Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Happy Birthday Simone. . .

Today is the centenary of Simone de Beauvoir's birth. Forget all the fuss about her sex life and go read some of her works. The Mandarins is a masterpiece - a fantastic and complex novel following a group of characters as they struggle with their political conscience and subsequent life decisions following the end of WWII. Her most famous book The Second Sex, is a feminist classic. An interesting travel book penned by her is America Day by Day which is an account of her four month visit to the U.S. in 1947, where she met and began an affair with American writer Nelson Algren (whose Walk on the Wild Side, a novel about the seedy side of New Orleans, I highly recommend). I haven't yet read his travelogue of going over to Paris, called Who Lost an American? but it's on the pile. Their affair is partially chronicled in A Transatlantic Love Affair, a collection of her letters to Algren. Plenty of books exist of course on her relationship with Sartre including Hazel Rowley's recent Tete-A-Tete: The Tumultous Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, which got decent reviews.
You can test your de Beauvoir knowledge at the Guardian's quiz.

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