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Joanna Biggs: Marguerite Duras, 6 October 2016

... that he’d love her until death’. Duras liked other women if they were actresses; she loathed Simone deBeauvoir but counted Nathalie Sarraute as one of her closest friends. She was wary of feminism as one of ‘all these rather obtuse forms of activism that don’t always lead to true female ...


Edward Said: My Encounter with Sartre, 1 June 2000

... a seminar on peace in the Middle East in Paris on 13 and 14 March this year. Please respond. Simone deBeauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre.’ At first I thought the cable was a joke of some sort. It might just as well have been an invitation from Cosima and Richard Wagner to come to Bayreuth, or from T.S. Eliot and ...

The earth had need of me

Joanna Biggs: A nice girl like Simone, 16 April 2020

Becoming BeauvoirA Life 
by Kate Kirkpatrick.
Bloomsbury, 476 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 1 350 04717 4
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Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone deBeauvoir and Me, a Memoir 
by Deirdre Bair.
Atlantic, 347 pp., £18.99, February 2020, 978 1 78649 265 4
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Diary of a Philosophy Student, Vol. II: 1928-29 
by Simone deBeauvoir, translated by Barbara Klaw.
Illinois, 374 pp., £40, June 2019, 978 0 252 04254 6
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... Almost​ from the moment she published The Second Sex in November 1949, Simone deBeauvoir was asked why she’d never written a female character who lived a free life, the sort she imagined in her final chapter, ‘The Independent Woman’. If the mother of 20th-century feminism couldn’t imagine a free woman, who could? At first she would answer brusquely ...

Suiting yourself

Peter Campbell, 27 July 1989

I Modi. The Sixteen Pleasures: An Erotic Album of Renaissance Italy 
by Lynne Lawner.
Northwestern, 132 pp., $35.95, February 1989, 0 8101 0803 8
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The Dress of the Venetians 1495-1525 
by Stella Mary Newton.
Scolar, 196 pp., £28.50, December 1988, 0 85967 735 4
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Fashion Drawings in ‘Vogue’: René Bouët-Willamez and Fashion Drawings in ‘Vogue’: Carl Erickson 
by William Parker.
Joseph, 128 pp., £14.95, March 1989, 0 86350 198 2
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Women and Fashion 
by Caroline Evans and Minna Thornton.
Quartet, 184 pp., £15, March 1989, 0 7043 2691 4
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... in the British Museum, and drawings made in the mid-19th century by Count Frédéric-Maximilien de Waldeck, based on a set of the engravings found, he said, in a Mexican convent, seem likely to be genuine reconstructions. They conform both with the British Museum fragments and with an edition in which the original engravings have been copied as woodcuts ...

Mother’s back

Lorna Sage: Feminists with Tenure, 18 May 2000

What is a Woman? And Other Essays 
by Toril Moi.
Oxford, 517 pp., £25, October 1999, 9780198122425
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... extricate ourselves? Moi argues that we need to go back to the future – back, in particular, to Simone deBeauvoir, whose phenomenological understanding of lived experience will provide a way out. Her 1994 book on Beauvoir, The Making of an Intellectual Woman, paid implicit tribute ...

Upstaged in Palestine

Nigel Williams, 18 May 1989

Prisoner of Love 
by Jean Genet, translated by Barbara Bray.
Picador, 375 pp., £12.95, February 1989, 9780330299626
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... Europe as a thief and male prostitute in the Thirties, is dedicated to Sartre, together with Simone deBeauvoir. It is also the case that his later novels almost always include a gesture towards philosophy, a trait that does not deform his masterpiece Notre Dame des Fleurs. ‘We should like these reflections and ...

I, too, am an artist

Linda Nochlin: Dora Maar, 4 January 2001

Dora Maar with and without Picasso: A Biography 
by Mary Ann Caws.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £24.95, October 2000, 0 500 51009 1
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... sock and a strikingly nonchalant slouch leans against a rugged wall beneath a sign saying ‘rue de Genets’. Specificity of place and texture is admirably juxtaposed with formal elegance in these images, which consistently make an analogy between the city wall and the plain surface of the paper on which they appear. Maar’s portraits of members of the ...

