September 16, 2008

Beckett Pilgrimage

In bleak cold January I was in Paris.  I made a little tour of some Beckett sites.  Here are a few photographs.
Above is a picture of Beckett's quarters at 45 rue d'Ulm, at the Ecole Normale Superieure, where he moved in 1928. His biographer Knowlson writes that his room "lay in the front part of the old Ecole building on the second floor to the right of the big central doorway facing onto the rue d'Ulm."  

In 1937 Beckett and his companion (later his wife), Suzanne Deschevaux-Dusmesnil, moved to 6 rue des Favorites, in the 15 arrondissement, where they lived in a seventh-floor studio until 1961.  Knowlson describes it as "in an unfashionable area off the long Rue de Vaugirard, a long walk from the Latin Quarter."  It was here that, after the war, Beckett wrote Godot and the great trilogy.  I found that it remained a nicely modest neighborhood, very mixed, not too gentrified (yet).  It looked like the building, however, must have been given a face-lift at some point since Beckett's time.  On the street level there were two hair salons, an old tailor shop, a new clothes boutique, and a big ugly police station a half a block away on the rue de Vaugirard.

I kept waiting to pick up some kind of Beckett vibe.  But there was only the absence of a Beckett vibe, and the anonymity of nameless faces, and behind the noises and bustle of the street an abiding silence.  Well, there it is, I thought, there's your Beckett vibe.

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