Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Simone de Beauvoir wrote She Came to Stay

Simone de Beauvoir
It is the birthday of French writer Simone de Beauvoir (1908), who is best known for her novels She Came to Stay (1943) and The Mandarins (1954) as well as her feminist writings, including The Second Sex (1949).

She met existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre when he was a student at Ecole normal superleure, a Paris university. De Beauvoir was not enrolled but sat in on classes anyway. Sartre proposed to her saying, "Let's sign a two-year lease." She didn't marry him but they had a close relationship for the rest of their lives. De Beauvoir never married and never had children. She had many lovers, both men and women. De Beauvoir and Sartre lived together for a time, and in 1935, two Russian sisters who were students came to live with them.

She Came to Stay is a highly fictionalized account of that episode in their lives. In the book the sisters, Olga and Wanda Kosakiewicz, are combined as one character, Xaviere. The story begins in Paris just before World War II, and concerns the open relationship of Francoise and Pierre, and their younger friend Xaviere when they form a menage a trios. It examines jealousy, freedom and angst.

The Mandarins is set in Paris at the end of World War II and into the 1950s. It is based on De Beauvoir's life with Sartre, and other intellectuals and writers in their circle, including Albert Camus, Nelson Algren, and Arthur Koestler. The title comes from the imperial Chinese civil servants. De Beauvior's group sometimes saw themselves as ineffectual Mandarins trying to discover their role in post-war society.

The Second Sex examines the role of females in other species, throughout human history and in mythology. It also covers the growth of girls into women in modern times and the conditioning of women to believe they are the inferior gender. It was considered required reading among feminists during the 1960s.

De Beauvoir also wrote Must We Burn Sade? (1955), Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958), Force of Circumstance (1963), The Woman Destroyed (1967), When Things of the Spirit Come First (1979), and Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre (1981).

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