Bound to be in the wrong

Jonathan Rée: Camus and Sartre, 20 January 2005

Camus and Sartre: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It 
by Ronald Aronson.
Chicago, 291 pp., £23, February 2005, 0 226 02796 1
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... compliment with interest. He treated it (together with its companion volume, the essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe) as a serious analysis of the difficulty, indeed ‘absurdity’, of all attempts to make sense of a life. He praised Camus for producing not novelised philosophy but a philosophical novel: a work that analyses experience by literary means, presenting ...

Short Cuts

Joanna Biggs: The Manifesto Instinct, 18 June 2020

... women want hasn’t been that much of a mystery at all. (Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth, Simone deBeauvoir: century after century, girls just wanna be human, not other.) But finding the moment to speak and the words to use? Reading Breanne Fahs’s collection of feminist manifestos, Burn It ...

I am them

Richard Wollheim, 7 October 1993

Love of Beginnings 
by J.-B. Pontalis, translated by James Greene and Marie-Christine Régius.
Free Association, 260 pp., £13.95, May 1993, 9781853431296
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... J.-B. Pontalis is a Parisian intellectual de pur sang. Born into a wealthy upper-middle-class family, he was brought up in Neuilly, and, as a child, spent long summers at a family house in Cabourg, Proust’s Balbec. He studied philosophy under Sartre, and taught it for some years. He entered psychoanalysis under the aegis of Lacan, and having weaned himself from that unfortunate affiliation, is now one of the leading figures in the French psychoanalytic world ...

Pick the small ones

Marina Warner: Girls Are Rubbish, 17 February 2005

Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet: Women in Proverbs from around the World 
by Mineke Schipper.
Yale, 422 pp., £35, April 2004, 0 300 10249 6
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... As they approach, she curtseys: ‘O brave new world, that has such women in it!’ Captain Simone deBeauvoir leads the group; her bosun Germaine Greer beside her, and her crew of investigators fast behind (they include Kate Millett, purser; Mary Daly, doctor; Erica Jong, navigator). Soon, the whole group is ...

Under Her Buttons

Joanna Biggs: Ottessa Moshfegh, 31 March 2016

by Ottessa Moshfegh.
Cape, 260 pp., £16.99, March 2016, 978 0 224 10255 1
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... her crack open a peanut, lick her fingers: I would die one day, but not yet. There I was. Simone deBeauvoir saw housework as the Sisyphean task par excellence: the repetition was an effective way of not living, of simply keeping time until death. But if you’re trapped, what else is there to do but watch the ...

Nothing he hasn’t done, nowhere he hasn’t been

Adam Shatz: Claude Lanzmann, 5 April 2012

The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir 
by Claude Lanzmann, translated by Frank Wynne.
Atlantic, 528 pp., £25, March 2012, 978 1 84887 360 5
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... early 1950s as an editor at Les Temps modernes. He also became – with Sartre’s blessing – Beauvoir’s lover, ‘the only man with whom Simone deBeauvoir lived a quasi-marital existence’. He marched with the left against the wars in Algeria and Vietnam; moonlighted in ...

Good Girl, Bad Girl

Elaine Showalter, 5 June 1997

Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment 
by Jane Gallop.
Duke, 104 pp., £28.50, June 1997, 0 8223 1918 7
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A Life in School: What the Teacher Learned 
by Jane Tompkins.
Addison-Wesley, 256 pp., $22, January 1997, 0 201 91212 0
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Bequest and Betrayal: Memoirs of a Parent’s Death 
by Nancy Miller.
Oxford, 208 pp., £19.50, February 1997, 0 19 509130 2
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... Gallop recalls that she not only became a better student, but improved her sex life by reading Simone deBeauvoir (‘I ... learned that women could masturbate, and had my first orgasm’); she danced bare-breasted with other students, and began to ‘fantasise teacher-student sex alongside other brave new ...

Mother-Haters and Other Rebels

Barbara Taylor: Heroine Chic, 3 January 2002

Inventing Herself: Claiming a Feminist Intellectual Heritage 
by Elaine Showalter.
Picador, 384 pp., £16.99, June 2001, 0 330 34669 5
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... icons but a very personal pantheon, composed (Diana and one or two others apart) of femmes de lettres in Showalter’s mould rather than of grassroots political activists, as we used to call those who preferred getting things done to talking about them. Figures familiar from other popular histories of feminism appear – Margaret Fuller, Charlotte ...

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