A PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
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 be his biographer despite her never having written—or even read—a biography before.
The next seven years comprised of intimate conversations, intercontinental research, and peculiar cat-and-mouse games. Battling an elusive Beckett and a string of jealous, misogynistic male writers, Bair persevered. She wrote 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. 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 and influencing Bair’s own feminist beliefs.
Parisian Lives draws on Bair’s extensive notes from the period, including never-before-told anecdotes.
This gripping memoir is full of personality and warmth and gives us an entirely new window on the all-too-human side of these legendary thinkers.