In these interviews from 1982 and 1985, I ask Beauvoir about her philosophical differences with Jean-Paul Sartre on the issues of voluntarism vs social conditioning and embodiment, individualism vs reciprocity, and ontology vs ethics. We also discuss her influence on Sartre's work, the problems with the current English translation of The Second Sex, her analyses of motherhood and feminist concepts of woman-identity, and her own experience of sexism.
The Useless Mouths" and Other Literary Writings brings to English-language readers literary writings--several previously unknown--by Simone de Beauvoir. Culled from sources including various American university collections, the works span decades of Beauvoir's career. Ranging from dramatic works and literary theory to radio broadcasts, they collectively reveal fresh insights into Beauvoir's writing process, personal life, and the honing of her philosophy. The volume begins with a new translation of the 1945 play The Useless Mouths, written in Paris during the Nazi occupation. (...) Other pieces were discovered after Beauvoir's death in 1986, such as the 1965 short novel "Misunderstanding in Moscow," involving an elderly French couple who confront their fears of aging. Two additional previously unknown texts include the fragmentary "Notes for a Novel," which contains the seed of what she later would call "the problem of the Other," and a lecture on postwar French theater titled Existentialist Theater. The collection notably includes the eagerly awaited translation of Beauvoir's contribution to a 1965 debate among Jean-Paul Sartre and other French writers and intellectuals, "What Can Literature Do?". (shrink)
Revelatory insights into the early life and thought of the preeminent French feminist philosopher Dating from her years as a philosophy student at the Sorbonne, this is the 1926-27 diary of the teenager who would become the famous French philosopher, author, and feminist, Simone de Beauvoir. Written years before her first meeting with Jean-Paul Sartre, these diaries reveal previously unknown details about her life and offer critical insights into her early philosophy and literary works. Presented here for the first time (...) in translation and fully annotated, the diary is completed by essays from Barbara Klaw and Margaret A. Simons that address its philosophical, historical and literary significance. The volume represents an invaluable resource for tracing the development of Beauvoir's independent thinking and influence on the world. (shrink)
In this article de Beauvoir defends a conception of literature as a kind of unveiling of something that exists outside itself, a mode of action which reveals certain truths about the world. What we call “literature” is eminently capable of grasping the world—a world which de Beauvoir, following Jean-Paul Sartre, conceives of as a “detotalized totality”; one that is real and independent of us, which exists for all, but is only graspable through our own projects and our perspectives. Yet far (...) from keeping us stranded within our unique subjectivities, literature restores to subjective experience its generality; it allows other to “taste” the world as it exists for others. We can communicate through literature because in it our world, our languages, and our projects overlap. Ultimately, for de Beauvoir, literature is what allows us to see the world as others see it—all the while remaining, irreducibly, ourselves. (shrink)
Written from September 1939 to January 1941, Simone de Beauvoir’s Wartime Diary gives English readers unabridged access to one of the scandalous texts that threaten to overturn traditional views of Beauvoir’s life and work. The account in Beauvoir’s Wartime Diary of her clandestine affair with Jacques Bost and sexual relationships with various young women challenges the conventional picture of Beauvoir as the devoted companion of Jean-Paul Sartre, just as her account of completing her novel She Came to Stay at a (...) time when Sartre’s philosophy in Being and Nothingness was barely begun calls into question the traditional view of Beauvoir’s novel as merely illustrating Sartre’s philosophy. Most important, the Wartime Diary provides an exciting account of Beauvoir’s philosophical transformation from the prewar solipsism of She Came to Stay to the postwar political engagement of The Second Sex. Cast in the crucible of the Nazi Occupation, Beauvoir’s existentialist ethics reflects dramatic collective experiences, such as joining the tide of refugees fleeing the German invasion in June 1940, as well as the courageous reaffirmation of her individuality in constructing a humanist ethics of freedom and solidarity in January 1941. (shrink)