beckett remembering

Samuel Beckett on sports, psychoanalysis and war-time resistance. Extracts from uncollected interviews with his biographer, James Knowlson


Beckett on SPORT AND Chess
I suppose I must have had my first clubs when I was about ten, I used to play a lot on my own at Ca rickmines Golf Course. A lovely golf course.  It's still there. I used to spend hours there hitting the ball by myself. But I had a lot of help from the professional there. I remember the his name too. It was ‘Jem' Barrett. I remember the the groundsman's name too. His name was Condell. He looked after the greens. Isn't it odd the sort of things you remember?
I used to play cricket for Trinity College. There were only about 40 men who played in all, so you didn't have to be too good to get into the team! We played various local Dublin teams. I used to enjoy betting on Trinity Square. It was a very good wicket. I also remember when we played Northants. They were a happy band drinking and whoring and so on between matches and I would go off alone and sit in the church. I wasn't at all what you would call a sociable sort of boy. The main requirement was to be alone. I also played for Trinity at chess. There were various chess teams all over Dublin. And Trinity had their chess team of six players, I think it was. We used to tour. There was competition between the various chess groups. There was one in Dun Laoghaire, I think.  I forget the names. The Dublin Chess Club was in Grafton Street too. It was called the Café Cairo. That was the headquarters of the Dublin Chess Club. It was not peculiar to Trinity.  

Beckett on Psychotherapy and Murphy
After my father's death, I had trouble psychologically. The bad years were between when I had to crawl home in 1932 and after my father's death in 1933 [when I was] in London. I'll tell you how it was. I was walking up Dawson Street and I felt I couldn't go on. It was a strange experience I can't really describe. I found I couldn't go on moving. So I had to rush in to the famous pub in Dawson Street, Davy Byrne's. I don't know where I was going, maybe up to Harcourt Street [garda station]. So I went into the nearest pub and got a drink – just to stay still. And I felt I needed help. So I went to Geoffrey Thompson's surgery. Geoffrey at that time was still working in Dublin, working in the Lower Baggot Street Hospital as a heart specialist. And he wasn't there; [he was] still at Baggot Street. He hadn't finished his consultations. So I waited outside. When he got there, I was standing by the door. He gave me a look over, found nothing physically wrong. Then he recommended psychoanalysis for me. Psychoanalysis was not allowed in Dublin at that time. It was not legal... you had to come to London. He himself wanted to get some training as a psychiatrist. So very bravely he took himself off to London – he was an established doctor in Dublin at the time. Before you could become a psychiatrist, you had to undergo psychoanalysis yourself. So he tried to get it arranged so that I could go to the man he was going to see [J.A. Hadfield]. I don't know why but I finished up with [Wilfred Ruprecht] Bion to whom I used to go, I think, twice a week. It was going to cost about £200. So, of course, there was no question of me financing the course myself. So my mother paid for my course of treatment; she decided that she would finance me. The allowance from my father's will wasn't enough to pay the fees. So my mother gave me the money. That was when I started psychoanalysis with Bion. I used to lie down on the couch and try to go back in my past.
After about six months [a gross underestimate of the time he spent with Bion, which was almost two years] I decided that I'd had enough. We decided to call it a day and we parted very amicably. Well, I thought it wasn't doing me any good. I was using my mother's money and she couldn't afford it. But I think it probably did help. I think it helped me perhaps to control the panic. I didn't  have that feeling of panic or dizziness or something. I think it helped me to understand a bit better what I was doing and what I was feeling. I certainly came up with some extraordinary memories of being in the womb, intra-uterine memories. I remember feeling trapped, being imprisoned and unable to escape, of crying to be let out, but no one could hear, no one was listening. I remember being in pain but being unable to do anything about it. I used to go back to my digs and write notes on what had happened, on what I'd come up with. I've never found them since but maybe they exist somewhere. I stayed on in London, seeing Geoffrey Thompson of course. He was working at the Bethlem Royal Hospital [a famous mental hospital]. He had finished his analysis and was working at this first job as a psychoanalyst. Or perhaps it was simultaneous and he hadn't quite finished. But he had got this job in order to make enough money for his analysis. And then I went to the Bethlem and saw him. I remember going to visit him at the hospital. I remember the man that I wrote about in Murphy. I remember him very clearly. Mr Endon was loosely based on him.

Beckett and the French Resistance
I   went back [to France from Ireland] the next day [after the declaration of war in 1939]. If I hadn't, I would have never got back. Even then I had difficulty in leaving England at Dover. I didn't know what to do. I managed to wangle my way. I went back to talk to them, saying Ireland was not England, Ireland was not at war and so on. I managed to get through.
Alfred Péron was the one who got me involved in the ‘Gloria' resistance group. It was at the time when they were rounding up all the Jews, including all their children, and gathering them in the Parc des Princes ready to send them off to extermination camps. Information came in from all over France about the German military movements, about movements of troops, their position, everything that concerned the occupational forces. They would bring this information to me on various scraps, bits of paper. There were about 40 agents in that group. It was a huge group. It was the boy-scouts! They brought it all to me. I would type it all out clean. Put it in order and type it out, on one sheet of paper, as far as was possible. Then I would bring it to a Greek [named Hadji (Andre) Lazaro] who was part of the group. He lived in what is now the Rue de Coty, I think. And he would take photographs. And my sheets would be reduced to the size of a matchbox. All the information. Probably unreadable but it could be magnified. And then he would give them to Madame Picabia, the widow of Picabia, the painter. And she was a very respectable old lady. Nothing could be less like a resistance agent. And she could get over to the other zone, the so-called unoccupied zone, without any difficulty. And so it was sent back to England.
When the whole thing blew up, as soon as we knew – the same day – I went to tell the Greek, but he didn't take it seriously enough and he was arrested. There was an informer in the group. Everybody used to know everybody else. There used to be meetings in the evening. Everybody knew everybody. I'll tell you what happened. In August of 1942, Suzanne and I were at home. Mania and Alfred Péron were on holiday at the time, when Alfred was picked up by the Gestapo. And Mania sent us a more or less uncoded telegram, which we understood to mean that Alfred had been arrested by the Gestapo. I remember we got it at 11 and we'd gone within the hour. First we went to Marcel Duchamp's and Mary Reynold's. They had a house in the Rue Hallé, where we hid out for a night. It's near here. I'll show you sometime. That was our first refuge. Then some of Suzanne's communist friends found us another safe place where we lay low for a time while we were provided with forged papers.
From Beckett Rememebering, Rememebering Beckett. Uncollected interviews with Samuel Beckett and Memories of Those Who Knew Him. Edited by James and Elizabeth Knowlson. Bloomsbury, €21.99