I am pretty much repulsed by Simone de Beauvoir’s writing.  Read only The Second Sex and you might be nodding in agreement with her, and – if you are a woman – having nightmares about sinking into immanence.  Stray beyond that to her novels, to her letters to Sartre, to her duplicitous official biography, or to her pathetic love affair with Nelson Algren, and I do not see how you can fail to see her as a warped narcissist who can have no advice of any consequence for women generally.

Here is an extract from a letter she wrote to Sartre on Sunday 12th November 1939.  They have ensnared a third person into their relationship, a young girl called Védrine.  Védrine has tried to insist that she should have equal access to Sartre.  De Beauvoir has other ideas.  She writes to Sartre of the showdown that she had with Védrine:

“Flushing with anger, I told her I couldn’t understand how she envisaged our relations; that she seemed to see the threesome as an exact tripartite division, which astonished me.  She told me that she did indeed reckon in future to cut our lives in thirds – and, for example, during the holidays spend one month with me, one with you, and leave one month for us.  I said she was mistaken – that things wouldn’t be like that – and for a moment there was a real, sharp quarrel.  I said that if we were to proceed in that way, then the result of her arrival in my life would be that, instead of the three months I used to have with you, I’d be given one month of you, one of her, and one empty month – which really would be too injurious.  She defended herself fiercely.  We went up to my room, and she said she could see I loved her less than you – and, when pressed, that if I had to go exclusively with one or other, I’d go with you.  She sobbed, but then calmed down, and we continued the discussion in a gentler vein.  I explained my life with you to her, and that those ten years hadn’t been idyllic; that there’d been separations, difficulties of every kind, etc. (exaggerating enormously); and that thought this didn’t constitute a stock of happiness on which to rest, it had nevertheless ‘situated’ me differently from her with respect to you.  That our relations (yours and mine) didn’t have the youth or ardour of those we enjoyed with her; but that it was necessary precisely to make up for that by their duration.  That I had many fewer years than she ahead of me in which to be happy – that I’d be old while she was still young.  Lastly, that our situations of life and with respect to you were so different, that dividing our lives into three equal parts would be a false kind of justice.  She was quite struck by these arguments …

All of this was doubtless pretty harsh to tell her, and in cold blood I’d not have done so; but I’m glad I did, because she was in the process of taking us down a too dangerous path.  She really could have reproached us, moreover, with not having made things clear.  I spoke in my own name only, insisting what’s more on the fact that you loved us both equally, and it was I alone who made the distinction – one not of feeling, actually, but of need, metaphysics and ethics.  It was agreed that we wouldn’t bother you with these disputes and she won’t mention them to you – so don’t allude to them.  But I did say I believed you also thought those ten years of life in common had given me rights over you of a kind no one else could have – that you thought you owed yourself first to me.  Speak along the same line when the opportunity arises.

Your charming Beaver”

[The photo was taken by Art Fray, a friend of Nelson Algren.  Read more about it here]

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