Runboard.com
You're welcome.
Community logo






runboard.com       Sign up (learn about it) | Sign in (lost password?)

 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Simone de Beauvoir and John Paul Sartre


( pretty sure I've told this story before. but I think I tell it better this time around, with greater insight.)

A delicious story for all Beauvoir reading fans and readers of Sartre. My source is a biographical account of their relationship called: "Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre" by a husband/wife team - Kate Fullbrook and Edward Fullbrook, written in 1994. I found out the book towards the end of the decade.

Every one knows the salients of the Beauvoir/Sartre story. They were lovers, life long partners, intellectual collaborators. They each took lovers and worked independently of each other. There's that famous comment Sartre once made to the effect that: Of course I prefer the company; they are more intelligent. You got to figure he was thinking primarily of Simone. The Fullbrooks make mention of a novel by Beauvoir I had never heard of: "She Came to Stay". They make the case, to my mind persuasively, that it was the novel that inspired Sartre's thick headed, philosophical, 700 plus page, maturist working out of Existentionalism called "Being and Nothingness." (A book I almost managed to work all the way through.) The central tenet of his thinking was simply that, instrincically speaking, human life has no meaning, full stop. As early as his novel of the late 30s, "L'Nausea", his antidote was to commit to action, it constituting life's only meaning. But then there appeared to him Beauvoir's "She Came to Stay" thing.

Seems the novel took him by surprise. Initially he felt betrayed. (Of course, at the time he was involved in 2 different affairs.) They had long since vowed to each other to conceal nothing from each other. But Beauvoir had spent some time, as many as a couple of years, working out a philosophical stance of her own.

Now for that delicious and slight novel, with its flimsy plot and uncomplicated story line. So French it outfrenchies French lit. There is the professor and critic, Francoise (Beauvoir), the playwright, Pierre (Sartre), and Xaviere (Wiki tells me she is a composite of Sartre's 2 lovers, Olga and Wanda Kosakiewicz). Xaviere is a young girl, a jeunne fille. Pierre discovers her, is attracted to her, brings her into his partnership with Francoise, expecting her to be accepted. All in pre-war Paris. What attracts him to her is her character, or maybe her lack of character. She is amoral and perfectly self-centered. She has no thoughts, not even about herself, no doubts, no angst, no wants, no conscience, no feelings. Sitting, standing, walking, doing, not doing, all the same to her. To Pierre she is perfect because she is the prefectly self-realized, and thus complete, human being. She is the antithesis of conventional morality with all its hypocrisies. (Why do so many Holywood personalities suddenly come to mind?) To Francoise she is a dangerous creature. But she is smart enough to get she cannot talk to Pierre about the girl. It would do no good. He is too entranced with what is in front of him, which is everything he wishes he could be, knows he can't, since, too committed, and this is key. She keeps her own counsel through out the narrative. Finally the older woman and the younger woman are alone, I think, in Francoise's flat. The solution to the problematic nature of Xavier comes to Francoise. She settles on her course of action. Decision is clear. She murders the young woman. She commits to an extreme action out of her love for another human being who has clearly lost his compass bearing.

This is what came through to Sartre when he read the story, in manuscript form. Human life is, may be, devoid of meaning. Action for its own sake not exactly enough. To live for another, or to die for another, to love for another is what puts human existence back on the positive side of that dreaded number line. Pub date for Beauvoir's novel is 1943. Same for Sartre's Being and Nothingness thing. His trilogy "The Road to Freedom" was soon to follow. In both works he carried up what Beauvoir showed him. Isn't that a cool story? How a little Frenchy novel by a "little woman" can incite a figure central to 20th C. thinking?

Tere
Jan/11/2014, 4:38 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: Simone de Beauvoir and John Paul Sartre


A couple of follow up thoughts on Beauvoir's novel idea.

It just occurs to me, just now, right this moment, that there is not much original about Nabokov's infamous Lolita theme. I wish I could prove that he got the idea from Beauvoir. That would be delicious. Originality in treatment, yes, but not in theme. Lolita and Xaviere the same creature. The professor's and Pierre's obsession the same.

But something larger to consider: what was Beauvoir after in the extreme action taken, the murder? Two things I think. That action itself is a cruelty, since, it involves a choice. And that to love, what saves us from the meaninglessness of existence, itself involves a sacrifice of one's sense of self. This last, I think, anyone who has been in love can attest to. A bit of a paradox. If existence is inherently meaningless, and if to love, do for another is what can give life meaning, the love act itself is self-annihilating. An auto da fe.

Tere
Jan/11/2014, 5:20 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Zakzzz5 Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: Simone de Beauvoir and John Paul Sartre


Highly interesting topic. Not having read the book, to paraphrase the Beatles, I'd say your argument, their argument, is strong. Maybe Simone did inspire Sartre to create his monumental works. But what separates a thin novel from a thick book on philosophy? Maybe they are different worlds. Does a thin poem equate to a tome by Kant? Not sure. You've got to work out a lot of problems, untie a lot of knots, to write a tome. Not sure what this all means. I do see a lot of intersecting lines in many fields, as I grow older./////////////On a related subject, this subject of Love. The conclusions of Simone, that of killing for love, of taking action is so different from the more commercially accessible Beatles, whose main inspiration and subject matter for their songs was Love. Do those intersecting threads "come together" in any way? Just a thought. Zak
Jan/29/2014, 6:55 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: Simone de Beauvoir and John Paul Sartre


And a good thought, Zak. Also a good point of comparison. Which is to be more higly regarded? The light, narrative hand or the heavy headed work? As mentioned above Beauvoir put in years of hard thinking before coming to her philosophical position. Case could be made that she did a good measure of the heavy lifting for Sartre.

Tere
Feb/2/2014, 3:34 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


Add a reply





You are not logged in (login)