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Simone de Beauvoir: L’invitée (She Came to Stay)

The theme of the outsider – de Beauvoir uses the term Other – coming into a family or relationship and gradually destroying it is by no means new. De Beauvoir allegedly based this story on the ménage à trois, she and Sartre had with one of her students in Rouen, Olga Kosakiewicz. She wanted to write both of the relationship the three of them had but also about the effect of the Other.

The action takes place in Paris just before the war. The de Beauvoir-Sartre couple are Françoise Miquel, a writer, and Pierre Labrousse, an actor and director. Like de Beauvoir and Sartre, they are lovers but are not married and do not have children. They invite Xavière to stay with them and this immediately causes problems. Françoise is jealous and Pierre disturbed by her presence. Like the Terence Stamp character in Theorem, she attracts and disturbs but seems to do nothing else. The stress drives Françoise to a breakdown and to hospital, leaving her as the Other. When she comes back from hospital, things get worse as Xavière seems determined to destroy the couple. War breaks out and Pierre is called up, while Françoise and Xavière get a flat together. But things continue to deteriorate and, finally, Françoise ends up killing Xavière. De Beauvoir shows this gradually but cruelly deteriorating relationship against the background of a different Other, the war, and she does it very well. An impressive first novel.

Publishing history

First published in French 1943 by Gallimard
First published in English 1949 by Secker & Warburg