Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil

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Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil (1900 – 17 July 1989)[1][2] was the tennis partner, lover, and later wife of Samuel Beckett.

In the 1930s, Beckett, an avid tennis fan his whole life, chose Déchevaux-Dumesnil as his lover over the heiress Peggy Guggenheim. Six years older than Beckett, Déchevaux-Dumesnil was an austere woman known for avant-garde tastes and left-wing politics.

During the Second World War, Beckett joined the French Resistance. For over two years, he and Déchevaux-Dumesnil hid from the Germans in a village in the South of France.[3]

Beckett's Waiting for Godot has been called "a metaphor for the long walk into Roussillon, when Beckett and Suzanne slept in haystacks... during the day and walked by night..."[4]

During the relationship between Beckett and Déchevaux-Dumesnil, which lasted more than fifty years, she maintained a private circle of friends and is credited with having influenced Beckett to produce more work.

During the late 1950s, Beckett often stayed in London, where he met Barbara Bray, a BBC script-editor, a widow in her thirties. James Knowlson writes of them: "Beckett seems to have been immediately attracted to her and she to him. Their encounter was highly significant for them both, for it represented the beginning of a relationship that was to last, in parallel with that with Suzanne, for the rest of his life."[5] Soon, their association became "a very intimate and personal one".[6] In a visit to Paris in January 1961, Bray told Beckett she had decided to move there.[7] His response was unusual. In March, 1961, he married Déchevaux-Dumesnil in a civil ceremony in Folkestone. On the face of it, this was to make sure that if he died before her Déchevaux-Dumesnil would inherit the rights to his work, since there was no common-law marriage under French law. He may also have wanted to affirm his loyalty to her.[7] In June, 1961, Bray moved to Paris, and despite his recent marriage Beckett spent much of his time with her.[8] This side of his life was not well known, as Beckett’s reserve was "allied to his fear of giving offence to Suzanne".[9] Beckett's play Play (1963) seems to be inspired by these events.

Déchevaux-Dumesnil died in July 1989, five months before Beckett. They are interred together in the Cimetière de Montparnasse in Paris.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Not Deschevaux-Dumesnil, though that spelling mistake is very common. See picture of the Beckett Gravestone at http://www.samuel-beckett.net/samgrave.jpg
  2. ^ a b Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil at findagrave.com
  3. ^ Context of Happy Days at sparknotes.com
  4. ^ Bair, Deirdre, Samuel Beckett: A Biography (London: Vintage, 1990), pp 409, 410
  5. ^ Knowlson, James, Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), pp. 458, 459
  6. ^ Cronin, Anthony, Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist (London: Flamingo, 1997), p. 495
  7. ^ a b Knowlson, op. cit, p. 480
  8. ^ Cronin, op. cit., p. 500
  9. ^ Cronin, op. cit., pp. 517-518