My latest essay for the Dublin Review of Books is about the American biographer Deirdre Bair, who did her best to write an honest and thoroughly researched biography of Samuel Beckett in the 1970s. Although Beckett promised neither to ‘help nor hinder’ her work, there were plenty of others in his circle and in the academic world who put obstacles in her way, before and after her book was published.
In her memoir Parisian Lives, published by Atlantic Books in 2020, and shortlisted for the Pulitzer prize in biography, Deirdre Bair gives an account of the beginnings of her career as biographer, and the crimes of sexism and academic snobbery that she had to endure. It’s a fascinating account and a testament to Bair’s endurance and over forty years of success as a biographer. My take on how she dared to write the first biography of Samuel Beckett, and seven years later movingly discovered that ‘his word was indeed his bond’, is here: