In 1953 Samuel Beckett had a small house built on the outskirts of the village Ussy-sur-Marne, some 30 miles from Paris. The house was deliberately simple, practical, austere: a sloping roof over two rooms which opened into each other, adjoined by a kitchen and a bathroom. In one of the rooms were two single beds; in the other, a rectangular oak desk in a corner by the window, some bookshelves, a round dining table, two wicker chairs, a wicker footstool, and a wicker waste paper basket. The floor was laid with red and white tiles. Outside there was a low outbuilding used as a storage shed for gardening tools and a small copse. For the next 46 years, Beckett would divide the majority of his time between Paris and Ussy: Paris was the collaborative world of publishers, theatre, and fame; Ussy the refuge of reading and writing.
Writing from Ussy to his friend Tom MacGreevy on August 11, 1955, Beckett remarked: ‘I seem to recuperate something in the silence and the solitude.’ Three and a half years later, in a letter to Ethna McCarthy, Beckett comments on the importance for his writing life of returning to the solitude of Ussy, ‘with the snow and the crows and the exercise book that opens like a door and lets me far down into the now friendly dark.’ To Alan Schneider, Beckett described the house as a ‘hole in the mud of the Marne.’