Anne Atik and her husband, the distinguished Israeli painter Avigdor Arika, were part of Samuel Beckett's circle in Paris from the 1950s until the latter's death in 1989. How It Was is a personal record of Beckett the man, whose reticence and privacy were paradoxically among his most famous traits. What is less well-known is Beckett's gift for company and friendship, and this book is a testament to the many facets of his often enigmatic personality.
Anne Atik began jotting down conversations with Beckett in 1970, and these document his interests and passions - for chess, for sport, for music, and above all his deep knowledge of literature in several languages. Atik's recollections deal in minute particulars - details of dress, evenings in and nights out in Montparnasse. She recalls the classical recordings to which Beckett preferred to listen, the passages he would quote and re-quote from the poets, the paintings he admired, the touchstones by which he measured himself and others. The memoir is complemented by facsimiles of unpublished Beckett letters, family photographs and some of Avigdor Arikha's intimate portrait drawings of the playwright.