“Pourtant nous avons été ensemble dans le Vaucluse, j’en mettrais ma main au feu. Nous avons fait les vendanges, tiens, chez un nommé Bonnelly, à Roussillon.”
En attendant Godot, Samuel Beckett
In addressing Estragon, Vladimir is channeling the author’s days working in the Bonnelly vineyard near Roussillon where Samuel Beckett and his companion Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil had fled to escape arrest from the Germans in Paris to rent a house in the Luberon.
Seventy years on, fourth-generation Bonnelly’s run the vineyard, the Domaine de Coulet Rouge, whereas the two-story house, Les Roches Rouges, secluded in an ochre-flecked forest, a ten-minute stroll to the village – where Sam and Suzanne stayed for more than two years – is now in search of a buyer who appreciates its heritage and the iconic writer’s legacy.
Consider the narrative: When the Germans took over Pairs June 1940, Sam and Suzanne lived at their apartment in the 15th arrondissement. In September 1941, Beckett joined a cell of the French Resistance, Gloria SMH, translating and ordering documents and correspondence. Within a year, the Germans busted the cell, making more than 50 arrests, and Sam and Suzanne, alerted to their impending capture, obtained false papers and made their way across to the unoccupied zone, arriving in Vichy, the headquarters of the French government collaborating with the Germans, in September 29, 1942.
They soon headed south as Professor Lob, friend, had informed the secretary general in Avignon that an Irishman would be residing with his family in Roussillon, a village in the Luberon that was relatively safe from German patrols.
Upon walking the final leg of their journey to Roussillon, Sam and Suzanne took a room at the Hotel Escouffier, and subsequently declared their residency at City Hall in Roussillon on Nov. 6, 1942.
A week later, Hitler declared the French free zone subject to German rule, making movement even in the south severely restricted. It would not be until July 43 that Beckett, as an Irish citizen, would be granted the right to travel within France.
Professor Lob put Sam and Suzanne in contact with the owner of a house in an area just outside the village called La Croix. During the first months in Roussillon, Beckett found existence maddening and cramped with an absence of structure. Beckett met the painter Henri Hayden who was to his delight a chess player. (Beckett loved chess as did Marcel Duchamp, who was living in America. Mary Reynolds, the lifelong companion of Duchamp, had given Sam and Suzanne money to escape Paris.)
To put bread and wine, quite literally, on the table, Beckett worked for local farmers, one being the Bonnelley cited above. Otherwise, Beckett engaged in therapeutic long walks.
Now, consider the heritage: Upon adapting to a hermetic rural lifestyle, Beckett set himself to write, working on the novel “Watt,” which reflects the despair of rootlessness and not belonging anywhere, and gives Beckett a platform for taking some highly satirical swipes at Ireland, such as the ban on contraception (alas, a current day contretemps on the America political scene).
In 1944, Becket reunited with the Maquis, the rural French Resistance, by hiding explosives in the house and going on patrols with the local “Maquisards.” At the house in the forest, Beckett overcame a maddening hermetic existence to nourish his artistic fervor as well as his express his ardor for freedom from oppression.
With Paris liberated by the Allied forces, Sam and Suzanne left Roussillon by bus to Avignon in April, 1945, and then by train to Paris to reclaim their apartment. Writing “Godot” awaited Beckett, and the salute to Bonnelly and the grape harvest in the Luberon that would be composed within.
The Samuel Beckett House is a two-story structure on 2.3 acres of land; 1,930sq ft., ground floor of living room with fireplace, dining room, two bedrooms, kitchen with terrace, toilet and laundry, second floor of three bedrooms. Attached garage. House has southern exposure.