Monday, December 09, 2013

The Time is Right for Béatrix Beck

A. The time is right for the writings of Béatrix Beck (1914-2008). Let's start here with the context of her life.

She was born in Switzerland on the cusp of the Great War. Her mother was Irish. Her father, Christian Beck, was culturally a Belgian (French) Walloon poet; he was a literary associate of Alfred Jarry (Ubu Roi) and André Gide, among others. 

As Jarry had in 1907, Christian Beck died of consumption -- t.b., tuberculosis -- two years into the Great War, when Béatrix was not quite two herself. 

Béatrix was educated in France (at least mostly), all the way though law school. When she was in her twenties, her mother committed suicide. 

Béatrix became a communist around this time, and in 1936 married Naum Szapiro, who was Jewish. Together they had a daughter, Bernadette, who appears in Beck's fiction as "France." 

In 1940, while serving in the French army, Naum committed suicide, leaving Béatrix and Bernadette to fend for themselves when the Germans and their Vichy allies took over. Fortunately and amazingly, the two survived. 

B. The time is right again for Béatrix Beck for at least five reasons.

1. She is lesser known in English-speaking languages and this could easily be rectified. 

2. Her autobiographical writings reflect her (existential) "search" as a young widow, as a woman who endured the German occupation and cared for her daughter, who worked an office job, who sided with the Resistance, whose husband and "baby daddy" had been Jewish, who explored Catholicism, and who helped save Jewish refugees around Grenoble where she and Bernadette were situated, in southern France near the Alps. 

3. Her other writings, later ones, went off in new directions that may be equally interesting.

4. Her connections -- and her parents' -- with key literary folks of the era, artists, philosophers and so on, are worth exploring. André Gide, for instance, took her on as secretary in the years  before his death in early 1951.

5. Fascinating angles. Multicultural viewpoints, intersecting Bohemian types, survival, resilience, gender, religion, culture -- all of it is of interest. Walloon father of non-Belgian lineage, Irish mother, Jewish husband, gay employer (Gide) -- kaleidoscopic experiences, for sure. Hence: very much of contemporary relevance, yes? (More to follow down the  line).    

Today's Rune: Harvest. 


Charles Gramlich said...

I've not read her.

jodi said...

Erik-that poor doll had a rather tragic life. I love little kitties!