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Simone de Beauvoir

French philosopher, novelist, and essayist, the lifelong companion of Jean-Paul Sartre. Beauvoir's two volume treatise Le deuxième sexe (1949, The Second Sex), which the Vatican placed on the Index of Forbidden Books, is one of the most widely read feminist works.

Background

  • Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris into a bourgeois family. Her father, Georges Bertrand de Beauvoir. Bertrand de Beauvoir's lineage could be traced to Guillaume de Champeaux, one of the founders of the University of Paris. Beauvoir's mother, Françoise Brasseur, was a devout Roman Catholic, born to a family engaged in government servide and banking; she raised her daughters in a strict, traditional mode. However, as an adolescent Beauvoir rejected the religious and social values of her background.

    De Beauvoir and Sartre met in 1929 when they were both studying for the aggregation in philosophy, the elite French graduate degree. The nature of Sartre and Beauvoir’s partnership was never a secret to their friends, and it was not a secret to the public, either, after they were abruptly launched into celebrity, in 1945. They were famous as a couple with independent lives, who met in cafés, where they wrote their books and saw their friends at separate tables, and were free to enjoy other relationships, but who maintained a kind of soul marriage. Although never marrying (despite Sartre’s proposal in 1931), having children together, or even living in the same home, Sartre and Beauvoir remained intellectual and romantic partners until Sartre’s death in 1980.

    The passing of her lifelong companion in 1980 is recounted in her 1981 book, La Cérémonie des Adieux (Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre). Following the death of Sartre, Beauvoir officially adopted her companion, Sylvie le Bon, who became her literary executor.



    On April 14, 1986, Simone De Beauvoir died of pneumonia in Paris. Simone is buried at the Cimetière du Montparnasse next to Sartre.

  • Education

    • Beauvoir was educated at Catholic girls' schools.

      In 1926, Beauvoir entered the Sorbonne, where she studied philosophy and literature. At the age of 21 she passed the difficult final examination, agrégation. The philosophy agrégation had been opened to women during the period between the two word wars.

    Career

    • Upon graduation, Beauvoir taught philosophy in several schools in Marseille, Rouen, and Paris. Until being dismissed by the German authorities, she worked from 1941 to 1943 as a professor at the Sorbonne.

      During the Nazi occupation of France, Beauvoir apparently was not involved with the activities against the Germans. In the late 1944 she founded with Sartre Merleau-Ponty and Raymond Aron the monthly review Les Temps modernes, which took its name from Charlie Chaplin's film. For twenty-five years the review was the most prominent forum for

      radical political and philosophical debate. Beauvoir and Sartre met Albert Camus, a member of the Resistance, at the opening performance of Sartre's Les Mouches in Paris in 1943; they talked about books. For a while they were good

      friends, spending their evenings together with an assortment of friends drinking, dancing, and having impromptu gatherings. Beauvoir took a new interest in cooking. Camus, a regular guest in her apartment on the Rue de Seine, once said that the quality was not exactly brilliant but the quantity was just right.



      In 1943, Simone published her first book, She Came to Stay, a metaphysical novel about complex relationships between people. She drove inspiration for this novel from her relationship with Sartre and also the relationships both of them had with other people. Continuing to write, Simone wrote many philosophical essays exploring existentialism

      and supporting feminism. Simone gained immense popularity with her book, The Second Sex. "One is not born a woman, but becomes one". This is arguably the central and most memorable idea in French writer and philosopher's 1949 book The Second Sex.



      During her later writing career, Simone wrote excessively about the plight of women and became active in France’s women’s liberation movement. Beauvoir was awarded the Prix Goncourt prize in 1954 for the roman "The Mandarins". She is awarded the Jerusalem prize for writers who have promoted the freedom of the individual in 1975.

    Works

    • She Came to Stay
    • The Blood of Others
    • The Second Sex
    • The Mandarins

    Views

    Existentialism, Feminism, Western Marxism

    Personality

    Interests

    Philosophers & Thinkers : Descartes, Wollstonecraft, Kant, Hegel, Husserl, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Marx, Engels, Nietzsche, Sade, Sartre

    Simone de Beauvoir
    See on larger map
    Born January 9, 1908
    Died April 14, 1986
    (aged 78)
    Nationality
    Ethnicity:
    • 1926 - 1929
      Sorbonne
    • 1931 - 1943
      Teacher

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    Alex Pivovar last changed 30/04/2012 view changes
    • Relatives
      • Françoise
      • Georges Bertrand
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