revelations are explosive, Bair manages to present her legendary subjects, Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir, as poignantly human. This groundbreaking work returns us nostalgically to a literary Paris that teems with intrigue and humor.” 
—Rosemary Sullivan, author of Stalin’s Daughter
 
“By turns scholarly and salacious, Bair has loosened decades of polite tongue-biting to write the backstory in what she calls a ‘bio-memoir’ of two influential writers . . . No matter her subject, Bair, a generous and graceful writer, has followed her dictum in writing biographies: ‘those of us who wrote literary biographies should ensure that our readers ended our books by wanting to turn immediately to our subjects’ writing.’ Bair’s exhaustively detailed and lively memoir also serves as a solid study in the art of biography.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review