In 1971 Deirdre Bair was a journalist and recently minted PhD 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 cafes 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 gives us an entirely new window on the all-too-human side of these legendary thinkers.