Beauvoir Simone de 1908 - 1986 (78)

The word love has by no means the same sense for both sexes, and this is one cause of the serious misunderstandings that divide them.


The second sex

I hesitated a long time before writing a book on woman. The subject is irritating, especially for women; and it is not new. Enough ink has flowed over the quarrel about feminism; it is now almost over: let’s not talk about it anymore. Yet it is still being talked about. And the volumes of idiocies churned out over this past century do not seem to have clarified the problem. Besides, is there a problem? And what is it? Are there even women? True, the theory of the eternal feminine still has its followers; they whisper, “Even in Russia, women are still very much women”; but other well-informed people—and also at times those same ones—lament, “Woman is losing herself, woman is lost.” It is hard to know any longer if women still exist, if they will always exist, if there should be women at all, what place they hold in this world, what place they should hold. “Where are the women?” asked a short-lived magazine recently.

Simone de Beauvoir (9 January 1908 to 14 April 1986) was a French writer, philosopher and feminist. Born in January 9, 1908 in Paris, grew up in a Catholic, conservative, bourgeois family with aristocratic roots. At a young age she experienced an existential crisis that pushed her to stop going to church and to declare herself atheistic, while she began to have philosophical concerns. She received basic education in private schools and then she studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, where she excelled. She met there her fellow student Jean-Paul Sartre, with whom they will be a couple throughout their lives, with an independent open relationship, living in different houses and having sex with many other people, sometimes sharing the same girl. In 1931 Paul asked her to marry for practical reasons but she refused, stating that: "Marriage is a restriction, urbanization, and institutionalized state intervention in the private lives of citizens." After completing her studies she passed the exams and was appointed teacher of philosophy in secondary education. She stayed in this position until 1943 when she was fired because she supported the relationship of a schoolgirl with a Spanish Jew. The rest of her life, she lived from writing. During the occupation of France she was in contact with Camus, Genet, Picasso, they frequented in the legendary Parisian cafe Les Deux Magots,making history with their political and philosophical debates. She also took part in "Socialism and Liberty" an organization under the French resistance. When the war ended, she issued with Sartre the political magazine "Modern Times", she wrote there articles which reflected a scandalous for its time subversive way of thinking. The conservative circles of France called her pornographer and nymphomaniac. She had many lovers in her life, men and women, her most important was the American Nelson Algren, the author of the novel "The Man with the golden arm”, who had met him in her first trip to America, in 1947. Together they traveled half of the world and it seems that he made her feel like nobody else, according to her official biography. In 1951 Nelson was tired of sharing her and asked her to be his wife. "Without Sartre I would not be Simone you love, but a dirty, selfish creature," she replied, refusing to give herself exclusively and completely. Their relationship continued with fluctuations until 1963, when he finished it in bad temper, not withstanding any more her affection to Sartre and her parallel relationships. One of those relationships was with the younger by 17 years Lanzman, who was recruited in the journal "Modern Times" in 1952. They lived together for nearly two years, until she felt suffocated, "as if I was married," she exclaimed and left. Lanzman’s half-sister Evelyn was a femme fatal of the era and had an affair with Sartre, Simone had written for her: "Evelyn is so beautiful so everyone is astonished with her wit."

In the 50's Simone supported the struggle of the Algerians and Vietnamese who were fighting for their independence and along with Sartre had joined the Communist Party. They both left it in 1956, after the Soviet intervention in Hungary. In 1960 they were invited in Cuba by Castro, in 1962 she spoke out against the abuse of an Algerian by the French occupation forces arousing storms of reactions and accusations of lacking patriotism. In 1967 he traveled to the Middle East while in conflict and in 1968 took an active role alongside the students during the demonstrations of May. In the 1970s she marched for the right to legal abortion signing along with 341 other women a statement that they had resorted to illegal abortion. She never stopped using her publicity to promote women's rights. In mid 1949 she published the Second Sex, the most popular and important feminist work of the 20th century. This project overshadows all her other projects but the rest of her literary production is not insignificant. She wrote philosophical essays, plays and novels drawing on the philosophical principles of existentialism and also a host of wonderful autobiographical calendars reconstructing both her life and Sartre’s. These diaries were written after Jean Paul suffered a stroke and became blinded, Simone began to gets lengthy interviews to keep alive, as she said, his wonderful thought. For Sartre had said: "The only way to hurt me is to die." He died in 1980 and Simone isolated herself at home with only companion her adoptive daughter. Sartre’s adoptive daughter along with some other women, attacked her with a letter published in the «Liberation», accusing her that for long she was treating him as if he was dead, cut him from his friends for having him on her own. She didn’t answer, but two years later she made public Sartre’s letters as a proof of how valuable she was for him and wrote her final book, the "Farewell to Sartre," a heartbreaking hymn to the eternal companion. She died six years after Sartre, on April 14, 1986, from pneumonia, and she was buried beside him. In her hand, she had a ring that Algren had given her.