From the cemetery I continued east until I located Beckett's final apartment - in another modest, unassuming building - at 38 Boulevard St. Jacques in the 14th Arrondissement. He and Suzanne lived here (in separate but adjoining apartments) from 1961 until the year of their deaths.
Across the street is the equally unassuming hotel restaurant and cafe where Beckett used to meet his guests, in Beckett's time the Hotel Saint-Jacques and then the PLM and now the Marriot Rive Gauche. This is where John Minihan took his famous photograph of Beckett.
The street behind Beckett's building is still occupied by grim bulk of the Santé prison, which Beckett could see from the window of his flat. Apparently Beckett, armed with Morse code and a mirror, held an ongoing exchange with a prisoner there.
My last stop on the pilgrimage was Les Editions de Minuit, a publishing house founded during the Resistance and taken over by Jerome Lindon in 1948. Lindon published Beckett's most important works after the war. It makes me giddy to think of that era of the great triumvirate of independent editors and publishing houses - Lindon at Minuit, John Calder at Calder Books, and Barney Rossett at Grove Press. Editions de Minuit remains where it has been located for decades, in a tiny street - practically an alleyway - at 7 rue Bernard-Palissy, with Lindon apparently still at the helm. Night was falling already but I could see someone inside; I wanted to go in and join them. Instead I spent a long time looking in through the windows. Alas, my digital camera doesn't take very good night shots.
Early in 1952 a young American named Richard Seaver was walking past the Editions de Minuit display window when he spotted two books, Molloy and Malone Muert, by someone named Samuel Beckett. Seaver had a vague recollection of that name in relation to Joyce and Finnegans Wake, so he bought the books and ended up reading the first of them, Molloy, that night, practically at one sitting. Soon he was sharing his revelation with his friends, Alexander Trocchi, Jane Loguee, Christopher Logue, Austryn Wainhouse, and Patrick Bowles, who were just then launching a new avant-garde literary magazine, Merlin. Seaver wrote an essay on Beckett which was published in Merlin and sent a copy to Beckett, following it up with a request for any of Beckett's work that they might be fortunate enough to print in their next issue. You know the rest of the story: late one night a tall, gaunt, silent figure - a Giacometti sculpture in a raincoat - appears at the door and hands them an envelope with a manuscript in it. It's Watt, written in English and still unpublished at the time. Beckett has specified, however, which excerpt they are to print - that passage of interminable permutations which you can find here. It's a test. The kids don't blink, the excerpt appears in Merlin, they pass the test. Who would pass that test today?
If you look in the window as I saw it in January 2008, you might just be able to make out the copy of Watt on the left side of the photograph. Behind are promotional photographs of the younger generation of Editions de Minuit authors, including Jean-Philippe Toussaint and Eric Chevillard, who, according to Francois Monti in a recent article in The Quarterly Conversation, are helping to keep Lindon's press relevant.
I'm not sure what I'm looking for on these pilgrimages. They're almost always dissatisfying - I stand there in front of whatever it is I've been searching for and mostly I feel self-conscious. OK, I ask myself, what am I feeling now? Am I having the appropriate thoughts and emotions? Is this an authentic experience? And I repeat to myself, in the formulaic language of spells, "I'm standing right where So-and-so stood once upon a time," and, "This is the very door through which Fill-in-the-blank passed on the way to his engagement with destiny!" I visit their haunts and end up seeming ghostly to myself.
But then I look back at my travel notes and I'm frustrated by the things that I missed, that I didn't have time for - the corner of Avenue General-Leclerc and the Coeur-de-Vey where in 1937 Beckett was stabbed by a pimp, the hospice called Les Tiers Temps on the Rue Remy Dumoncel where Beckett lay in his final illness, if it's even still there . . . and then there are the Joyce sites, the Proust sites . . . and it occurs to me that I am not so much a ghost as a species of vampire.