Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir French: [simɔn də bovwaʁ]; 9 January 1908 – 14 April 1986) was a French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist, socialist, and social theorist.
Beauvoir wrote novels, essays, biographies, autobiographies and monographs on philosophy, politics, and social issues.
and for her novels, including She Came to Stay and The Mandarins. Her most enduring contribution to literature is her memoirs, notably the first volume, “Mémoires d’une jeune fille rangée” (1958), which have a warmth and descriptive power.
She won the 1954 Prix Goncourt, the 1975 Jerusalem Prize, and the 1978 Austrian State Prize for European Literature.
Beauvoir’s prominent open relationships at times overshadowed her substantial academic reputation.
A scholar lecturing with her chastised their “distinguished [Harvard] audience [because] every question asked about Sartre concerned his work, while all those asked about Beauvoir concerned her personal life.
She chose never to marry and never had children.
This gave her the time to advance her education and engage in political causes, write and teach, and take lovers. She lived with Claude Lanzmann from 1952 to 1959.
Perhaps her most famous lover was American author Nelson Algren, whom she met in Chicago in 1947, and to whom she wrote across the Atlantic as “my beloved husband.”
Algren won the National Book Award for The Man with the Golden Arm in 1950, and in 1954, Beauvoir won France’s most prestigious literary prize for The Mandarins, in which Algren is the character Lewis Brogan.
Algren vociferously objected to their intimacy becoming public.
Beauvoir was bisexual, and her relationships with young women were controversial.
. Sorokine’s parents laid formal charges against Beauvoir for debauching a minor (the age of consent in France at the time was 15), and Beauvoir’s license to teach in France was revoked, although it was subsequently reinstated.
In 1977, Beauvoir, Sartre, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and much of the era’s intelligentsia signed a petition seeking to completely remove the age of consent in France.
Beauvoir was raised in a strict Catholic household. She had been sent to convent schools as a youth. She was deeply religious as a child, at one point intending to become a nun
. At age 14, Beauvoir questioned her faith as she saw many changes in the world after witnessing tragedies throughout her life.
She abandoned her faith in her early teens and remained an atheist for the rest of her life. Beauvoir quotes “Faith allows an evasion of those difficulties which the atheist confronts honestly.
And to crown all, the believer derives a sense of great superiority from this very cowardice itself.”
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Facts and Myths and Lived Experience
In The Second Sex, de Beauvoir analyzed women’s oppression and outlined the foundation for contemporary feminism.
In these biblical myths, women are frequently portrayed as the sinful or weak side of a being. Using evidence from the literature, de Beauvoir writes a compelling argument as to the connection between myth and history.
Through this connection, she argues, men defined women as the Other, the darker, inferior side of humanity, unworthy of responsibility.
The ideas and arguments de Beauvoir outlined in her writing were revolutionary at the time, and sparked an awakening of a second wave of feminism.
In this petition, de Beauvoir demanded access to contraception and the freedom to abortion.
The Manifesto paved the way for legal and save birth control and abortions in France.
Relevant Quotes (The Second Sex)
“Society, being codified by man, decrees that woman is inferior; she can do away with this inferiority only by destroying the male’s superiority.”
“When women act like women, they are accused of being inferior.
“To be free is not to have the power to do anything you like; it is to be able to surpass the given toward an open future.”
–Simone de Beauvoir –
Simone de Beauvoir was one of the most influential feminist thinkers of the 20th century. A novelist, political activist, memoirist and philosopher, she is most well-known for writing the 1949 text ‘The Second Sex’ which was revolutionary in its discussions on the role of women in society.
De Beauvoir became the ninth woman to pass the exam and the youngest ever to pass.
Based on their belief in radical freedom, de Beauvoir characterised their love as ‘essential’ with an emphasis on emotional honesty.
‘She Came To Stay’ was de Beauvoir’s literary debut and was published in 1943
Characterised as a metaphysical novel, it explores the fundamental existentialist belief that humans are ultimately responsible for themselves – a theme which would recur throughout de Beauvoir’s work
Simone de Beauvoir continued to publish fiction and nonfiction throughout her life.
She won the Prix Goncourt for her novel ‘The Mandarins’ in 1954 which satirised the lives of Sartre, Camus and other leading French intellectuals.
Her other novels included ‘The Blood of Others’, ‘All Men Are Mortal’, ‘Les Belles Images’ and ‘The Woman Destroyed’.
Did Simone de Beauvoir’s open ‘marriage’ make her happy?
Women, you owe her everything!”.
It was a phrase repeated over and over at her funeral, where some 5,000 mourners gathered to pay tribute to the writer many consider the greatest
SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR, AUTHOR AND INTELLECTUAL, DIES IN PARIS AT 78
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
A Young Diarist Simone de Beauvoir was born in the fourteenth arrondissement, or district, of Paris in 1908, and lived there most of her life. Her mother was a devout Catholic; her father, a lawyer, was agnostic. Despite a comfortable childhood, she rebelled against
her parents’ values at an early age, declaring that she would never become a housewife or mother. She also began to write when young, penning her first story at age eight and keeping a diary that would evolve into four published volumes of memoirs, starting with Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958).
Sartre and de Beauvoir were lovers and developed an unwavering partnership, but they never lived together. They rejected the institution of marriage, and neither wanted children. Furthermore, they did not exclude what
they called “contingent” affairs, some of which became important in their lives. In 1933, the pair attempted a ménage à trois with one of Sartre’s students, Olga Kosakiewicz. This experiment, and the anguish it caused, became the basis for de Beauvoir’s first novel, She Came to Stay (1943). The novel captures the hothouse atmosphere generated by the trio as the indolent intruder Xaviére slowly destroys everything that surrounds her.