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Simone de Beauvoir

Biography

Simone de Beauvoir is best remembered as a philosopher, a writer on politics, author of a first-class autobiography and, of course, the author of a ground-breaking work on feminism. But she did write a few novels. She was born in Paris in 1908. Her father was a lawyer who preferred the racetrack to the law. Her mother came from a family that had been prosperous till their bank failed in 1909. However, according to her autobiography, she had a happy childhood. She portrayed herself as a dutiful daughter but she had started to rebel against her mother’s Catholicism. She became very close to her friend Elisabeth Mabille (known as Zaza). In 1929, two key events occurred. Firstly, Zaza died, apparently of meningitis, though de Beauvoir blamed it on Zaza’s parents strict Catholic views. Then, that same year, she met Jean-Paul Sartre. She came second in the exams at the Sorbonne, where she was studying (Sartre came first) and was the youngest person to pass the exam. After the Sorbonne, she became a high school teacher in various schools in Marseilles, Rouen and Paris. In Rouen she met Olga Kosakiewicz, one of her students, and both Sartre and she had an affair with her. This relationship would be immortalized in her first novel, L’invitée (She Came to Stay).

When war was declared, she was separated from Sartre for the first time since they met, as he was called up and later taken prisoner of war. When he was released in 1941, they decided to give up teaching and be more involved in writing and political activism. Though they were together (though they had separate flats), they both had affairs with others. After the war, for example, when de Beauvoir went to the United States, she had an affair with Nelson Algren. During the war, they were involved in the resistance. After the war, they became the best-known left-wing intellectual couple in the world and were involved in many major left-wing causes. They produced the highly influential magazine Les Temps Modernes.

For the rest of her life, de Beauvoir produced a string of highly praised novels, philosophical works and memoirs, though she may best be remembered for her important work on feminism, Le deuxième sex (The Second Sex). However, her series of memoirs are almost as important and are still very well worth reading. Her four novels give a complex and important picture of Parisian intellectual life of the time. She was also, of course, a major influence on Sartre. She died of pneumonia in 1986.

Books about Simone de Beauvoir

Deirdre Bair: Simone de Beauvoir: A Biography

Other sites

Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986)
Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986)
Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986)
Abortion’s Mother: Early Works of Simone de Beauvoir
Lisa Appignanesi’s top 10 books by and about Simone de Beauvoir
Stand By Your Man – The strange liaison of Sartre and Beauvoir
A Transatlantic Love Affair
The Second Sex (a good chunk of the text)
Simone de Beauvoir Institute
Interview
Interview
Simone de Beauvoir (in French)
9 janvier 1908/Naissance de Simone de Beauvoir (in French)
Simone de Beauvoir, Mémorialiste (in French)
Simone, la scandaleuse (in French)

Bibliography

1943 L’invitée (She Came to Stay) (novel)
1944 Pyrrhus et Cinéas (Pyrrhus and Cineas) (essays)
1945 Le sang des autres (The Blood of Others) (novel)
1945 Les bouches inutiles (Who Shall Die?) (drama)
1946 Tous les homes sont mortels (All Men Are Mortal) (novel)
1947 Pour une morale de l’ambigüité (The Ethics of Ambiguity) (essays)
1948 L’Amerique au jour le jour (America by Day) (memoirs)
1948 L’existentialisme et la sagesse des nations (essays)
1949 Le deuxième sexe (The Second Sex) (essays)
1954 Les mandarins (The Mandarins) (novel)
1955 Faut-il brûler Sade? (Privilèges) (Must We Burn de Sade?) (essays)
1957 La longue marche (The Long March) (essays)
1958 Mémoires d’une jeune fille rangée (Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter) (memoirs)
1960 La force de l’âge (The Prime of Life) (memoirs)
1963 La force des choses (Force of Circumstance) (memoirs)
1964 Une mort très douce (A Very Easy Death) (memoirs)
1966 Les belles images (Les belles images) (novel)
1967 La femme rompue (The Woman Destroyed) (novel)
1970 La vieillesse (UK: Old Age; US; Coming of Age) (memoirs)
1972 Tout compte fait (All Said and Done) (memoirs)
1979 Quand prime le spirituel (When Things of The Spirit Come First) (novel)
1981 La cérémonie des adieux suivi de Entretiens avec Jean-Paul Sartre août-septembre 1974 (Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre) (memoirs)
1990 Lettres à Sartre, tome I: 1930-1939 (Letters to Sartre)
1990 Lettres à Sartre, tome II: 1940-1963 (Letters to Sartre)
1990 Journal de guerre, septembre 1939 – janvier 1941
1997 A Transatlantic Love Affair: Letters to Nelson Algren
2004 Correspondance croisée avec Jacques-Laurent Bost
2008 Cahiers de jeunesse, 1926-1930