Simone de Beauvoir is one of the most famous feminist writers in the world. A look back at her life as a woman and a writer…
She refused to marry Jean-Paul Sartre
Simone Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir was born on January 9, 1908, into a relatively well-to-do Catholic family. Eldest of a family of two children, she received a strict and traditional maternal education. As a child, she studied at the Institut Désir, a Catholic school. She rejected these teachings very early on, declaring herself a total atheist. She then discovered a deep passion for reading and writing. From 1926, she enrolled in philosophy courses given at the Sorbonne. In 1929, she met Jean-Paul Sartre, and was received second in the philosophy aggregation competition, just behind him.
Simone de Beauvoir is appointed to Marseille while Jean-Paul Sartre is assigned to Le Havre. To facilitate their rapprochement, he offers to marry him, but Simone refuses, because for her, “marriage doubles family obligations and all the social chores. She then teaches her discipline in Marseille, then in Rouen and Paris However, unfulfilled by this profession, she abandoned it in 1943 to pursue a literary career.Her first novel, L’Invitée, depicts amorous relationships ignited by the feeling of jealousy, within a tripartite relationship. This novel is largely inspired by Simone de Beauvoir’s own love experience, then in a threesome with Jean-Paul Sartre and Olga Kosakiewicz.
A strong political commitment
The ideas that flourished in the mind of Simone de Beauvoir were marked very early on by a strong political commitment. From 1926, she joined a socialist movement. In 1945, Jean-Paul Sartre created “Les Temps Modernes“, a left-wing magazine in which she wrote numerous articles. In the aftermath of the Second World War, his political commitments redoubled in intensity. She also demonstrates a strong commitment to the status of women. In 1949, she published an essay entitled The Second Sex. In considerations always close to existentialism, she advocates the liberation and emancipation of women in society. Outraged at seeing women treated as an erotic object, she describes a society where women are kept in a state of inferiority and advocates “equality in difference” and the emancipation of women. The only way to avoid it would then be to acquire total independence.
The base of the first feminist movements
This work scandalizes high society, but is supported by Claude Lévi-Strauss and becomes the base of the first feminist movements.
Simone de Beauvoir won the Goncourt Prize in 1954 with Les Mandarins, a novel which depicts Parisian intellectuals confronting their points of view on French society at the end of the Second World War. It is dedicated by Nelson Algren, an American communist writer who has had an intense relationship with Simone since 1949. From 1958, she published a series of autobiographical accounts of her prejudiced environment, her efforts to get out of it, her relationship with Sartre. After the death of Jean-Paul Sartre in 1980, she made Sylvie Le Bon, a young philosophy student known in the 1960s, her adopted daughter and the heiress of her literary work. Simone de Beauvoir shares the same grave as Jean-Paul Sartre in the Montparnasse cemetery.